It's been nearly a week now since I arrived in Egypt. I met up with my parents and sister, and my brother and sister-in-law and niece came down from Alexandria to spend some time showing us around. We spent our first few days in Cairo, taking in the sights of one of the largest cities in the world. Our first stop was the pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx. They're pretty freaking cool. I'd love to show you some pictures, but that will have to wait for now.* We hired a van one day and packed in lots of interesting places-- the Citadel and Mohammed Ali mosque, the Church of Simeon the Tanner in the Coptic part of town, and the Khan al-Khalil market.
The next day Rhoda and I struck out on our own and went to the Islamic Ceramic Museum, which was slightly overshadowed by the gorgeous 19th century villa it's housed in. I love how many 6 and 8 pointed stars show up in the tile, mosques, fabric, and everywhere. It always makes me think of Mennonite and Amish quilts.
We also went to the Egyptian Museum, a must-see if you're ever in Cairo. Amazing hallways full of stone statues of Pharoahs and Egyptian gods, as well as rooms full of mummies, sarcophagi, and their trappings. I could have spent days in there nosing through everything. It's so interesting to me to see the elaborate rituals that cultures and religions construct around the afterlife. So much effort went into building the pyramids, preparing the bodies of the dead, making all the statuettes, jewelry, beds, etc. to serve them and protect them in the afterlife. Yet who knows what the afterlife holds? Maybe they were met by Horus to be judged, but maybe not. Our ideas may have changed since, but we still postulate grandly about what will happen to us after we die, never mind that we really haven't got the slightest idea.
After Cairo, we took a van to Alexandria where we've been staying with my brother and sister-in-law. We've seen a number of cool things here too, including the library, Fort Qaitbay, Pompey's Pillar, and some impressive catacombs. But I would have to say that the best part so far has been hanging out with my niece again. She's twice as old as when I last saw her, and so smart and charming and interactive now. It'll be hard to say goodbye here.
(*When I got to Cairo I discovered that my extra camera battery, battery charger, camera cord, and all my extra memory cards were missing from my bag. Somewhere between New York and Cairo they exited without me knowing it. I'm trying to get Royal Jordanian to reimburse the cost of replacing them (assuming that I can find replacements here) but haven't managed to find a phone number that works yet. As soon as I figure out this wrinkle, I'll be glad to share some pictures!)