Scotsabroad's Weblog

April 4, 2008

Roda Island Divas

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 6:00 pm


On the Egypt Air flight down to Luxor I was reading the complimentary in-flight magazine. There was an article about nilometers used to predict the year’s fortunes which were very much dependant upon the level of the Nile. There was a description of the nilometer on Roda Island and it looked worthy of investigation. Today we all set out to Roda Island to see the nilometer and also try to include the Manial Palace situated at the other end. Being Cairo we manged to see the nilometer but then ended up visiting a museum dedicated to the life and work of Egypt’s most popular singer who died in 1975, Umm Kalthoum. We found the Manial Palace but it was closed for renovations, perhaps 2 years I was told, and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe below a pair of Madonna’s pants.


On arrival at the compound holding the Nilometer we found out that we were the only people there. Having bought our tickets we were escorted by the caretaker who unlocked this wee treasure. Even Lesley Lababidi (Cairo – The Family Guide) says ‘children should probably not be allowed to attempt the decent to the bottom, as there is no banister to stop a fall.’ You can see the start of the steps at the bottom right of the photograph above. The first flight was a little bit scary, being steep and worn to a shine beginning in AD 861. Lucas and Cairo had not read her book. A pillar standing within this deep well was lined with segments based on the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger. At the bottom of this pit are three tunnels, at three different levels, that used to let in the Nile. As the water would rise, before the dams were built, Cairenes could gauge their fate forecasting abundance or starvation.

Right next to the Nilometer is the museum for the Egyptian singer Umm Kalthoum. Although she died in 1975 she is still massively popular in Arabic countries. At the entrance to her museum her trademark pink scarf and (diamond inlaid) dark glasses were displayed. We bought her greatest hits (volume 1) and the first word sung on the first song …. habibi (my darling). Even the pizza delivery man recognised and commented on the music we were playing when he came tonight. He must only be about 18.


After the disappointment of not getting in to the Manial Palace we decided to go for an early lunch at the Grand Hyatt. It is home to the Hard Rock Cafe. I thought I would never enter one of these establishments. However it was alright. I was even persuaded to pay extra for my Stella so that I could keep my glass with corporate logo and location. Slightly cooler than a t-shirt, or have I sold out? Memorabilia very interesting including a pair of Madge’s knickers from some tour. Not as classy as Umm’s dresses, scarf and glasses – or indeed Shona (habibi)  who continues to manage us all in this enormous city and puts both of them in the shade.



  1. Gosh, you do get about! I visited peoples palace and glasgow green with ian and linda on friday if that compares? We enjoyed lovely meal at same place you had your anniversary. Sun was splitting the skies. Lovely birthday tea with gran, ingles, gordon and m&d. “Hi” to cultyurd boys.

    Comment by Shari — April 6, 2008 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  2. Wow – you are going to find returning to Kelvingrove a bit of a disappointment.
    Never mind – Neilston awaits.x

    Comment by Linda — April 7, 2008 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  3. Great story. Hi to Shari and Mum.

    Comment by Alistair — April 8, 2008 @ 8:15 am | Reply

  4. WOW THATS SO COOL GETTING TO GOTO THAT nileometer.. those poor wee boys being put in danger again, i’ll have to report you….

    Comment by Gordon — April 16, 2008 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

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