Filed under: August Volume 1 - 2008, Magazine/ Culture, Touring, travel | Tags: Egypt
By Abu Aasim, Islamic Post Staff Writer
Egypt is a land of many beauties. This nation is home to more than 80 million people. The vast majority, roughly 90% are Muslims, while the rest are Coptic Christians. Though all the cultures are dominated by common Islamic practices, they do vary in many ways from region to region; the north being influenced by Europe and the Middle East, and the south with more Habashi and Islamic practices.
Egypt is most widely identified by the great pyramids at Giza, but there is far more to see in this country of many faces; and when it comes to fun and interesting tourist destinations, Egypt ranks among the best in the world.
The north coast, which lies on the Mediterranean Sea, is lined with breathtaking beaches and resorts. Alexandria is probably the most well-known northern destination to outsiders, with its popular beaches and sea-front resorts and condos. The Mediterranean, with all its history and mystery is a favorite stop for surfers wanting to catch the steady slow of good waves,;families looking to spend wholesome time together, and the occasional romantic simply becoming lost in thought and imagination while staring into its powerful, soothing motion. The city of nearly five million people, which is locally nicknamed “Alex,” is also home to a huge library, built in the spirit of the historical Library of Alexandria, once the academic center of the world. Its beautiful architecture and variety of indoor activities make it a popular stop for families and group visits as well as intellectuals.
If calmer, salty seas and more peaceful beaches are your preference, than Marsa Matruh, a seaside city, is most welcoming to those seeking a little more privacy. As in any of the northern coastal towns, you can find fine Mediterranean cuisine, at prices that don’t upset your stomach.
Egypt’s entire eastern borders, as well as the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, are formed by the Red Sea. Perhaps the most frequented areas of the country are along the Red Sea coast. This famous area is where Nabi Musa –who is Moses the Holy Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace– crossed on foot, bringing his people out from under the oppressive grip of the pharaoh, Ramses II.
These days the coast is more popular with tourists, foreign and domestic alike; though historians and theologians still abound in the area. People come for the snorkeling, calm crystal blue water, colorful corals and all manner of activities.
Luxor and Aswan are the two largest cities in Upper Egypt (though it’s actually in the south, its called “upper” because the Nile runs from north to south). In these places you will find many ancient temples like Karnack and Luxor. Many travelers come to this area to visit the Nubian people, who are world-famous for their excellent manners and hospitality. The beauty of the landscape in Upper Egypt is also breathtaking.
Then there’s Cairo, simply called “Egypt” by many here; perhaps because this sprawling city of over twenty million inhabitants contains the many flavors of this diverse country within its boundaries. Located directly on the Nile River, Cairo bustles at all hours. There is no shortage of places to go and things to do here. Its rich history, from the pharaohs to the Uthmanian Turks is on full, open display everywhere you go. From the pyramids of Giza, to the museum of antiquities, which contains the naturally preserved body of Fir’oun, or Pharoah of Quranic scripture, one could spend a lifetime seeing and reading all that’s available.
The Egyptians are warm friendly people, and their capitol, which reflects them as a whole is, in comparison with other big cities around the world, fairly peaceful. And though over-pricing for foreigners is common, outright crime is relatively non-existent, which makes for a nice stay anywhere.
Cairo, being nicknamed the City of a Thousand Minarets, is probably not much of an exaggeration. There is a mosque, or masjid, at nearly every turn; and one can find detailed stories of the rich Islamic history here. The Muhammad Ali Masjid, surrounded by the Citadel of Salahuddin Ayyubi, is the most prominent in appearance, and towers over the entire city.
Islamic Cairo, a district within the city walls, is an open-air museum straight from the Middle Ages. With its crowded, narrow, winding streets, and vendors who have changed little with time, one can easily lose tract of the current century. The beautiful masjids of Islamic Cairo, which are still in everyday use, are fascinating both spiritually and esthetically. The most prominent of these is that of Sayedina Hussein Bin Ali, may Allah be pleased with him and his father. After being slain along with his family and children in the desert sands of Karbala, his blessed head was brought to Cairo by his sister Sayeda Zeinab and only surviving son Imam Zain ul Abideen, may Allah be pleased with both of them, and buried where the masjid stands today.
The Egyptians had been persuaded at some point to allow the blessed head of Sayedina Hussen bin Ali to be buried along with his body at Karbala, but the Egyptians have been reluctant to depart with the blessings sought due to its presence.
