Page images
PDF
EPUB

cars

clanging trolley cars of Occidental guise. To be sure, the throngs in the street are largely made up of those in the manifold costumes of the East. The cab drivers are swarthy and wear the tarbush. The multitude afoot is turbaned and long-robed. But the whole effect of the setting is not Oriental, and at first sight it seems as if this might quite as readily be Europe as Africa. Happily, however, this is but the impression produced by the opening portal. Within it changes speedily to something more like what one has been led to expect.

Cairo is a bewildering city to describe. In order to orient one's self it is well, as it always is in every strange city, to get firmly in mind some central focus and learn the bearings of a few great main arteries of traffic with relation to it. As it happens, the logical focus in Cairo is not a matter for debate. It is the same for all — the gardens of the Ezbekiyeh, which lie but a stone's throw south of Shepheard's and directly opposite the Continental, on the street which, under various names, leads straight southward from the region of the railroad station to the palace of the Khedive.

Let us assume, then, that the Ezbekiyeh Gardens *form the centre of Cairo and consider only a few of the important highways that diverge from this vicinity. The street already mentioned is, perhaps, the most important to start with. It runs north and south, roughly parallel with the river, but a good mile from it. It is the great centre of activity for all travelers. In it are the principal shops. Through it passes every visitor in town every day of his stay.

Four important streets lead westward from it toward the river. These are the Sharia Boulac, with its tram line, which leads to the Ghezireh ferry and the new bridge soon to be completed; the Sharia Maghrabi and the Sharia Manakh, parallel with the Boulac and important as modern shopping thoroughfares; and the Kasr el Nil, which leads in the general direction of the museum and the great Nile bridge.

Passing along the southerly side of the Ezbekiyeh Gardens in quite the opposite direction - toward the east — is a narrow highway which conducts one to the central tram station, from which busy square diverge two other streets that the traveler will need to know. These are the Mouski, the most celebrated street in Cairo, which leads straight east through the Oriental quarter and the bazaars and finally out into the desert toward the tombs of the Caliphs. The other is the long diagonal highway of Mohammed Ali, the direct route to the Citadel. Master these and you have the cardinal points in

Cairo's geography.

If there is no room for doubt as to what forms the focus of Cairo, there is equally little hesitation as to what should form the first excursion in the city itself. The Citadel, by all means! It is the loftiest point in town and the most grandly imposing in itself. From its height you may see all the city spread out like a scroll. Nor is it difficult to reach, for the key to it is Mohammed Ali's long, straight highway, and a tram line leads directly to its foot. No better point could be chosen for the first view of the city — or the last.

As a citadel the spot long ago proved unfit. It is commanded by greater heights beyond, which one must infallibly visit later; and on occasion hostile hands have even bombarded it from the minarets of the huge mosque of Sultan Hassan just below. Nevertheless it is a splendid eminence, crowned with a grim old fort and a tomb-mosque of which more will be said shortly.

There are various ways of going in, according to circumstances. Those who ride, whether in carriages or on donkeys, are forced to make a rather circuitous ascent. Pedestrians may go straight up through the old El Azab gate which opens directly above the little round plaza where the tramway ends — and it is so far the best way that one does well, on this first of many visits, to walk. The path is narrow and steep, walled in on either hand by barrack-rooms and by the living rock out of which the ascent is chiseled.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »