Sights I Have Seen in Egypt
I lived in Alexandria, Egypt from October of 1990 till April of 1991, in the Glim and Saba Basha Districts. I arrived by plane from Athens, Greece, and departed by plane to Frankfurt, Germany. I was a little anxious at first, but my fears were soon allayed. Cycling out of Alexandria Airport, I found my way to al-Montazah, a public park that was once the grounds of King Farouk's palace. There I met hundreds of people the very day of my arrival. Throughout my stay I met people everywhere, every day. Children would often surround me in groups of hundreds, and on one occasion, I led a spontaneous parade of around 1000 cheering children down the street through the Baquth District. I never had so much fun in my life!
Tower in Al-Montazah, Alexandria
A famous landmark in Alexandria is Qaitbay Fortress, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Sultan Sayf ad-Din Qaitbay (lived 1416-1496; reigned 1468-1496) built the fortress in 1477 against the incursions of the Ottoman Turks. He did manage to fend them off for the time being, but after his death, in 1517, Egypt fell to the Turks. Egypt remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918, with the conclusion of World War I.
Qal'at Qaitbay, Alexandria
Not far from Qaitbay Fortress stands al-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque, the most prestigious mosque in Alexandria. This is on the Corniche, the nickname given to the avenue that runs along the Mediterranean Sea, which we might call a Harbor Drive. I saw this mosque often as I cycled the Corniche.
Al-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque, Alexandria
Alexandria was founded in 331 BCE by Alexander the Great, who deposed Nectanebo II, the last of the Pharaohs. So there is nothing in Alexandria that goes back to pharaohnic times. For that, you have to go to Cairo. The Pyramids and the Sphinx are located in al-Gizeh, about 15 kilometers southwest of downtown Cairo. I rode right up on my bicycle. At that point also, you can see the massive dunes of the Sahara Desert.
Sphinx and Pyramid
The place to see the cream of the crop of Egyptian antiquities is the Egyptian Museum, in downtown Cairo. There one will find thousands of statues, pictures, artifacts and writings. There is an entire room devoted to the regalia of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut). Tutankhamun was a child pharaoh of the 14th century BCE. His claim to fame rests primarily on the good condition in which luck enabled his tomb, with its legacy, to remain for so many centuries. His mask, of course, is the most famous piece from among his collection.
Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut)
Pharaoh Khafra (Chrephen) was a very early pharaoh, from around the 25th or 26th century BCE. He was the builder of the pyramid pictured above behind the Sphinx, and is famous also for the stern-looking statue below, which can be seen in the Egyptian Museum.
Pharaoh Khafra (Chephren)
Pharaoh Akhenaten (Ikhnaton) was a predecessor of Tutankhamun, with Smenkhkare reigning briefly in-between. He was the first person to propound a monotheistic doctrine, though his was a solar monotheism. He proscribed all the older gods of Egypt, establishing his own sun god, Aten, as the single deity of Egypt. For this, he was considered a heretic and a criminal. After his death, his memory was desecrated and the older gods restored. Moreover, Akhenaten had a very effeminate body, and though he fathered children, he may have been a transvestite. Sigmund Freud, in his rather fanciful book, Moses and Monotheism, theorizes that Moses got his ideas from Akhenaten, despite the fact that he, Freud, admitted knowing that the very historicity of Moses is doubtful.
Pharaoh Akhenaten (Ikhnaton)
The Cairo Citadel, Qal’at Salah ad-Din, was built in the twelfth century by Salah ad-Din (Saladdin), the sultan who founded the Ayyubid Dynasty. This citadel was erected as a defensive work against the incursions of the Crusaders. Salah ad-Din recaptured the Kingdom of Jerusalem, a Crusader-proclaimed realm that lasted about 100 years in Palestine. Inside the citadel stands a mosque erected by Muhammad Ali, the illustrious Pasha of the 19th century, and the citadel is sometimes called Qal’at Muhammad Ali.
Qal'at Salah ad-Din, Cairo
Here is the Nile River as it flows through Cairo. Though the Nile carries only about 1% as much water as the Amazon, its long history entitles it to special recognition. I cycled over this river a dozen times. Al-Gazira is an island in the Nile that has numerous embassies and other important buildings, including Cairo Tower, the television-transmission tower from which this picture was taken.
The Nile at Cairo
Map of Egypt
Read Al-Ahram, Egypt's leading newspaper, in Arabic:
Read Al-Ahram Weekly in English:
The national language of Egypt is Arabic, and I have included a specimen, from the Qur’an, below. The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters, all of which are consonants. Writing goes right to left. In the specimen, there are two types of diacritic marks. Those consisting of one, two or three small dots are integral parts of the writing and may not be omitted. They distinguish among consonants. For example B. T and TH are the same except that B has one dot below, T has two above, and TH three above. The other figures above and below the script in the specimen are vowels and other markings, and usually appear only in the Qur’an. In ordinary journalistic Arabic, they are omitted. Click on Al-Ahram, above, to see the difference.
Al-Qur'an, Opening Page of Sura 23, Al-Mu'minun:
Flag of Egypt:
Tower in al-Montazah:
Qal'at Qaitbay, Alexandria:
Al-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque:
Sphinx and Pyramid:
Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut):
Qal'at Salah ad-Din, Cairo:
The Nile at Cairo:
Map of Egypt:
Al-Qur'an, Sura 23, Al-Mu'minun: