Ramadan has officially begun. After an unrelated Felucca ride, my classmates and I kicked off the Holy Month with a dinner out at the famous “Prince” restaurant in Imbaba Thursday Night. The traffic was crazy as every scrambled for their last opportunity to eat out. Prince was fantastic. It looked as though the establishment was inside out, with a small restaurant in the building, then a bits of kitchen lined the front of the establishment and beyond that tables stretched out far into the street. There are lots of fast food places to get Egyptian food, but Prince is the kind of Egyptian food that makes up for it if you don’t have an Egyptian mother to cook for you. It was perfect. We attacked that food like a pack of wild animals and devoured it in a matter of minutes.
I then stayed up quite late killing time at Borsa (the cool ahwa spot downtown) until Sahoor, which is the pre-fast meal. At 2 am, I was still quite full from my Prince feast, but it was great to be with Egyptians for a major cultural happening.
The next day I slept in (el hamdoulilah) and then headed off to Islamic Cairo with my American gal friend. I have never seen Cairo so empty. Fridays are usually strange and empty because of prayers, but this friday in particular was insane. The streets were empty, Tahrir (where I got on the metro) was empty, the metro was empty. Islamic Cairo the location of the famous tourist trap Khan el Khalili bazaar was freakishly barren and many of the shops were closed. I actually preferred the Khan that way, it gets quite overwhelming.
After prayers we visited two mosques. By the time we got to Al-Azhar we were so tired, we didn’t want to move. We just sat there in the mosque for more than an hour enjoying the space. While we sat there, and old man came up to us and asked if we wanted a photo, or to climb the minaret. When we said “no thank you” and he realized he wouldn’t get any money from us, he told us we weren’t allowed sit in the mosque. “Mish momnoo3” my friend said, meaning “it’s not forbidden.” I’m not as much of an expert on mosques and Islam as she, but generally it doesn’t make sense that a non-Muslim could visit a mosque, take pictures, and climb a minaret, but not sit where everyone else was sitting. Eventually, the man just walked away. Another nicer man in a galabaya came up to us as we sat. While the first old man had asked if we wanted photos, this younger man wanted a photo of us... with his baby. We started to say no, but then we found his adorable six month old baby in our laps. The baby was still in that round and floppy stage. We tried to coax him into looking at the camera, but the baby was stupefied. I can only imagine where that photo will end up. Maybe on their mantle for all their visitors to see, “Look at this beautiful photo of my son with two random white girls in headscarfs.” We left just before evening prayers started.
The metro was nearly empty when we got on as the evening prayer began to sound. It was spooky. While I think the call to prayer is beautiful, it became quite ominous as it echoed down the dark entrance halls of the metro. Only every other light in those halls seem to be working.
After some delicious Egyptian desserts and , the evening ended, of course, with a long sit in Borsa.