Scotsabroad's Weblog

May 13, 2011

Finishing Line

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 7:11 pm

We head towards our departure at quite an alarming rate. The list of what we would like to explore before the end of June is dwindling. Today we drove to Heliopolis with the intention of paying our respects at the Tomb and Mosque of Gamal Abd al-Nassar. Surrounded by military complexes, on the road out from Midan Roxy towards Ain Shams University, photography is forbidden. Parking too. We drove to Bagdad  Street, parked our car, then jumped in a taxi. Not much to it. The memorial, which includes Nasser’s tomb, a mosque and a school was deserted. The tomb’s surroundings were very subdued. Almost soul-less, considering his historical significance and the adoration he provoked. There was nothing to help a visitor connect to the man who rested there. His funeral procession in Cairo was the largest the country has ever seen.

On the way back, just past Roxy Square, I asked the taxi driver to stop so I could photograph the dilapidated grandstand of the Heliopolis Racecourse. It stands just back from the busy road and is surrounded on all sides by housing and retail outlets. What is left of the racecourse ground is now the Merryland Club on the other side of the street. I could just about imagine the horses galloping past the cheering crowd before getting back in the taxi to join the slow-moving traffic. I think it deserves to be restored and a purpose found for such a wonderful building. I could find no information on the racecourse but  an old photograph taken outside the ground shows better times.

May 7, 2011

Multi-storey

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 4:48 pm

This picture was taken yesterday across the road from the Islamic Art museum. We all got in the car and drove down on to Port Said Street, smug in the knowledge that we could easily leave the car in the well camouflaged, multi-storey car park we discovered last time – and finally visit the museum at our third attempt. No. We arrived at 10:50 am to be informed that we could enter but for 10 minutes only. We would have to leave at 11:00 am as the museum was closing for Friday prayers. We could return at 1pm.

So today, after lunch, we retraced our route. We parked on a different level and were rewarded with some unusual views of Cairo.

The museum, recently renovated and reopened, was worth the effort. Occupying the lower floor of what was originally the Dar al-Kutub, or the National Library, the building is stunning. The museum is not large and is not stuffed with artefacts. We probably went round it in about an hour. The walls are painted grey and white and there is ample space for reflection.  A very cool interior. We mingled with several students who were busy sketching objects and patterns.

Unfortunately photography was not permitted. Highlights included some magnificent doors, one in particular from the late 13th Century inscribed with a Mamluk Prince’s name, Prince Shams-al Din Sunqur al-Tawil a-Mansuri. Big name, big door.  A Fatimid bronze fountain faucet in the shape of a lion was beautifully detailed (you could visualise the water pouring from its mouth); a Qur’an from the 7th century is one of the earliest examples using vowels and consonants; a bowl doubled up as a Planetarium with the sun at the centre and sand clocks; there were prescriptions written on paper and papyrus and I would have liked to have known what ailment the patient might have had and what was being prescribed. Indeed, the only complaint was the lack of stories connected to the atrefacts. There was a magnificently fine and decorated balance made of copper and inlaid with silver. A carob bean was one of the weights used.

Lucas brought out his sketch pad but it was Shona who got engrossed in drawing and colouring a carpet from the 12th century. Cairo got the outline of a saddle-cloth just right. We were disappointed to see the totally empty shelves of what was, or will be, the museum shop! We were ready to spend.

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