Cairo’s Museum of Islamic Art

After the Gayer-Anderson Museum, we visited Cairo‘s Museum of Islamic Art, “considered one of the greatest in the world, with its exceptional collection of rare woodwork and plaster artefacts (sic), as well as metal, ceramic, glass, crystal, and textile objects of all periods, from all over the Islamic world.” As expected, the Islamic art focused on geometric and vegetal patterns and Arabic calligraphy.

The museum reopened in January 2017 after “a car bomb attack targeting the Cairo police headquarters on the other side of the street caused considerable damage to the museum and destroyed many artifacts” three years before. We noticed that the police headquarters has a curved blast wall that directs any blast away from the police building and toward the museum.

Inside, there were few visitors on a weekday afternoon, and the museum was excellent.

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Gayer-Anderson Museum

As we were leaving Cairo‘s Mosque of Ibn Tulun, our guide gestured to a building on the right and asked if we wanted to see the Gayer-Anderson Museum. It wasn’t on the itinerary we negotiated with the tour company, but we had considered it, so we said sure. We’re glad he asked. The museum is “one of the best-preserved examples of 17th-century domestic architecture left in Cairo”

Above, the minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun is framed by the wooden latticework on the rooftop terrace of the Museum. This rooftop terrace was used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

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Islamic Art from Mosques of Islamic Cairo

Islamic art has focused on the depiction of patterns, whether purely geometric or floral, and Arabic calligraphy, rather than on figures, because it is feared by many Muslims that the depiction of the human form is idolatry”. The Islamic artist has a palette that is more restricted than artists from most cultures; this art can be beautiful. This post shows examples of Islamic art from three mosques of Islamic Cairo, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Above, the Citadel and Mosque of Mohammed Ali are on the hill above Islamic Cairo. Compare the pencil minarets of the Ottoman Mosque of Mohammed Ali with the stubbier minarets of the Mamluk-style mosques on the left. It doesn’t rain much in Cairo, so the predominant color is the sand of the surrounding deserts. After the Citadel, we visited Islamic Cairo and the two mosques on the left and a third mosque where I took this photo from a minaret.

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Coptic Cairo

After seeing the Egyptian Museum, we visited Coptic Cairo, “a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt until the Islamic era”. About 10% of Egypt’s population is Christian. “It is believed in Christian tradition that the Holy Family visited this area.” The above mosaic from the Hanging Church depicts the Holy Family in Egypt.

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Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

Interested in Egyptian antiquities, we started our Cairo visit at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Shown above, the pool outside the museum has lotus and papyrus, symbols of Egypt. From a Metropolitan Museum of Art article,

Due to its prevalence in the Nile Delta, the papyrus was the heraldic plant of Lower (northern) Egypt, while the lily or lotus stood for Upper (southern) Egypt. When shown wound around the hieroglyph for “unite,” these two plants formed an emblem for the unification of the Two Lands of Egypt.

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Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Saint Petersburg‘s  Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood impressed us — we had not seen such an ornate, fanciful church. The church was built as a memorial on the site where the Russian tsar was assassinated in 1881. From wikipedia, “On March 13, 1881 (Julian date: March 1), as Tsar Alexander’s carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar.”

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Ballet at the Mariinsky Theater

Wanting to see a ballet in Russia, we saw one at Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater. The theater and dancers were wonderful. At first we didn’t know about selecting seats and transportation, but everything worked out well.

Shown above is the stage showing “Les Saisons Russes“, French for “The Russian Seasons”, which seems to be a theme of the Mariinsky. In Soviet times, the Mariinsky Ballet was known as the Kirov Ballet. Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov danced for the Kirov Ballet before defecting to the West.

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