Sunday, December 2, 2012

Spending Sunday In Church

Well, those of you who are my facebook friends will know the realization Dan helped me come to this morning; we have one fewer day in Cairo than we thought! Lindsey and I were convinced that our plane left at 3am on Wed. Turns out, it leaves at 3am on Tuesday! Neither one of us is too upset by this, but it was a bit of a shock to learn that we almost missed our flight because we're stupid (good thing my better half is keeping track of me, even when I'm halfway around the world). Don't worry, we've already rearranged our restaurant schedule to make sure we get in everything we wanted to try.

Anyway, after the shock, we grabbed some lunch from a very good place that makes bagel sandwiches, then we headed out to Coptic Cairo. Neither of us had been there before and it was recommended to us by a few of our lovely team members, so we decided to try it. I am SO glad we did!

The sector is enclosed and you have to go down from street level to get there. We weren't totally sure where we were going, but Lindsey wisely decided we should "follow the white people," figuring that the tour groups knew what they were doing. And she was correct.

When you first walk in, you pass through the bazar area, which made me feel like I was on a nearly-deserted set of an Indiana Jone's movie.

The first church we went into was the Holy Family Church, a Coptic Orthodox church that was absolutely gorgeous! They wouldn't let us take pictures inside, but it looked a lot like the second church we went into (whose name I forget):

Sorry for the fuzziness- I didn't want to use flash while people were worshiping.
 The Holy Family Church even had volunteer guides, so we had a very lovely young lady walk us around the church and tell us all about it for free (even her name tag said we couldn't give her money). She told us about all the symbolism and showed us all the super intricately carved woodwork. She also showed us the entrance to the crypt, which isn't open to tourists because of water damage. Apparently, this church is attested in 7 different documents as being the church where the holy family spent several days while in Egypt (hence the name). I lit a candle for our safe return.

We went into 2 other churches in the Coptic area, as well as a synagogue (a little odd seeing the Jewish iconography after all the Christian). Again, no pictures were allowed. We also got to see this church from the outside, but couldn't figure out how to get inside:

That's St. George killing a dragon. That has to be a story in a gnostic text, cause I'm pretty sure I'd remember a dragon in the Bible. 
We also visited the Greek Orthodox church of St. George. Only the chapels were open, but it was still pretty neat. They are doing some massive construction work on the outside:

After the churches, we went back out of the Coptic area and headed next door to the Coptic museum, which still has remnants of the Fort of Babylon out front:

Ft. of Babylon on the right, Coptic Museum straight ahead.
Another view of the remnants of the fort.
I wish I could have taken pictures from the inside of the museum because the SCA has done a brilliant job! I love a museum where looking at the building itself is as interesting as the objects. My only wish was that they would have told us more about the building, because it was truly stunning: wood carvings in every ceiling, a beautiful marble staircase, and 2 open courtyards. The museum is quite large and covers two floors and they have everything from old liturgical vestments, to Coptic texts, to paintings from old monasteries throughout Egypt. Everything is labeled in English, French, and Arabic and a lot of the stuff is showcased in humidity-controlled casing. We enjoyed the museum very much and would recommend both it and Coptic Cairo to anyway with a few hours to kill in Cairo.

Tonight we're planning to hit Wings in Flavors for dinner, followed by a last run to get Egyptian desserts. We had planned to do Giza tomorrow, but I think both of us are pretty tired of running around Cairo and just want to hit the supermarket for last-minute snacks and plastic bags, then spend the day packing and reading.