Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cairo: A Christmas of Contrasts

'Twas almost the week before Christmas and all the nearby villages were decked out in their finest. . .



. . .simple and to-the-point decorations reminding us all. . .





. . .of the reason we celebrate Christmas whether on December 25th as we do where we are from or on January 6th as we've learned some Christians in Arabic countries do.


A couple of new virtual friends in Greece have been writing about the Greek tradition of lighting boat images or decorating boats at Christmas. Quite a beautiful tradition but not one that is practiced in our area of the Greek Peloponnese.

Perhaps that is because most of the fishing boats here have been pulled out of the small village harbors to protect them from the sometimes wild winter storms that kick waves over the concrete barriers. The few boats that remain are being used, as weather permitted for fishing and are devoid of decoration.

Thanks to our new FB friend, Robert Walker I can show you some of his photos of those boat decorations. I am using them with his permission.

Staying at our Stone House on the Hill was certainly a temptation this year as we love it and those villages around us. . .










. . . but as you recall, one of the reasons we wanted a base in Europe was to have access to other places. So last weekend. . .

Agios Nikolaos

. . .we drove to Athens and hopped an Egypt Air flight to Cairo.  This city of 24 million people, needless to say, is an absolute 180-degree contrast to the Greek villages in our area of the Mani which are populated by a few hundred people.

A shot of Cairo traffic from our balcony

So here we are in the big, no make that, enormous city, with a population demographic of about 85 percent Muslim and 15 percent Christian, just days before Christmas.  What you might find surprising is the amount of Christmas that can be found here. For example.

We are staying at the Cairo Marriott Hotel and Omar Khayyam Casino; this is one of two trees that grace the outside entry of the hotel.

The lobby is decked out as well


The Marriott is located on an island in the middle of the Nile River. Taking a stroll through the Zamarek neighborhood in which the hotel is located, is a sensory explosion of sounds, smells and sights.  It isn't for the faint-of-heart (walking anywhere in Cairo isn't for the faint of heart because there are no crossing lights and traffic doesn't stop for pedestrians - you dash, and I mean dash - between cars, but that's another story for another day.)



Our dasher, dancer, prancer walk on uneven - sometimes non-existent - sidewalks and across traffic took us through a rather posh area of the city where flower, specialty foods, clothing and delightful book stores lined the streets. As we wound our way back to the residential neighborhoods we happened upon a vendor selling both trees and poinsettias.




On our return to the hotel we found it to be an Episcopal Church  just a block away with a full slate of Christmas offerings.

Yesterday we headed to downtown Cairo to do some shopping. (the exchange rate is excellent with one Egyptian pound equal to 13-cents US).

But as often happens, we got sidetracked with exploring and found ourselves at a stately mosque, Al Rahma Mosque, right next to a similarly large and stately Armenian Catholic Church, the Cathedral of the Annunciation.  We were warmly greeted in the Mosque by one of the men doing some maintenance on the buildings interior.

Armenian Cathedral - Cairo
Then we visited the Cathedral where the doors were open and only another set of visitors was inside. (It does amaze us how even in big cities on this side of the Atlantic, churches are left open and in the States how many keep their doors locked for security reasons.)  Again, we found signs of Christmas:
Reason for the Season - Nativity Scene at the side of the nave

While our prelude to Christmas has been one of contrasts, it has also been one that removed the commercialism and hype from the holiday.  While it may sound rather unconventional, it may well be one of the best Christmas weeks we've ever celebrated. We plan to celebrate Christmas Eve at a Lebanese restaurant and Christmas Day will be spend on an airplane.

Where ever this finds you, we send our wishes for a happy holiday - whatever the holiday is that you are celebrating.  Merry Christmas wishes to those who do celebrate it. And to all of you, thanks for taking the time from your busy schedules to spend a few minutes with us.  We've seen a lot of new visitors here and want to welcome you. And a big shout out to those who shared last week's post in your social media. . .that meant a lot and it is nice you find TravelnWrite worth sharing!!

Happy holidays and safe travels to you and yours!

Linking up this week:
Photo Friday
Travel Photo Thursday
Wordless Wednesday
Our World Tuesday
Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens

25 comments:

  1. thanks so for all of this !

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it and hope to see you back again often!

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  2. I would not have guessed that there was so much Christmas in Cairo. Loved reading about this and other traditions, too. Merry Christmas to you!

