Cairo, Egypt

Details of Rifai Mosque

The late Shah of Iran, who married an Egyptian, is buried inside Rifai Mosque with a grander, more prominent space than the exiled King Farouk.

King Farouk’s tomb inside Rifai Mosque

Interior of Rifai Mosque – most opulent as recent kings, their families and the late Shah of Iran are buried here.

A Rifai Mosque worker naps.

The Rifai Mosque, dating back to only 1911, is young as far as mosques go in Cairo, but the mock-Mamluk style blends beautifully with the 14th century Hassan Mosque just beside it.

The ornate pulpit (minbar) of Hassan Mosque

A view from inside the open courtyard of Hassan Mosque (built 1356-1393) – I kept imagining how this area would have looked with candles glowing in all of these lanterns. This mosque – perhaps not ornate since it was never completed after Hassan died – is my top pick thus far on the journey.

Another view from the Citadel shows two extraordinary mosques just a stone's throw away – on the left is the 14th century Hassan Mosque and Rifai Mosque, completed in 1911, is on the right.

The dome and a pillar in the great prayer hall of the Mohammad Ali Mosque

We've seen many groups of young students visiting the historic sites of Cairo – here I pose with fourteen and 15 year olds giddy to meet ‘a foreigner’.

The view over smoggy Cairo from Mohammad Ali Mosque inside the Citadel

A glorious alabaster exterior covers the Mohammad Ali Mosque – alabaster is mined just a few hundred kilometers from Cairo.

Mohammad Ali Mosque built in the early 19th century by a Turkish officer Mohammad Ali, self-appointed ruler of Egypt for 43 years.

Teenage students queue to enter the Citadel dating back to 1176 when Sultan Saladin decided a fortress should be built to protect his kingdom from the Crusaders.

6 November 2000 – Jim and I went to the heavily guarded, highly secured American embassy to explain a problem with our second passports: extension to 2002 is noted in the back of our book and embassies, consulates and border guards don't understand or accept this. The first woman I spoke with stated, “It’s policy to do it this way and it’s really not our problem. It’s their problem”. I tried not to explode and asked to see the Consul.

A few minutes later, a 20-something-looking Kristin Gustavson spoke to me through the Plexiglass window, “It’s policy not to issue another second passport after the first one is issued. We just amend the date and state an additional two years have been added on the next to last page of the passport. This is policy.” She didn't seem to understand that border guards who don't read English are ‘our’ problems and trying to get them to accept an amendment located in the back is another of ‘our’ problems. When we asked again to see the Consul, she claimed she was in fact the Consul.

At one point she suggested we contact the American embassy in the country we're about to visit and have them ‘deal with the matter’. Shocked, I replied, “So what shall we do in Sudan or Iran where there is no embassy? And where embassies exist, do you really think an employee is going to drive to the border to make sure the officials there will accept our passport.” Her response, “No, but the US embassy official could call the border.” Trying to contain my outrage, I answered, “But there are no phones at many border points in this world.” Finally she said, “Contact the US State Department. I can't change policy.”

Jim asked her if this method of extension made sense to her. “Yes,” she responded. When Jim then asked, “Why?”, she replied, “Because it is policy.”


  Mohammed Ali Mosque
  Mosques of Sultan Hassan and ar-Rifai
  Heliopolis (Paige)