We had a little wander into Cairo today to put some Coptic stuff in our eyeholes. After we’d filled up on fuul at our current favourite place to get the delicious beany goodness we braved the public transport system, because I’m that masochist that actually really likes taking public transport in foreign countries. I’m especially a fan of Metro systems, they’re amazing. Minibuses are less fun but we managed to get one to Giza Metro station pretty quickly and off we fucked.
We emerged from the Metro station at Mar Girgis and boom. Museum. It’s right there so that’s where we started. It’s pretty much just Coptic art from textiles to woodwork. Some of it includes Greek gods such as Aphrodite and Dionysos, and the Coptic language is written with the Greek alphabet but with six ancient Egyptian letters thrown in for sounds that don’t exist in Greek. They’re not Greek though, they’re descended from ancient Egyptians. I’ve no idea what’s with all the Greekness. It’s a good museum, well laid out, but there’s only so much art you can look at before your brain starts clouding over. We trawled through a few more rooms before bailing to look at some churches.
The Hanging Church, so called on account of it hanging above the old Babylon Fortress, the remains of which can be seen next to the museum, is a big tourist attraction. When we rocked up a big group of tourists were just finishing up singing an impromptu hymn and I’m going to go ahead and assume they’re some manner of choir or church group because it was absolutely beautiful.
There are so many relics here which are, as far as I’m aware, the remains of saints. Christians are well into keeping bits of dead people around to perform miracles. There was one saint in Winchester and they dug the poor dead bastard up to keep him in the church so pilgrims could crawl up steps to be close to his corpse. I’m not sure Christians are okay. There are several red cases kept within glass cases, and they’re full of I’m guessing bones? That’d be the most manageable part of a dead human to keep lying around I think.
In another part of the church there’s a little wooden crucifix and two small ornate boxes. One has a little sign saying “Part of the Holy Cross” and another says “Part of the Holy Tomb Stones”. So… okay… like, these little boxes contain these things? Are you sure? Do you have a certificate or did a bloke in a trench coat show up going, “Psst, wanna buy a bit of the Holy Cross?” I dunno man, I’m a bit sceptical of that.
We checked out a couple more churches too. St George’s is a big round thing and it’s predictably ornate with a chandelier the fanciest of hotels would be proud to hang in their opulent lobbies. There’s a lot of gold too, like King Midas spray vomited over parts of it. We also popped to St Barbara’s which is a much more subdued affair and has more bits of dead saints lying around.
When we first got to Cairo a bloke on the bus told us not to bother with the Egyptian Museum. They’ve moved most of the good shit to the GEM already and that doesn’t even have an opening date yet. Everyone we asked since then if it was worth it made the same face. You know the one, that screwed up look when you want to say something was a bit shit really but it’s not the done thing to say it’s a bit shit. The National Museum Of Egyptian Civilisation however, that’s a must see on account of the fact they moved all the royal mummies there a while back. This is the dead shit I love.
These mummies are from the 17th through to the 21st dynasty which I think spans nearly 400 years but what’s actually going to melt your brain is the fact the pyramids at Giza predate these mummies by 1000 years. Khufu, to Amenhotep I, was already an ancient Egyptian.
You can’t take photos in the Royal Mummies rooms and this is strictly enforced. There doesn’t seem to be any baksheeshing the guards here, one guy was caught sneaking a few pictures and the guard made him delete them. It’s pretty fucking incredible though, seeing the dessicated, withered hands and faces. The hair and fingernails are still intact on some of them too, and you could cut glass with the queens’ cheekbones.
They had the name of the king or queen you were looking at on the wall with the length of their reign and their achievements. They usually had their coffin displayed near them too. I absolutely understand why you can’t take photos but man, I’m gutted because my stupid brain won’t store any information without photos. It’s so cool though. They all seem to have quite good teeth too and I don’t know why this surprised me, or why I was staring that intently at their gobs.
The upstairs at the museum is interesting too and this is where these photos were taken. It covers day to day life, agriculture, making bread, that sort of shit. Man I wish the GEM was open! I feel like we’re missing out on so much cool stuff. Guess we’ll just have to come back to Egypt.
So with our little heads (no, really, they’re quite small, we have to wear children’s hats) jam packed full of new information we made our way back across town to find out about a left luggage facility, and to find somewhere to print our train tickets. Kinda wish we’d just gone straight home. It had been spitting on and off all day but whilst we were waiting for our tickets to get printed the heavens decided to dump an absolute waterfall on top of Cairo. I say water, it was predominantly water, but also fucking massive hailstones, the kind that would do some damage if they hit you just right. Fucking hell.
We mad dashed for the Metro and hoped it would have finished by the time we got to Giza but no such luck, though it had eased to a level we were happy standing in whilst waiting for a minibus. It was quite refreshing actually. All the minibuses were full though but we were watching how the locals flag them with different hand signals. One guy had to fingers pointing down in a V shape and he was asking, Haram? which I know means pyramid. He heard me mention it to Tarrant and he confirmed that’s what that hand signal meant.
We waited ages. Uber was obviously surging like a… a… I don’t know. What really fucking surges? Minibus after packed out minibus sailed past. Everyone was slowly migrating up the road to try and be the first to get the only vacant seat. Then the guy we spoke to before managed to get one to stop that had two empty seats and bless him, he motioned us on ahead of us. What a guy. Honestly, the vast majority of people have been absolutely wonderful.
So Giza is more or less underwater now which was fun getting home. It’s probably a good job it was dark by this point so we couldn’t see what we were sloshing through, especially as there are stables right at the end of our alleyway and it’s not the most sanitary place when it’s bone dry.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Coptic Cairo & The National Museum Of Egyptian Civilisation, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
القاهرة القبطية والمتحف الوطني للحضارة المصرية ، القاهرة ، مصر
Stayed at: Capo Pyramid, Giza
Useful shit to know…
- The Coptic Museum is LE100 for foreigners.
- The churches are free to get in.
- Mar Girgis Metro is right by the museum and everything else is within easy walking distance.
- The NMEC is LE200 each for foreigners. It’s worth it just for the mummies.
- We took an Uber to the museum from Coptic Cairo, nor far from Mar Girgis Metro. It cost nearly LE30 to get there and less than LE20 to get back to Mar Girgis.
- Getting into Cairo from Giza is easy but it really helps to have a smartphone.
- There’s a roundabout at the end of Al Haram Street just before you get to the pyramids. You’ll need to stand on it and employ the “flag fucking everything” technique and ask if they’re going to the Metro.
- He charged us LE4 each which is foreigner price, locals only pay LE2.
- They don’t tell you when you’re where you need to be, I followed it on Maps.me so we knew when to get off. If you don’t have a smartphone you might need to find a friendly local to let you know when to get off.
- We got off at 30.012659, 31.208377.
- Giza to Mar Girgis by Metro cost LE7 each and we had to change lines once.
- Not every desk that looks like a ticket office is a ticket office. If people are taking a while at the desk and people in the queue are clutching paperwork it’s probably not a ticket desk. It’s best to ask someone.
- You just need to know the name of the station you’re going to. Tell them that and how many tickets and they’ll sell you the appropriate one.
- When we got back to Giza Metro we walked back up to Al Haram to flag a minibus which took a while as they were all full.
- Locals use hand signals to tell the driver where they want to go and he’ll stop off he’s going there and isn’t full. “Pyramids” is two fingers spread into a triangle and pointing down.
- Uber is your friend and this alone is worth getting a local SIM with a data package. It’s cheap and hassle free.