Visit to Egypt


Egypt has been historic nation since ancient times. After independence of India under the leadership of Jawahar Lal Nehru and Jamal Abdel Naser both countries came together and played important role in international politics through Non Aligned Movement (NAM). Since my school days I was attracted towards the culture and civilization of Egypt. After bold step taken by Jamal Abdel Naser the then President of Egypt in which he stood against the European powers over control of Suez Canal I became an admirer of Naser. I wrote a letter to him appreciating his political initiatives. I got a reply by a letter which was of A4 size. During my service years I got two opportunities to visit Cairo and Egypt. But somehow I sent my subordinate officers on official tours. However, the desire to visit Egypt remained alive.

I arranged my travel itinerary through a travel agent. In the early hours of 5th July 2018 I checked in at Egypt air counter at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport terminal in Mumbai. By 01:30 AM I cleared immigration. The Scheduled Time of Departure of my Egypt Air Flight MS-969 was at 03:00 hours. The flight took off as per schedule and arrived at Cairo International Airport at 6:00 AM local time (9:30 AM IST). After paying USD 20 per person for transfer from Airport to the hotel I reached Hotel Royal Grand located near famous Tahrir Square. The journey from the airport to the downtown of Cairo itself was an exhibition of Egypt’s ancient history through statues, pillars and arts besides grandiose of modern city portraying sandstone buildings with ancient and Islamic architecture. Egypt is proud of its ancient civilization and cultural heritage including ancient statues and pyramids. The roads were wide and clean having developed parks along. The journey was quite useful to know about present day Cairo. While reaching the hotel I passed through areas of Heliopolis, Al Azhar University and Naser City, etc.

My hotel Royal Grand was located at Talaat Harb Square downtown Cairo. The Hotel was located on 6th floor of the building having several others shops and establishments at other floors. The hotel manager claimed it to be a 4-Star hotel. Later I learnt that such types of hotels are existing in downtown areas. The great advantage was that it was located at walking distance from famous Tahrir Square, Nile River, Egyptian Museum and other tourists’ attractions. Cairo and Giza are adjacent cities across Nile River.

Suez Canal: Suez Canal connects Port Said at Mediterranean Sea with Gulf of Suez. Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level water-ways in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea through the Isthamus of Suez. It was officially opened on November 17, 1869. Its length is 193.3 Kms.

Aswan is famous for marble which was used extensively in the construction of various historical monuments, including Pyramids, Citadel Salah-e-Din at Cairo and several mosques.

There is famous Abu Simble Temple where statue of four persons sitting are located. I could not go there but got details about it.

Prophet Moses Mountain is located in Mount Sinai. I could not go there as it is located far away from Cairo. It requires at least excursion for two days to visit the site.


After good breakfast at the hotel I went by taxi to meet the chief librarian of the Central Library of the University of Al Azhar. As it was a Thursday the library was going to be closed for half day. The University has a vast campus spread over several areas. The town planning is modern with architecture in sand colour. I presented my two books, My Experience in Governance and Jang-e-Aazadi ke Muslim Shohada to the chief librarian Mohamed Hafez. I hope scholars interested in India would benefit from the two books.

After visiting Al Azhar University I came down to Tahrir Square. The journey gave good experience to see grand mosques and churches standing side by side. It is common culture of Muslims and Christian living in Egypt having common language of Arabic only. It is difficult to distinguish Christian and Muslim. Even Christians use Assalam-e-Alaikum as greeting. It does not affect their faith. Hardly some people can speak in English language and the taxi drivers did not understand English language at all. There is hardly any English newspaper. This shows closed society and culture of Egypt life. However, I saw hoardings of films and television programmes written in both English and Arabic. They highlighted glamour of female artistes. I roamed around Tahrir Square. I saw sunset at Nile River at dock side of cruise and boats located behind Ritz Carlton Hotel and Cairo Museum. That day, by the time I reached the famous museum, it was closed for visitors.

In Cairo and Egypt food is unique, mainly non-vegetarian with little oil and no spices. I took grilled chicken and bread.

