Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Old Cairo

Coptic Cairo's Hanging Church
Sunday 17 February: All the trains from El-Minya to Cairo are full so, avoiding a police escort, I go to the small but chaotic Upper Egypt Bus Company bus station where a grumpy ticket seller points me to a seat. Two uneventful hours later all the people around me suddenly rush to the ticket booth. Fortunately I decide to join them and mange to fight my way to the tiny window for a (E£30) bus ticket to Cairo. Just one hour out of El-Minya the back of the bus fills with acrid smoke and we stop by the roadside. Two hours later a replacement bus arrives.
I'm not concerned as I have a reservation for the Juliana Hotel in the leafy Garden City area of Cairo, a short walk from the Corniche, just behind the British embassy. But, when I eventually arrive I'm told "We're full, another guest has decided to stay an extra night". Tired, hungry and angry I'm directed to the nearby New Garden Palace where my room initially seems fine but at bedtime I discover that the crumpled bedsheets have several pubic hairs between them none of which are mine. Knackered I unpack my sleeping bag. Not a good day.
Monday 18th: Returning to the apologetic Juliana Hotel I inspect my room carefully: crisp clean sheets, spotless bathroom and floor, patio door to an airy balcony, a large fridge, cable TV and breakfast delivered each morning to your room (E£61, about £6 a night). I like it so much that I extend my stay to a fortnight.
Sunday 24: To Egyptians Old Cairo runs from Garden City to Coptic Cairo, the historic centre of the Coptic Christian community in Cairo. To get there I walk south along the Corniche, past Manial Palace across the river, where I'm surprised to spot a colourful Hoopoe feeding on the riverbank. The Church of St George is closed for refurbishment but the Hanging Church of St Mary, built on top of the old city's Roman water gate, is open and very atmospheric.
Slideshow of Coptic Cairo:

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