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Travel: Giza's Pyramids, Sphinx& Cairo Mosques, Egypt. Jan. 25/2023

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Continuation of a trip which started on

Jan.23 (part 1)

Jan 24 (part 2)

Meeting Amal Upon getting on the bus, this morning, the group was informed, that the local Egyptian guide, named Faris -who accompanied us on the previous 2 days got sick today.

Thus a replacement in a form of young woman named - Amal - with a more fluent English was sent to guide us,

She definitely filled-up the time to the "brim" during the long morning bus ride, all the way to well as for the rest of the very long condensed touring-day...

Giza on the Left side of the Nile and Mosques on the Right

The Egyptian Gov. insists that all in-coming foreign touring groups, be guided at all sites, and at all times by only local guides, whose livelihood depends on this major Tourism industry.. However most of these local guides are far from being great (to put it mildly) and their English requires much polish.

So not only that the Israeli guide who was assigned to our group at a last minute noticed, was a replacement, (as the original was denied an entrance visa) but throughout the entire trip, we encountered another 5 local guides, who had kept changing, as we moved along the Nile, a bad practice I wouldn't recommend...

Although the replacement Guide Amal's head - , was covered by the traditional scarf, she was "well informed" on the history of women's liberation struggle for rights in Egypt, which in her version intended, only to "protect" women and which was ignited along the 1920 freedom protest movement

Women Rights

In the early 20th C, women were vocal against colonial practices. During the 1919 revolution they were active participants, alongside men, in the demands for the liberation of Egypt. However, even when political leadership was granted to their male comrades in 1922, women were not granted political rights This resulted in resorting to informal networks of activism, and founding of:

the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923,, of the Muslim Women’s Society in 1936, or of the Daughter’s of the Nile Union (Bint al-Nil) in 1948

The biggest achievement during Abdel Nasser’s reign of power was that women were granted the right to vote in 1956, and during Sadat’s reign of power women’s demands for economic rights were, to a certain degree, met.

However, the patriarchal core during both presidencies remained firmly in place, as did women’s role in the private sphere which stayed unchanged.

Positive steps were taken towards the “governmentalization of women’s rights”, with the establishment of the National Council for Women (NCW) in 2000, for which the first lady,

Suzanne Mubarak, was given the title of president, and which led to increased rights for women in the private sphere, as advances were made with regard to the Personal Status Laws.

However, the drawback is that they became infamous, as the Suzanne Mubarak laws” .

However, a break from the traditional development-based focus on women’s economic empowerment started to take shape, when political movements, began to gain traction in the public sphere. and an increasing number of worker’s strikes were taking place between 2006-07, with women at the forefront. who were targeted and harassed for practicing their political wills and their right to the city.

In May 2005, for example, women demonstrators were targets of sexual violence by plain-clothes men as the police stood by. As a result, women’s rights organizations were occupied with the fight against sexual harassment,

After the removal of Hosni Mubarak, when mass demonstrations were met with increased gender-based violence, intervention teams started to emerge in 2012

providing rescue services on the ground during demonstrations.

The political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, attempted to replace the women’s rights agenda with a ‘family agenda’, (for more)

In the male-dominated Egypt, women face stark gender disparities in the workplace,

The workforce participation rate among women and girls ages 15 and older is an estimated 18%, falling below the Middle East-North Africa region's average of 19%, according to the International Labor Organization

Islamic law allows Egyptian man to have up to four wives at one time, provided he treats them all fairly and can provide for then and their children.

Some Egyptian women strongly advocate polygamy, citing a large number of unmarried women, but others point out that a lack of men is not the problem and that a large percentage of second marriages end up in divorce.

The Egyptian healthcare system is pluralistic, comprising a variety of healthcare providers from the public as well as the private sector. The government ensures basic universal health coverage, although private services hardly exist in the peripheral villages and are available for those with the ability to pay.

In addition to Women and Health topics Amal - today's guide, also touched on the ruling history of: Ptolemaic kingdom, - founded in 305 BC, the Roman - after the battle of Alexandria in 30 BC, and Islamic era after AD 641, as well as during the Mamlūk sultanate who ruled Egypt from 1250 until 1517 and Ottomans (1517–1798) up to the modern Egypt, history which dates from the start of Muhammad Ali's rule in 1805 and his launching of Egypt's modernization projects..

The Egyptian Coup d'etat Revolution of 1952, toppling of last monarch - King Farouk by the Free Officers Movement was a period of profound political, economic, and societal changes which brought Gamal Abdel Nasser. into power.

Until 1977 Egypt was politically aligned with the USSR and after with the US.

