Saladin's Citadel

Following our feluca ride, we were treated to a tour of the Citadel of Salah Al-Din, a famous Muslim general.  He built a giant fortress in medieval Cairo, with a mosque inside of pure alabaster (white marble).

To begin with, we paid our entrance fee of 60LE (LE = Egyptian Pounds).  At the current exchange rate of about 7LE/$1, that is about $8.  Then we walked up a set of stairs over 1000 years old.  The stairs are eight times older than my country!  Mind-altering.

The mosque itself was rather dusty from the desert air, so it wasn't as blindingly white as in history.  Our guide said that was deliberate to keep from causing airline pilots and cab drivers problems.  After an admiring walk around part of the perimeter, we headed down a colonnaded walkway to the entrance, where we removed our shoes (in respect for the mosque; an islamic tenant).

Inside the outer section is a beautiful fountain at which devout muslims will bathe their feet (up to the knee), face and neck, and hands (up to the elbow), before entering the mosque for prayer.  As we were not there to pray, we were allowed to skip this step.  Our group attracted quite a bit of attention from the many local school-children who were also touring the mosque.  They were happy to ham in front of the camera and to talk to us to practice their very limited english.

Inside, there are 365 lams (used to be lit with scented oils, now electric) to symbolize the days of the year.  The entire inside is carpeted and is not to be touched by the soles of any footwear.

In the front of the mosque is a stand (on the left) for the imam or sheik (the religious leader) to lead the faithful in prayer.  Following that he ascends to a pulpit (on the right) to address them with a lecture.

After the mosque, we walked around a balcony overlooking Cairo and saw it stretch right to the visible horizon (which is admitted foreshortened by the smog).  The young lads in the bottom center appear distorted solely due to the camera & the panoramic shot; they are perfectly healthy and normal looking in real life.  :-)

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