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Following in the Footsteps of The Cairo Codex: 72 Hours in Cairo–Day 3

linda lambertThis is part 3 in a 3-part series in which Linda Lambert, author of The Cairo Codex, takes us to Cairo as we follow in the footsteps of Dr. Justine Jenner

Can you believe our time in Cairo is almost over?  Let’s begin Day 3!

Day 3: Meet your driver—who is now your long lost brother—for a trip to the Camel Market in Birqash. Birqash-Camel-MarketNearly 40 miles out of town, into the Delta, the views along the way are fascinating and the Camel Market is not to be missed. Traders from the Sudan in flowing robes hold hands until a deal can be struck. Brace yourself for the rather cruel treatment of these awkward creatures. Here also is one of the Community Schools for Girls that collapsed during the earthquake.

800px-The_Masalla-_MatarayyiahAs you return, you will drive through Bulouc and Shoubra, two of the poorest areas of Cairo, arriving at “a secret garden,” Mataria, where the Holy Family rested on their way into Babylon (as Old Cairo was then known). A sacred child is buried under the ancient sycamore. Justine experiences the holy ground,

“…Inside the enclosure, natural spring water bubbled through an ancient stone fountain and down into the collection pool below. An elderly woman dressed in a green kaftan and white hijab held out her gnarled hand, catching and sipping the holy waters. Justine rested her exhausted body on a stone ledge facing the vista and ancient sycamore alongside, its tired, twisted branches held stable by hefty wooden props. Bare limbs with giant clusters of leaves were smothered at the top by the unrelenting smog. Jasmine and honeysuckle sprang boldly in irregular patches from the sacred ground…”

By early evening, you may need another rest and shower. Dress up for your last evening in Cairo (perhaps you should also pack photo_3603before you go out). You can walk to the Taboula Restaurant at 1 Latin America Street in Garden City (2792-5261) near the American and Canadian Embassies, where the team that would unravel The Cairo Codex first met. The restaurant might have been a stage set for One Thousand and One Nights: carved Arabesque brass tables, lounging seats with red recessed lamps, ancient Oriental artifacts, cozy corners, and ornate pipes giving an air of timeless mystery. If you might be hosting four people, order a full mezza, tabullah, kofta, and labna. When you finish dining, it will be quite dark, and since the sidewalks are uneven and treacherous then, ask a staff member to call a taxi to take you to The Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel on the Corniche, where Justine’s romance with Amir began, a romance that blossoms through the entire Justine Trilogy. It’s an easy walk back to the Shepheard. Fall into bed for you have an early flight—and much to think about:

Were these stories about the Holy Family true? Could they be?

Why such tensions among the three religions of the book when they

all originate with Abraham?

What did I observe about the Egyptian people, their economy, and

history?

Which of my original assumptions about Egypt have been overturned?

What stories will I tell back home?

********************************

cairo codexRead before you go: The Cairo Codex by Linda Lambert (but, of course); Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell; Midaq Alley, a short story by Naguib Mafouz.

If you have more time: Alexandria (Metropole Hotel), Luxor and the Valley of the Kings (The Presidente Hotel), Aswan (Old Cataract Hotel) and Abu Simbel (return to Aswan for the night), a cruise down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. Yes, north is “down” in this case.

 

It’s time to return home, but we’ll always have Cairo.

Thank so much to Linda Lambert.  Visit Linda’s blog here.  Buy The Cairo Codex here!

 

 

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Following in the Footsteps of The Cairo Codex: 72 Hours in Cairo–Day 1

I want to welcome Linda Lambert, author of The Cairo Codex, to Bookmagnet’s Blog today.  Over the next few days, Linda will take us on a journey to Cairo, retracing the steps her main character, Dr. Justine Jenner, took in Cairo and surrounding areas.

cairo codexIn The Cairo Codex, Linda Lambert, former state department envoy to Egypt and author of several books on leadership, plunges the reader into pre-revolutionary Egypt and allows us to witness a nation on the brink of a social uprising.  This is a subject Lambert knows well, and her expertise makes The Cairo Codex utterly gripping.  She could have easily set her tale in Iraq or Israel, but the effect would not be as great.  Writers are frequently told to write what they know best.  Lambert does just that, and it works beautifully.  Lambert combines history, mystery, and archaeology with romance, politics, and religion.

Since it is currently unsafe to travel in Egypt, Linda will be our virtual tour guide.  We are arm-chair (or couch, or comfy bed, or linda lambertoffice chair) travelers, eagerly anticipating all Cairo has to offer.

As of this moment, the U.S. State Department is advising against traveling into Egypt—unless you want to start with Sharm el-Sheikh on the glorious Sinai Peninsula, travel westward to Saint Catherine’s Monastery and climb Mount Sinai where Moses received the tablets from God. By that time, the mainland of Egypt (the Sinai is actually in Asia, cut off by the Suez Canal) will be safe. Egypt always swings back toward safety and gracious hospitality.

map_of_cairo

If not now, then soon you will want to make the trip of a lifetime leading through the haunts in The Cairo Codex: the scenes where anthropologist Justine Jenner made the world’s most profound discovery, was enchanted and romanced, kidnapped and terrified, stunned and surprised. Travel with a friend, a lover, for you’ll want long conversations and romantic evenings. Now come with me into this land of mystery….

The new airport in northeast Cairo is quite accommodating. If you didn’t obtain a visa before you go, you can buy one at the airport. Taxis are no longer allowed to park inside the airport, so secure a car or limousine at an official-looking desk to take you the forty minutes or so to the Shepheard Hotel.  Make reservations through Booking.com (ask for a two-level room facing the Nile.)

hotelexterior

When you have checked in at your hotel, if it is still light outside, cross the street and walk along the Corniche bordering the Nile. Take a whiff of roasting corn, purchase a garland of jasmine from a young girl, observe the Cairenes strolling the riverfront. Note the felucca boats swaying in the water below. Reserve one for the following evening. Return to your room for the sunset (first night only), order a bottle of Grand Marquis cabernet from room service, and have dinner in the Caravan Restaurant downstairs. Arrange with the hotel for a car and English-speaking driver the next morning and get a good night’s sleep, for your 72 hours start in the morning.

nilecorn

Day 1: You will wake up too early! Can’t help it. Dress comfortably and modestly and take a walk to watch the great city wake up. Linger at the river, observing white cranes fly low through the pale lavender mist. Breathe deeply. Walk—or run—north to the July 27 Bridge and cross over the Nile to the island of Zamalek, and enter the Cairo Tower grounds. Return, take a shower, go downstairs for breakfast. Connect with your driver and on the drive, learn his name, all about his family, his dreams for Egypt. He will be very proud. No need to start until 10, unless it is summer and you’ll want to get going before the sweltering heat blankets the city. On the docket for today: The Citadel, Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Ţūlūn (locals believe that it is here that Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Deluge), City of the Dead and, in the afternoon, the cool Egyptian Museum. Walk back to the hotel (about six blocks)—take another shower and nap and board your felucca for a sail on Nile at sunset. Next, ask the hotel to hail a taxi for Khan El Khalili Bazaar, which is magical at night. As you step from the taxi, peer across the street to the Al Azhar, the world’s most ancient university, and the dwelling place of the Islamic Imam. Have dinner at the Khan El Khalili Restaurant in the center of the bazaar. Buy jewelry to your heart’s content. Merchants will be playfully aggressive, but just gaze into their eyes and say “mish mumpkin” (“not possible” in Arabic).

khan el khalili

Stay tuned for Day 2 on Wednesday!

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