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    1. Merry Christmas to you and Mr. TWS. I was a bit surprised myself at finding so much Christian holiday decor but guess that is one of the reasons we travel isn't it? To change our previously conceived notions about people and places. Looking forward to more travel in 2016 - perhaps our paths will finally cross somewhere; hope so!

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  3. What a huge culture shock to go from your little village in the Greek Peloponnese to the vast city of Cairo. Loved learning about the Greek tradition of decorating boats for Christmas and found it very interesting that Cairo also had some decorations. Merry Christmas wherever you are!

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    1. Oh and Merry Christmas (a bit late) to you as well. Did you spend time on the beach? We were in a plane on Christmas but sure enjoyed the week leading up to the big day! Looking forward to another year of adventures - both yours and mine! Hugs to you~

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  4. What an interesting and diverse Christmas. I am enjoying your life in and travels from Greece.

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    1. Thanks Jan and I am sorry for being so tardy in responding to your lovely comment. Hope your Christmas was a good one and here's to a wonderful 2016!

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  5. The warmth of Christmas, separate from its religious meaning, is attractive to people of all religions, I think. My foster kids, who are from Syria, tell me that they and lots of their friends had a Christmas tree in their house every year, with lots of lights too!

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    1. There is a magic about Christmas that seems to transcend the religious meaning and just bring a smile to the faces of many. I was surprised at the number of Christians we encountered in this predominantly Muslim country, who were celebrating Christmas for all the religious reasons. Guess that is why we travel. So glad to hear your foster kids from Syria did have a time in their lives when they had a lighted Christmas tree and happiness. Thanks for commenting, Rachel, and happy holidays to you and your family.

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  6. I do love all these pictures! Such wonderful and magical contrasts. :-)

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    1. Oh belated Merry Christmas wishes to you and Bear, Krista! hugs, Jackie

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  7. So happy that you made it to Cairo and are enjoying the adventure - it looks amazing. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Happy holiday wishes to you two as well. I've loved watching your adventures from afar; keep them up in 2016!!

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  8. Hello, what a cool place to visit during the holidays. I enjoy all the Christmas decorations and lights. Wonderful photos and post. Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Eileen! Glad you enjoyed the post. Happy New Year to you~ hugs, Jackie

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  9. What's a pleasant surprise to see a 'traditional' Christmas celebration in Cairo. I love the lights, the vibrant reds and greens too. I also love the lighting of boat images in Greece. Those photos look really cool!
    I can't imagine dodging traffic to cross a busy street without traffic lights - you're quite the intrepid traveler, Jackie!
    Belated wishes to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Joyful New Year!

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  10. Divergent cultures...yet with so similar Christmas traditions!

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  11. O, what a wonderful place to spend Christmas...it's all so beautiful and your photos make it all seem so real to us reading this post.
    I'm thrilled for you to be able to spend this time in Cairo...what a treat. xoxo

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  12. Lovely different decorations world ,Happy end Xmas,

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  13. Beautifull pictures,H Happy days untill New Year,
    Best regard from Belgium

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  14. Glad you had such a meaningful Christmas in Cairo! Happy New Year to you both!

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  15. So glad to hear you enjoyed Christmas in Cairo, you have some splendid pictures here Jackie,it's good to get away from the commercialism of Christmas once in a while.
    You mention Christmas being celebrated on 6th January, there are a huge number of Greeks who do this, they are with the "Old" Greek Orthodox Church, the Paleoimerologites, who still use the Julian calendar, 13 days behind everyone else,my mother-in-law is one of these, strange as she is the only one of my husbands large family, who is. It took a lot of getting used to the way she celebrates everything, Saint's Days etc, 13 days late, so to speak.
    It's an eyeopener, isn't it, living in Greece?
    Have a wonderful New Year,
    Susan.x

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  16. I am fascinated by your description of Christmas time in Cairo. I really look forward to hearing more about the trip. Amazon has been tardy delivering my packages, so I am holding to that January 6 date as my extended deadline for giving people gifts. Malaysia which is 10% Christian also had a surprising amount of Christmas decorations up. However, I always laugh that what I know as Christmas lights are called Ramadan lights there.

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  17. Thank you to your friend for letting us see boats in lights from Greece and how I enjoyed seeing Cairo at Christmas.
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday this year Jackie, best wishes to you and your hubby for 2016.

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