Popular Egyptian Cuisine
The most common and distinctly Egyptian food is a dish called koshary. This mixture of chick peas, onions, noodles, and rice is served with a special tomato-based sauce and an optional flaming-hot sauce. Other popular foods are fool mudammas stewed beans eaten with pita bread and tamaya, otherwise known as falafel (shown above).
Fool Mudammas – Dry Broad beans, stewed
There are three main types of dry broad beans:
1) Fool Rumi, or Greek beans: are large flat and whitish.
2) Fool Hamam, or pigeon beans: are small, round and dark brown.
3) Fool Baladi Sa’idi, or Local Upper Egyptian beans: are whitish and mid-size.
1. 2 cups dry broad beans (fava beans)
2. 1/2 cup split lentils
3. Optional: 1 tomato, 1 carrot, and 1 onion.
1. Place beans and lentils in a dammasa, or stewing pot, with at least three times their measure in water.
A dammasa is a metal, vase-shaped pot with a tight lid and narrow neck used chiefly to stew dried broad beans, or fool, but a regular stewing pot may be used.
2. Boil over a high flame, then add any or all the optional vegetables.
3. Bring to boil, cover very tightly, and simmer over very slow flame for 6-9 hours, or overnight, adding more boiling water whenever the water is absorbed and beans are dry (cold water will shrivel the beans, change the taste, and make them hard). This is the basis of fool mudammas.
4. Then mash the beans with oil (cottonseed, olive, linseed, or corn oil), lemon, salt, and any of the following ingredients: crushed garlic, grated onions, chopped tomatoes, and cumin.
A quicker but less attractive way to cook Fuul is to use a pressure cooker. Though the taste of the beans will remain the same, the color tends to turn much darker.
Filed under: International, July Volume II - 2008, World | Tags: Egypt, israel, Palestine
By Abu Aasim, Islamic Post Correspondent
The Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire between Israel and Gaza came under further strain on the morning of Wednesday July 2 when a man, reportedly a Palestinian working on a light rail line in occupied East Jerusalem, took his bulldozer on a rampage, plowing through a busy street, crushing cars, turning over a bus, and causing other destruction. The incident left, at latest count, four people dead, and 30 more wounded. The dead included the driver himself, who was fatally shot in his vehicle by police.
The Israeli security forces are treating the incident as a terrorist attack; although, according to Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, the man had “a criminal record,” but no known links to what the Israeli government considers “terrorist organizations.”
The truce, which officially went into effect on the 19th of last month, has been shaky from the start; as the Israeli military carried out last minute strikes on Palestinian targets within mere hours of the agreement’s commencement. Days later, an Israeli raid, which left a Palestinian youth dead in the West Bank, provoked rocket fire from Gaza, for which a resistance group claimed responsibility.
The friction has led to slow action on the part of the Israelis to deliver on many of the truce’s terms, which included a partial end to the closed borders around Gaza that has left Gaza impoverished. The friction has also led to a delay in the reopening of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. The crossing was brought down by force back in January by Hamas, the elected Palestinian government which now only controls Gaza, seeking to loosen the chokehold placed on its people by the months-long Israeli blockade that has restricted everything from fuel to food to the movements of citizens within the war-ravaged territory.
The chief architect of the truce, Egyptian Head of General Intelligence Omar Suleiman, who spent months bringing the two sides to the table for the agreement, has expressed deep concern over the recent events that have threatened the stability of the deal, according to the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram, which quoted unnamed government sources. Suleiman is remaining in “direct contact with both sides to [ensure] that the situation does not escalate,” the paper reported.
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has also been holding direct talks with both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah to work out the details of a prisoner exchange that would see the release of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006 by Palestinian anti-occupation fighters, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by the Israelis. The prisoner exchange is arguably the most vital tenet of the truce.
Since the bulldozer incident occurred, the truce hasn’t broken down; but Israeli aggression has not ceased. At the first meeting of the newly-formed “Mediterranean Union” in Paris Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, who is currently under intense pressure from Israeli hardliners displeased with his apparent openness to a peace deal with Syria and prisoner exchanges with Hezbollah and Hamas, stated that a peace settlement is “closer than ever.”
These lofty words will most likely have an effect on the minds of the Palestinian people only when Israeli actions begin to change with the rhetoric.
Meanwhile the region waits to see how the events of the coming days will unfold.