A Blog to Keep the Lizards Away. It's about posting and sharing the things I'm into. Hope you enjoy the show!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Gates Take You Back 1,000 Years

One of the world's greatest restoration projects has recently been completed in Cairo. Now you can go on a walking tour through medieval Cairo and see the city as it was before the Crusades. An open air museum of Islamic monuments and buildings that transports you back 1,000 years. This is an amazing experience and best appreciated at sunset or early evening when its illuminated. 

Old Cairo was a walled city punctuated by many gates that were locked at night. I started my tour by entering at the Northern Bab al-Futuh [Gate of Conquest] and onto El Mui'z Street. Ten centuries ago El Mui'z li Din Allah was the principal street in Cairo. It was named after the Fatimid ruler who conquered Medieval Cairo in 969 AD.

You can easily spend hours visiting the ancient mosques, metalwork shops and restaurants as you weave your way to the Southern Gate of Bab Zuwayla, built in 1092 during the rule of the Fatamids to hold out the marauding Turkish armies.

After the fortified gate went up 900 years ago travellers soon began wedging human teeth and other objects in the cracks for good luck. Some left handwritten notes, scrawled in illegible, mystical script, for a saint long dead. When the gate was being restored these keepsakes were recovered and are now on display in a case near the gate.

The restoration of the architecture and the Islamic decoration on the buildings is exquisite and a long way from the generally poor condition of surrounding modern Cairo.

Near the Bab Zuwayla Gate is the Khan el Khalili market, one of the world's oldest bazaars and the perfect place to end your tour. In the bazaar I always visit el-Fashawy, the coffee shop which has been in operation for over 400 years and the perfect spot for Turkish coffee and shisha.

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