Part of Cairo’s ten million inhabitants are back from work to celebrate the Eid-al-Kebir and the ambient is filled with great excitement. Many trucks and cars transport lambs, goats and cows to be sacrificed in commemoration of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice a lamb instead of his own son. So far, the only memorable moment of the day is the chant of the muezzins calling to prayer, that seems to be coming from all directions.
After more than two ours of driving we arrive to Heliopolis quarter one of the most frequented and well known for western visitors. Before we enter to the hotel we must pass through a metal detector. Even though the muslim brothers are now in power, there is still unrest and we are advised not to go out if not necessary. The hotel, an old colonial building is not very busy these days, and few foreigners are seen around.
A wave of popular fury has swept the biggest countries in the Arab world. Within a month of Ben Ali’s downfall, President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in Egypt. Col Muammar Gaddafi was next to go, felled last August by Libya’s popular revolt and a Nato bombing campaign.
The Muslim Brothers are now in power, three months ago Mohammed Mursi won the first democratic election in the 5000 year history of Egypt. But the the feeling that the army may rise at any moment is tangible.
Tahrir Square is next near my hotel and the Cairo Museum, the world’s greatest collection of antiquities, is on the north edge of the plaza. Tahrir Square is now a difficult place and I am advised to avoid it completely. If trouble does break out, the risk of being caught nearby is more than probable.
AL AZHAR MOSQUE
Given that it would be unwise to go to the Cairo Museium in Tahrir, I head to the Al Azahar mosque, in the so called Islamic Cairo. Its name is usually thought to allude to the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah, a revered figure in Islam who was given the title az-Zahrā′ (“the shining or resplendent one”). It was the first mosque established in Cairo,Because, but because it was founded as a Shiite Ismaili institution, the mosque has being neglected for centuries. The Ismaili Shiite sect is a gnostic, esoteric branch of Islam. They believe that the Qur’an has two layers of meaning, the zahir meaning apparent, and the batin, meaning hidden. Ismāʿīlīs believe, like the Pythagoreans did, that numbers have religious meanings. The number seven plays a general role in the theology of the Ismā’īliyya, including mystical speculations that there are seven heavens, seven continents, seven orifices in the skull, seven days in a week, and so forth.