Anwar Sadat who brought capitalism into the country as well as signed (1977) the peace with Israel ,is till today the most liked president Egypt had

The 2011 Revolution at Cairo Taharir square about which Amal was evasive, had been set by various youth groups, responding to increasing police brutality, set by various youth groups against increasing police brutality and spreading across Egypt ,during the last few years of Hosni Mubarak's presidency,

Egyptian History Time Line

The View of Cairo from Giza

The Giza Pyramid Complex

All three of Giza's famed pyramids and their elaborate burial complexes were built during a frenetic period of construction, from roughly 2550 -2490

Pharaohs Khufu (son of Sneferu)

built the tallest, pyramid (2550BC)

Khafre (Khufo's son) - back pyramid (2520 B.C),

and Menkaure - the smallest front pyramid (2490 B.C).

Each massive pyramid is but one part of a larger complex, including a palace, temples, solar boat pits, and other features.

Entrance to the Pyramid

How the Pyramids at Giza were built is still one of Egypt's biggest mysteries.

Most generally believed theory is that the massive limestone blocks were carved from the quarries in Giza using copper and bronze chisels, then dragged and lifted into the accurate position (here are some theories)

Great Pyramid of Giza- the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The biggest Egyptian pyramid and the tomb of 4th Dynasty pharaoh Khufu.

This most famous monument, at the most Northern end line of the 3 Pyramids

of the Giza pyramid complex, was built by quarrying an estimated 2.3 million large blocks weighing 6 million tonnes, in total, for about 27 years in the early 26th BC

It was built to endure an eternity, and have done just that. It is the only one to remain largely intact. The monumental tombs , a relics of Egypt's Old Kingdom era were constructed some 4,500 years ago.

Egypt's pharaohs expected to become gods in the afterlife. To prepare for the next world they erected temples to the gods and massive pyramid tombs for themselves—filled with all the things each ruler would need to guide and sustain himself in the next world.

Who Built the Pyramid?

Those who built the pyramids were NOT slaves but the highest skilled workforce of engineers, astronomers and builders who strove on the King's Gov pay-role, by given food, housing and best health services,

The hierarchical social structure is mirrored in the pyramidal shape.

The builders were skilled, well-fed Egyptian workers who lived in a nearby temporary city. Archaeological digs on the fascinating site have revealed a highly organized community, rich with resources, that must have been backed by strong central political power authority, necessary to make such a national project displaying the wealth and control of the ancient pharaohs. happen

It was the Pyramids that built Egypt—rather than the other way around.

The decorated tombs contain also wonderful scenes of every aspect of life in ancient Egypt—so it's not just about how Egyptians died but revelations on how they lived

Any subject of Pharaonic civilization is available on the tomb walls at Giza

Tomb art includes depictions of ancient farmers working their fields and tending livestock, fishing and fowling, carpentry, costumes, religious rituals, and burial practices

The pyramid's 4 even sides each perfectly faces the North South East and West

Primarily, local limestone blocks, from the Giza Plateau, were used, of which the majority are not uniform in size or shape, are only roughly dressed. and the outside layers were bound together by mortar.. Other blocks were imported by boat down the Nile: white limestone from Tura for the casing, and granite blocks from Aswan, lined the King's Chamber structure.

Initially standing at 146.6 m the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Over time, most of the smooth white limestone casing was removed, which lowered the pyramid's height to the present 138.5 m

In 450 BC the ancient Greek historian Herodotus attributed the Great Pyramid to Cheops Hellenization of Khufu

Khufu's vizier, Hemiunu (also called Hemon), is believed by some to be the architect of the Great Pyramid

There are 3 known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest was cut into the bedrock, upon which the pyramid was built, but remained unfinished. Those caled "Queen's Chamber" and "King's Chamber," that contains a granite sarcophagus, are higher up,

In 1837 4 additional Relieving Chambers were found above the King's Chamber after tunneling to them. The chambers, previously inaccessible, were covered in hieroglyphs of red paint

The funerary complex around the pyramid consisted of two mortuary temples connected by a causeway (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), tombs for the immediate family and court of Khufu, including three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller "satellite pyramid" and five buried solar barges

The Great Sphinx of Giza

Khufu necropolis also includes the Sphinx

The the Great Sphinx of Giza is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and one of the most recognizable statues in the world

It is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx,a mysterious monument with the body of a lion and a pharaoh's head - represent the pharaoh Khafre.

the son of Khufu of the 4th Dynasty during the Old Kingdom, and builder of the second largest pyramid of Giza, built in approximately 2500 BC for Khafre

The original shape of the Sphinx was cut from the bedrock, and has since been restored with layers of limestone blocks.

