Today, Mahmoud and I went to the Citadel, which was once the palace of Mohammad Ali, who is known to be the first leader of modern Egypt. We parked our car across the street and had to walk across several lanes of traffic. If you remember how I described the traffic in my first post, you will understand how scared I was to cross! They don’t have cross walks, and you just cross the street wherever you want to (in other words, you jaywalk). I told Mahmoud that he had better hold my hand and not let anyone hit me. I stood behind him so that if we got hit, he would get hit first! Thankfully, we didn’t get hit and made it across the street in a one piece.
Once we got to the entrance, it took ten minutes before we were able to get inside. I have found that I make quite a commotion anywhere I go when they find out that I’m American. Mahmoud explained to me that they want to make sure that tourists (especially American tourists) are safe and that they are in no danger. The first thing that they ask him when they note that I’m American is why is he with me since he’s Egyptian. To make the process go a lot smoother, he tells them that I’m his wife. This information usually brings interested looks from the guards! But it works every time, and they let us through.
The Citadel is surrounded by thick walls that make it look like it’s a fortress. The fort-like walls were built in 810 A.D. Once inside the gates, there are several different buildings: two different mosques, including the Mohammad Ali Mosque and the Sulayman Pasha Mosque, the National Military Museum and the National Police Museum. The Mohammad Ali Mosque was built from 1830-1857 in the Ottoman style. You will find this style of mosque all over Turkey. The Sulayman Pasha Mosque was built in 1528!
We began our tour by looking inside the Sulayman Pasha Mosque. It was absolutely beautiful! If you wanted to walk inside the prayer hall, you had to take your shoes off. I did walk across to the other side so that I could take in the view of the hall. It was open to the sky so that you were able to see the beautiful blue sky and clouds above.
We then toured the National Miltary Museum and the National Police Museum, which recounted the history of Egypt’s military and police practices. In the military museum, they had different styles of uniforms on display, as well as, styles of helmets, canteens, artillery weapons, and knives. It was very neat! At the end of the military museum, was the Hall of Martyrs where they had pictures of the men killed in battle during the modern history of Egypt. The police museum was smaller and showed the stories of infamous criminals and interesting stories of crimes. For example, they told the story of two women, who were beheaded in 1921, because they wore jewelry! Thank goodness that isn’t the case today!
The Mohammad Ali Mosque was by far the best part of the tour. The mosque was absolutely beautiful! Although it was not required, they wanted you to wear a robe (I’m not sure what it is called) so that the women would be covered including their hair. You were required to take off your shoes to enter the mosque. Inside the mosque was the tomb of Mohammad Ali Pasha, but it was closed for renovations.
The views outside the mosque were incredible! Because of the elevation of the Citadel, you were able to look out over the city of Cairo. (If the pollution wasn’t so bad, I would have been able to see a lot further!) They had the area close to the rail roped off since the Citadel was so tall. (I think that the walls around the Citadel are 30 feet tall.) Anyway, Mahmoud was able to talk the Tourist Police into letting me cross the rope so that I could get a better picture overlooking the city. Then while Mahmoud was taking my picture, the tourist policeman offered to take both of our pictures together! I just thought he meant one or two pictures. No! He took 10 or so! It was crazy! He actually took some really good pictures, too. I’ve found out that in Egypt there are very few rules that cannot be broken if you either pay or sweet talk your way around them!