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Ibn Battuta

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On the bank of the Nile opposite Old Cairo is the place known as The Garden, which is a pleasure park and promenade, containing many beautiful gardens, for the people of Cairo are given to pleasure and amusements. I witnessed a fete once in Cairo for the sultan's recovery from a fractured hand; all the merchants decorated their bazaars and had rich stuffs, ornaments and silken fabrics hanging in their shops for several days."

 
Ibn Battuta

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These are the great ancient temples of Karnak, on the edge of the Nile about 450 miles south of Cairo. They were the center of Egyptian religion, built in the imperial city of Thebes, when the Egyptian empire was at its height, the greatest power in the world. This was the New York of its time. The temples were built over a period of 2,000 years, each pharaoh adding his bit, leaving his name in stone, to last forever. Inside the temple domain, there were 65 towns, 433 gardens & orchards, 400,000 animals, and it took 80,000 people just to run the place. Small wonder that centuries afterwards the Greeks and Romans came here and gawked like peasants at a civilisation that made their efforts look like well-dressed mud huts. It still has that effect today. You come here from the great modern cities, full of the immense power of modern technology at your finger tips, press a button, turn a switch. And this place... stops you dead.

 
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The mosque of 'Amr is highly venerated and widely celebrated. The Friday service is held in it and the road runs through it from east to west. The madrasas [college mosques] of Cairo cannot be counted for multitude. As for the Maristan [hospital], which lies "between the two castles" near the mausoleum of Sultan Qala'un, no description is adequate to its beauties. It contains an innumerable quantity of appliances and medicaments, and its daily revenue is put as high as a thousand dinars.

 
Ibn Battuta
 

I arrived at length at Cairo, mother of cities and seat of Pharaoh the tyrant, mistress of broad regions and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendour, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the halting-place of feeble and mighty, whose throngs surge as the waves of the sea, and can scarce be contained in her for all her size and capacity."

 
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The lesson I learned in Cairo still applies. The only way to deal with bureaucrats is with stealth and sudden violence.

 
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El Massa from Beirut- "Turn to Cairo, O Habib. Turn to the Arab Republic, to the camp of neutralism and to dignity and sovereignty."

 
Habib Bourguiba
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