Friday Juma Namaz:

On 6th July I decided to offer Friday Juma Namaz at the historic Mohammad Ali Mosque located in Citadel Salahuddin (constructed in 1183 AD). I took a taxi to reach there. On the way there were many historical places besides Khan el Khalili Market the oldest bazaar; etc. When I reached near the Citadel Salahuddin it was spectacular scene of the township. It has township in valley and hills. At top of hills were constructed forts and Citadels, mosques and museums, buildings, etc. The mosques were constructed on big scale and grand architecture both in the valleys and also on top of the hills. But everywhere stone colour was dominant. Some areas in Cairo have been constructed using local stones by excavating large local areas also.

For entering in the Citadel Salahuddin I paid for the entry ticket which houses famous Mohammed Ali Mosque built on the pattern of Blue Mosque of Istanbul, Turkey. There was another mosque which has green dome like the one over grave of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) at Masjid Nabvi in Medina. There are located National Police Memorial Museum, National Military Memorial Museum, etc. also. It appears that the government keeps the police force in high morale for getting its support. There were posters showing photos of criminals and the people were asked to be alert from them. But I think there were photographs of those people also who wanted true democracy in Egypt. Down below, from hilltop of the Citadel I saw Grand Mosques of Sultan Hassan and Refai located in the valley.

I offered Friday Juma Namaz in unique congregation where I found that most of the Imams, Qaris and religious personalities were in tie and suit dress and clean shaven. The world famous Quran Qari Mahmoud, whom I met after Namaz, recited Quran before Friday Namaz. Juma Namaz was a great media event. There were several live telecasts by TV channels besides several dozen press photographers covering the Namaz. The Namaz was attended by the ambassadors of the Muslim countries who came in impeccable tie and suits and clean shaven. A minister of Egypt also attended the Namaz. I found that large number of people offering Namaz were clean shaven and in pants and shirts. After the Friday Namaz I roamed around the Citadel fort campus and was impressed by the grandeur, art and architecture of the buildings displaying inspiration from architecture of Istanbul and Turkey. From the hilltop of the Citadel the view of the township of the valley down below was spectacular. This part of the Cairo is called Islamic Coptic or Islamic area. There was no noticeable difference between Muslims and Christians working in Citadel or elsewhere. Mohammed Ali Mosque was built inside the Citadel in the 19th Century.

After visiting the Citadel Salah-e-Din I went to the Egyptian Museum located at famous Tahrir Square, which has been developed having small parks in the middle. The Hotel Nile Ritz Carlton, etc. are located nearby.

Egyptian Museum Cairo:

I spent few hours at the Eqyptian Museum. There were two entry tickets, one for entry in the building and the other for visiting Gallery of Royal Mummies for which ticket was purchased outside the Gallery. For entering the Egyptian Museum, the price of the ticket was 120 EGP and for entry to the Gallery of Royal Mummies was for EGP 150.

It is true that Ancient Egyptian Royal Mummies are famous in the world. I saw two halls displaying Royal Mummies. It also gave historical details like the period of the king, at which age the king died, etc. There were also details available as to how scientifically the bodies were mummified and made mummies to survive for several thousand years. There were Mummies of Royal females also. The period mentioned about the kingdom was around 4000 years BC. Great efforts were made to reclaim the dead embalmed bodies and preserved in such high scientific conditions. The mummies attract tourists from all over the world.

Besides the Royal Egyptian Mummies it was worth seeing the artefacts from Ancient Egypt in the Egyptian Museum. The Egyptian Museum features artefacts from the Pharonic period. The Museum displays a rare collection of 5000 years of art which is considered the largest most precious collection of Egyptian art in the world, over 2,50,000. There is an exhibit of Tutankhamen collection of treasure gold and jewellery which were enclosed in the tomb for over 3500 years before it was discovered in the 1920s when his tomb was excavated.

The Pyramids of Giza near Cairo:

Giza near Cairo is a big city. On 7th July morning I started at 9 AM to go to Giza to see the Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinus. I also saw the Great Sphinx, the head of Pharoh with a lion body dates from the time of Chephren.

