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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Al Azhar Park & Khan El Khalili

Yesterday I spent a few hours with friends old and new.

We met up outside Mogamma and took a taxi up to Al Azhar Park. (10LE due to our fantastic bargaining skills!). The entrance fee cost 28LE for the 4 of us.

I have only been to Al Azhar Park once before, in the dark, so it was great to see it in the day time. 2 of the others had never been before at all. If you have never been it is a very attractive, well-maintained place with landscaped gardens, including many water features.

There are fabulous views over all of Cairo – it is close to the Moqattam Hills and the Citadel and, because the air was so clear yesterday, we also managed to catch a glimpse of the pyramids in the distance.

There are a number of cafes and restaurants dotted around but be warned they all have minimum charges varying from 25LE to 55LE per person. Luckily I had stopped off at the Giza bakery on the way and my 8.5LE bag of buns served us well and is feeding me today too! We were rather thirsty but came across a little stall selling cans of drink and icecreams.

We stayed there until sunset and the muted blues and oranges of the sky were lovely.

We then took a taxi (10LE again – more fantastic bargaining skills !) over to Khan El Khalili. We visited Al Hussein Mosque. We went in the women’s entrance. It was crowded with women and children pushing and shoving and we went through to the area where it is claimed that the head of the Prophet’s (pboh) grandson is kept. To be honest, we didn’t really find the experience of visiting this mosque uplifting. It was a shame I think that we couldn’t go into the main area which, glimpsed through the mens door, seemed to be very different from what we were able to see. Next time it would be nice to visit Al Azhar Mosque if its possible to contrast the two.

We then made our way to eat at the Naguib Mahfouz Cafe/Restaurant. The restaurant has quite a plain, simple grace to it and served ‘traditional’ Egyptian food in an upmarket way, prices not too bad as a treat, but its definately not GAD!!! (Falafels or koshari 14LE, other dishes - chickens, pigeons etc 60-70LE)

After that, we took a wander round Khan El Khalili. I’ve managed to avoid this place in all my time in Egypt and it was much quieter than I had imagined, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the low-key hassle we got from the shopkeepers. Some of them are very funny – ‘everything here is 100% discount’ ‘everything here today is free’ ‘how can I part you from your money today’ ‘whatever you want I have it’. All lit up in the dark it was like an Aladdin’s Cave. Here you could buy lots of brassware, scarves, galibayas, perfumes, rugs, lamps. Worth a visit after all.

Another 10LE taxi took us back to Ramses Station where we went our separate ways by bus and metro.
It was a beautiful relaxing day with many different impressions of Cairo, ancient and modern, blending themselves together in that unique Cairean style.


It was an amazing day for me seeing Cairo in a way I had never seen it before. The park is high above the city, green, with water features everywhere; tranquil above the noise and bustle of the city and the view was wonderful. At sunset the buildings old and new were outlined through pastel colours of the evening sky.

A taxi ride to Khan el Khalili took us to the world below with vibrant colours, the air full of exotic perfumes and funny, friendly people to make you smile.

The restaurant was expensive, but part of the whole experience - worth paying more for a day you will remember forever!

(links etc to be added in a few days when not in a hurry!)

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