It is uncertain why the Sphinx’s nose was broken off. According to a popular myth, the Sphinx’s nose was broken by cannonballs fired by Napoleon Bonaparte’s army during one of the military battles of the French campaign in Egypt in 179

However a 15th c Arab historian al-Maqrīzī already acknowledged the Sphinx broken nose, attributing it to a Sufi Muslim extremist, who allegedly broke it in 1378 and was later executed for vandalism. Or he nose got damaged by weather and corrosion presumably sometime between the 3rd and 10th c

Khafre Mortuary Temple

The Valley Temple which is part of the funerary complex, including the pyramid (with its burial chamber), a mortuary temple (joining the pyramid on its east side), and a covered causeway leading to it, is built of megalithic blocks beautifully sheathed

It was buried under the desert sand until the 19th century.

Considered the best-preserved valley temple all over Egypt, it was used for the purification of the mummy of the king before its burial. and for making the mummification process of the king.

The exterior made of limestone is much more weathered. The square pillars of the T-shaped hallway were made of solid red granite, which is remarkably well-preserved, and the floor was paved in alabaster.

Remains were found in the Valley Temple mentioning the names of Hathor Bubastis, and Khafre. +statues of Khafre were discovered in there in the 1860s.

Egyptian Mummification

Prior to moving on to Cairo Mosques of the Islamic period, a shared information on the secrets of Mummifying came handy...

Mummification was mainly done to wealthy people ,kings, and their high ranking dignitaries, and animals (dogs, cats, birds alligators) or foods as the poor couldn't afford this costly  process.

5 Steps of Mummification

  1. Draw out the brain through the nostrils.

  2. Take out the whole contents of the belly, and clean the interior with palm-wine and spices.

  3. Fill the belly with pure myrrh, cassia and other spices and sew it together again.

  4. Cover up in natron salt powder to take out all the humidity in the body, and in asphalt tar, for 70 days. (or for 110 days as the Israeli guided insisted, as based on the process done to Biblical Jacob quoted in Genesis' last chapter )

  5. Wash the corpse and roll it up in fine linen

Mummification was important in ancient Egypt as ancient Egyptians believed the body would physically come back to life, and the soul would return to it to continue living in the underworld. The key to having a smooth reunification was the ancient Egyptian mummification process that tried to preserve all the important parts, including the intestines.

By By Giza

Lunch at El Gezawy

There was hardly any time designated to eat a proper lunch, after the long visit to the Giza complex and before tackling the next destination:

The old Cairo Mosque conglomerate,

Thus upon departing the Giza site, the group was dropped off by a Street Fast Food stand - ,El Gezawy - specializing in Egyptian food and Falafel , on which our Israeli guide sward it is the best near by food chance,, if non wants to stay hungry until dinner time..

I passed. this "golden" opportunity...

Crossing the Nile from the West to the East side

Cairo sites

Qarafa - Cairo enormous City of the Dead

A series of vast Islamic-era necropolises / cemeteries, once a slum inhabited by the poor

The Newer Mosques seen when riding the bus

Cairo's Old Mosques

The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha (only passed by, not visited)

The Ottoman most visible- Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster Mosque , with its central dome, surrounded by four small and 4 semicircular domes and twin minarets,

is situated on the summit of the Citadel of Cairo .(the Pasha's residence)

It was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha, in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali's eldest son, who died in 1816. The architect was Yusuf Boshnak from Istanbul who modeled it after the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (he Blue Mosque in Istanbul)

It was built on the site of old Mamluk buildings, between 1830-1848., however only completed in the reign of Said Pasha in 1857. Restoration of its deteriorating condition was ordered by King Fuad in 1931 and was finally completed under King Farouk in 1939.

Muhammad Ali Pasha - (1769 – 1849) the Albanian Ottoman governor, de facto ruler of Egypt from 1805 to 1848, and Sudan, was buried in a tomb carved from Carrara marble, in the courtyard of the mosque.

Being a military commander in an Albanian Ottoman force, he was sent to recover Egypt from a French occupation under Napoleon.

Following Napoleon's withdrawal, Muhammad Ali rose to power and in 1805 he was named Wāli (viceroy) of Egypt and gained the rank of Pasha.

Attempting to modernize Egypt he instituted dramatic reforms in the military, economic and cultural spheres, also initiating a violent purge of the Mamluks,

The dynasty he established would rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952 when King Farouk was overthrown by the Free Officers Movement led by Mohamed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, establishing the Republic of Egypt

Ismail Pasha - Grandson (1830– 1895)

A notorious Squanderer,

The second of the 3 sons of Ibrahim Pasha, born in Cairo and the grandson of Muhammad Ali, His mother was CircassianHoshiyar Qadin, 3rd wife of his father.

