11 December 2011

Cairo's Citadel of Saladin

The Saladin Citadel of Cairo was probably the highlight of my trip to Egypt, surprisingly beating out the majestic wonder of the Pyramids of Giza. I've always loved visiting churches, including those of other religions. There's something quite beautiful in visiting a site where so many people are so devoted in what they believe. A place where people bring their hopes, their desperation, ... the most private pieces of their soul. I also love seeing the buildings themselves and, as I had never visited a mosque before, I was astounded by how magnificent it was on the inside! The architectural differences of the outside (the domes, minarets, etc.) was new and beautiful as well, but oh, the inside! The high ceilings, the abundance of lamps and color, the iron scrollwork and intricate carvings in the granite and marble. It was impressive, but the carpeted floors and the ability to find a little corner for yourself made it feel more welcoming.

Cairo's Citadel

Our guide fixing a fellow tour/church member's head scarf - as covering 
a woman's head was mandatory

               Christy ready-ing herself for the mosque

                                                                                           Inside the Citadel's largest mosque

Once inside the mosque, our guide Emi explained a lot about the mosque and muslim beliefs and rituals in general. It was fascinating to learn about how often they had to pray, how they prayed and how they used their prayer beads. I found their "cleansing before prayer" ritual to be quite beautiful and symbolic - I loved the idea of washing your hands before the presence of God and some of the things they recited in prayer. I find it interesting and insightful to learn about other religions; as much as it may not be what I believe, there is still something I can take away from the experience. And to me, it's important that I know WHY I believe what I believe - not holding a belief simply because that's what I grew up with, but to truly understand and confirm my faith as truth. I remember one of my assignments in college was to visit a church of another religion; at first it's kind of weird and you're not quite sure why you're there. But this mosque experience, just as in college, gave me an understanding and appreciation of another culture and religion while maybe even drawing me closer to my own foundational beliefs.

Emi explaining some of her beliefs to our group

Christy and I - do we fit in?

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