Al-Azhar University, Cairo – postcard of late 19th century

“Places whose names are all forgotten once dominated. For centuries before the early modern era, the intellectual centres of excellence, the Oxfords and Cambridges, the Harvards and Yales, were not located in Europe or the west, but in Baghdad and Balkh, Bukhara and Samarkand.”

from: The Silk Roads, by Peter Frankopan

Calligraphy with verses from the Koran

Cairo derives from the Arabic word El Qahira meaning just superb and glorious city.  Thousands of mosques and the famous Mohammedan University Al-Azhar are to be found on its municipal territory showing that this is one of the most important spiritual centres of Islam since long time. During my visit of the town in 1985 I had the opportunity to visit some of them, a fascinating and mysterious Oriental world with a varied architecture everywhere in the big town.

Visiting the bazaar in the old medina

Mosque of Muhammad Ali, courtyard with old well house

In this regard I have to admit one big mistake as it was really hot in Cairo I did wear short trousers. Not thinking about religious regulations (which are the same in Christian monasteries) one day I wanted to visit a mosque in Cairo, there was a guard at the entrance who stopped me abruptly while pointing on my naked legs. I must have made an impression of real pity because the guard took from a corner a not very clean blanket with which I had to cover my naked legs in order to enter the mosque. I felt really ashamed but the rather pragmatic approach of the guard saved the situation with a rather unusual solution.

Massive pyramidic construction and entrance

The famous Cheops Pyramide on Giza plateau

The day I went to Giza pyramidic complex was cloudy and without any sun. Only few visitors were present on site, good for making photos of the wellknown Sphinx, the stunning  pyramides and the surrounding desert. These are really more constructions for giants of any kind, so the Pharaonic ruling dynasties have left really a creation of eternity. Modern buildings of today would not survive several thousands years like these stony grave-yards.

The ancient Sphinx with pyramide in the background

Besides Cairo is also a very modern town with a terrible traffic I have never seen again. In 1985 there was just one underground line with a few stations, so the many millions of residents were forced to move through their metropolitan town by all means: cars, shared taxis, busses, donkey carts, motorbikes, even camels made their way through this crazy traffic. When I visited Cairo in 1985 around 6 million people lived there what I think is more than enough, but today population has grown to incredible 16 million residents, a real urban moloch.

View from Cairo Tower at a smoggy and dusty day

Street scenery with camels in the very centre

As a resident or visitor of Cairo you have to bear  also a rather humid and hot climate while the wind unloads everywhere the sand of the surrounding deserts. Therefore, the view on Cairo from a high tower (see photo above) is not really clear and more smoggy. In the centre of the city I visited of course the big old endless bazaar and the renowned Egyptian Museum being now the home of the Pharaonic mummies and many other phantastic objects and relicts of the old times.

View on old Cairo with its thousands of mosques and minarets

In Cairo my long trip through all Egypt from the East to the West, from the North to the South and again back started and ended. And here my fascination for the Oriental world has begun when passing the vast deserts of all kind, the horizon always far away, and then a principal feeling of freedom may stir up suddenly an open mind in wild amazement.




Published by

suburban tracks

I like travelling through the diverse realities and cultures of this world not only as a tourist. Nature, history of ancient sites or creative works are fascinating me however also abandoned places or ordinary things can be just magical and amazing. The multiple aspects and rich diversity of our blue planet need to be however nourished and protected. Please be so kind to respect that all texts, graphics or photos in this blog are protected by copyright. Unless otherwise mentioned by naming the individuali author, creator, designer or photographer all copyrights hold by suburban tracks. This is moreover an AWARD FREE BLOG! Thank you in advance for appreciation and kind understanding. COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED IN GERMAN, FRENCH OR ENGLISH!

24 thoughts on “CAIRO – BEACON OF THE ORIENT”

  1. Wow, I love seeing your black and white photos of Cairo in 1985. It’s so interesting that you wrote about this because at the end of this month, I’ll be posting a call to place and anticipation and preparation for Egypt. I visited there in 2007. I’ll also be posting “on returning home from Egypt” on Monday, July 1. I would like to link this post to that one, as well as my next photography post, if you don’t mind. So I’ll link it twice. By the way, I studied Arabic at Al-Azhar University in July of 2007. Very interesting post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In principal this post on standby for more than one year now. I hesitated because so much more should be said but memory a tricky matter which you can not force to appear again after such a long time. This is now my last and final blog on Egypt, the other 5 posts already released in 2018. You can link it of course where and when applicable. In Egypt I have spoken with hands and feet sometimes, worked out very good usually. 👍 Looking forward to your reports in this regard. ✌


      1. Memory is a very tricky matter, I agree. So often, I have not kept a journal, and when I haven’t, I have a hard time remembering anything! Thanks for letting me link your posts to mine, especially since I’ll be writing about Egypt. Thanks so much, Ulli. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Looking back today I think that climbing on Mt. Sinai was the best adventure in Egypt for me. But the sunrise over Lake Nasr at Abu Simbel near the border to Sudan and the visit of Siwa oasis in the Libyan desert were also quite thrilling and exceptional. In these borderlands of life you may get rid of the tunnels of perception. Have a nice day 😎


      3. I’m so disappointed that I didn’t climb Mt. Sinai, Ulli. I was studying Arabic at the time and only had the weekends free, so instead I had an opportunity to go to Alexandria when my classmate went to Mt. Sinai. I wish I’d done Mt. Sinai instead because they loved it. I also didn’t make it to Abu Simbel or the Siwa oasis. Many reasons that someday I would like to go back to Egypt. I loved my time in Egypt and will always remember it fondly, but there was still so much that I missed! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sinai is really worth a visit, the mountain desert, canyons, old monastery and of course the Mt. Sinai. You can combine with beach-life also, and there are really many beaches. 🥳


    1. Thank you for adding this, Brian. It seems you and your family are real vagabonds who have been nearly everywhere here on our nice blue planet. I find it also bizarre and interesting how much has changed in only 34 years but unfortunately not only to the better. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The last 5 years or so seem to have accelerated fairly unpleasant tendencies. Crooks and fools seem to be rising to power everywhere… I see lots of perils ahead…
        And as for the travel streak, it all started with a Flemish ancestor leaving Flanders for Paris in the early 1700’s. And then his grandson, my ancestor leaving France for India in 1794. The family stayed and was born there for 2 centuries. My little sister was the last one born in India. Now I have cousins in France, Canada, South Africa, Tahiti, Australia and God knows where.
        Haben zie ein gut wee-end. 😉
        (Habst du?)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Very simple in German, just say “Schönes Wochenende!” and everybody will be very happy. French, German and English have quite a lot of similarities indeed. And you are right, a lot of madness everywhere. When I visited Egypt in 1985 this was a quite relaxed and easy trip. But today, things look really quite different when even Buddhist people start a genocide on Muslims and the Rohingja like in Myanmar some years ago. Nice and peaceful weekend for you 😎

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Of course. Schöne because ende is feminine. Schönes, because it’s probably an “accusatif” or some s..tuff like that. Woche is week. The Burmese Buddhist are a good example. And I thought we had reached bottom with the Khmer Rouge… Ach!
        Schönes wochende mein freund. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting travel report. As I am soon going to Egypt, it will be interesting to see what has changed in the course of time. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.