Ismail served as a Khedive -(an honorific title of Persian origin used for the sultans and grand viziers of the Ottoman Empire, but most famously for the viceroy of Egypt ) and was a conqueror of Sudan, from 1863- 1879, when he was finally removed at the behest of Great Britain.

Receiving a European education in Paris and sharing the ambitious outlook of his grandfather- Muhammad Ali Pasha, Ismail grand and expensive modernization the country, heavy investments in industrial and economic development, urbanization, and expansions beyond the country's boundaries in Africa, had culminated in severe debt, leading alos to the sale of his 44% shares in the Suez Canal Company to the British government,( initiated by Disraeli and Rothschild) up to his ultimate toppling from power in 1879, under British and French pressure.

The Khedivial Opera House

The Cairo Opera House , designed by architects Pietro Avoscani (from Livorno) and Rossi .was built on the orders of the Khedive Ismail to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. Verdi's opera Rigoletto was the first opera performed at the opera house.

This oldest opera house in all of Africa. was inaugurated on 1869,. had seated approximately 850 people, was made mostly of wood, and burned down in 1971

The site of the Khedivial Opera House has been rebuilt into a multi-story concrete car garage. After the original opera house was destroyed, Cairo was without an opera house for nearly two decades until the opening of the new Cairo Opera House in 1988.

The Historic District

The historic district or Medieval Cairo, refers generically to areas, that existed before the city's modern expansion during the 19th and 20th c and particularly to the central parts around the old walled city and around the Citadel of Cairo,

The area contain the largest and densest concentrations of historic architecture in the Islamic world characterized by hundreds of mosques, tombs, madrasas, mansions, caravanserais, (roadside -inn) hammams and fortifications dating from throughout the Islamic era of Egypt. and since 1979, proclaimed World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO

The first Mosque visited:

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun

A 9th c one of the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area, and one of the oldest in Egypt as well as the whole of Africa, surviving in its full original form,

It was commissioned by the founder of the Tulunid dynasty -ruler Ahmad ibn Tulun,

the Abbasid governor of Egypt from 868–884, Originally a Turkic slave-soldier, in 868 Ibn Tulun was sent to Egypt as governor by the Abbasid caliph. Within 4 years Ibn Tulun had established himself as a virtually independent ruler by evicting the caliphal fiscal agent, Ibn al-Mudabbir, taking over control of Egypt's finances, and establishing a large military force personally loyal to himself.

The Mosque was designed by the prominent Egyptian architect, Saiid Ibn Kateb Al-Farghany ,who was an Orthodox Christian a Copt, the same engineer who designed the Nilometer.

Constructed on a small hill called Gebel Yashkur, "The Hill of Thanksgiving." starting in 876 AD,[and according to mosque's original inscription slab identifies the date of completion as AH 265 ( 878/879) it was built .around an open square courtyard, featuring ancient architecture styles of Egypt, and its decorations are carved stucco and wood,

The grand congregational mosque was intended to be the focal point of Ibn Tulun's capital, al-Qata'i, which served as the center of administration for the Tulunid dynasty. Originally the mosque backed onto Ibn Tulun's palace, and a door next to the minbar allowed him direct entry to the mosque.

Al-Qata'i was razed in the early 10th AD, and the mosque is the only surviving structure.

Second Mosque visited

Sultan Hasan Mosque/Madrasa

Located in Salah al-Din Square in the historic district, the monumental mosque was built between 1356 - 1363 during the Bahri Mamluk period,and commissioned by the Mamluk

Sultan an-Nasir Hasan (1334- 1361) who ascended to the throne at the age of 13, was deposed, reinstated his power, and eventually was assassinated by his commander in chief of the army., Yalbugha al-Umari, a Mamluk who was thought to be loyal. however rebelled against the Sultan's extravagance in spending fortunes on women , greed, squandering of public funds and other forms of favoritism. That coincided with the devastation wrought by the Black Plague, which struck Cairo repeatedly from the mid-14th c

The lavish expenses noted coincide with the Sultan's extensive mosque. The total construction costs amounted to over one million dinars, making it the most expensive mosque in medieval Cairo. After his assassination in 1361, Sultan Hasan's body was never found; the mausoleum never served its purpose

The 14 c remarkable impressive structure stands on the site of a lavish palace which had previously been built at great cost by Hasan's father, Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, for one of his amirs, and which was demolished to make way for the mosque

The mosque is esteemed for its massive scale and innovative architectural design, and decorative components ,contributed by craftsmen attracted from all over the Mamluk empire, It is also believed that limestone from the Pyramids of Giza was quarried for use in the mosque's construction.