While Men Kaure’s Pyramid Complex Dynasty IV (Dyn IV) dates back to 2490-2472 Before Christ. The Biggest Pyramid is Mayres Ankh III Tomb.

The three largest pyramids are (i) Pyramid of Men Kaure (front), the Pyramid of Khafre (background) and the Great Pyramid of Khufu (tallest) built during roughly 2550 to 2490 BC.

The pyramids were built as tombs for the pharaohs and their queens. The pharaohs were buried in pyramids of many different sizes from before the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom. There are about 80 to 130 pyramids from ancient Egypt.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops is the oldest and the largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Pyramid complex. It was constructed during 2580-2586 B.C. It’s height is 146.7 meters. Its base length is of 230.34 meters. The construction material used is limestone, granite, etc.

Sphinx in Giza has been vigilante guardian of the City of the Dead for 5000 years.  The huge statue has face of human being and body of lion. The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the Pharaoh Khafre. It was constructed with limestone.

Cemetery in Pyramid Complex: I saw big Cemetery of about 1000 years old. It has two sections one for Muslims and other for Christians divided by small hall.


On 8th July I started at 9 AM to go to Alexandria. On the way I found a small Air Force Station. I also found large stretch of land having orchard in desert growing oranges, banana, palm date, etc. Irrigation was provided by underground water. The City of Alexandria was named after Alexander the Great. During his time it has flavour of different architectures like the Greek, Roman, French, and Italiana. I visited three important places in Alexandria, namely, (1) Great Royal Library of Alexandria (2) Qaitbay Citadel (3) Mediterranean Sea. After entering into the city of Alexandria which is a huge city I saw first Pompeii Pillar.


Royal Library of Alexandria:

It is one of the largest modern library in the world. It has table and chair arrangement for seating of 3000 readers at a time. The outer architecture displays alphabets of all the different languages of the world. Inside the building the ceiling was designed with the help of technology to facilitate natural light without sunrays directly reaching inside. Andrew Hany who lives in Alexandria City was volunteer guide for us who gave information about the famous library. He intends to migrate with his family to USA.


On 9th July I went to the vicinity of my hotel where Armenian Church is located on Mohamed Sabry Street. When I was taking photographs of the church two armed security personnel came to me and objected me for taking photographs of the Church. By that time I had already taken some photographs. Later I learnt that the government has made strict security arrangement for protection of Churches in Cairo and in Egypt. There was an incident of throwing bomb at some places when Pope had visited Cairo. Since then Government of Egypt gives great importance to development and security of Christian Churches.

Christian Coptic Cairo:

At Anwer Sadat Metro Station at Tahrir Square I purchased ticket for 3 EGPs to reach Margirgis located on El-Marg direction where I got down to see the Churches. Margirgis is famous for location of about a 100 Churches in a particular area. I saw the Hanging Church and St George Church. I learnt that there are several Churches inside the Big Churches. It is said that there are about 100 Churches located at the Street. I took tea at the Cafeteria of the Hanging Church. When I was travelling on the street nearby I found a funeral procession entering inside the Cemetery. The coffin was led in black car followed by several black cars. After the funeral procession besides some late comers entered into the cemetery the gate was closed.

I found that all the Churches in Cairo are highly protected by deploying and arranging state armed security guards. Though I did not find such security protection for Mosques and other Islamic buildings. I understand the reason.          After about an hour of roaming at Margirgis I took return metro which looked more like local train. I reached at Anwer Sadat Metro Station at Tahrir Square at 5 PM. I went to see Ben Ezra Synagogue located in the area but by that time it was closed.

Nile City in Night:

After arriving at Anwer Sadat Metro Station I went around Nile City of Cairo which was illuminated beautifully. I took some films from the bridge. I also boarded motorboat and enjoyed illuminated Nile City and Cairo skyline.

On 10th July in the morning, I took taxi and reached Cairo International Airport much before time. After immigration I wanted to board the flight of Air Sinai to go to Bengurion International Air Port of Tel Aviv Yofo. Before boarding the flight the security was quite rigorous.


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