Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Egypt: Land of the Pharaohs, Little known pearl of the Delta - Rashid

Chapter Three - Little known pearl of the Delta: Rashid

The roads from Alex to Rashid are pleasant to drive on, often offering nice views. On the way, one also passes through some traditional-looking villages. Rashid was also the most pleasant city to drive around in, although the roads are narrow, unpaved and covered with garbage. It really hád something !

There are 22 Ottoman era houses scattered all over the city. The best one to start with - although not really the most beautiful one - is Bait Arab Qali. It houses the Rosetta National Museum. Entrance costs E£5. The museum mainly has artefacts and utensils related to the Ottoman life, but also has a copy of the famous Rosetta stone (you know, the stone which led to the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs; the original is in the British Museum in London). This is also the only thing worth photographing inside (the interior is not beautiful at all). A permit to do so, costs an outlandish E£10 ! However, normally a ticket in either one of the Ottoman houses allows visits to all the other ones. In practice, this seems to pose some problems. As this IS the National Museum you should expect the people at Bait Arab Qali to be able to point out directions to and give information about the other houses, but they speak little or no English. A much better help are the people in the streets. They are so happy that finally a tourist has come to their city, they will often accompany you to the place you asked about.

souqIn one of the houses there's a very good map of Rashid, showing all the places of interest (there are over 40 !). Interesting detail : you normally cannot visit this house as it's an office ! The National Museum doesn't seem to have a map, an office (this one) has ! I can't remember the name of this house, but I know the way to it. If you have the Gallal house (there's also a neighbouring one (Ottoman, of course)) on your right, continue on. Head to the right into the souq, then take the first street on the left. The office is on the right at the first crossing you'll then come to.
The souq is very lively and colourful. Certainly worth a stroll. The merchants are very happy to see foreigners.
Most beautiful of all the houses - for me - was Bayt al-Amasyali. Its interior is much better than the Arab Qali. The al-Fatayri supposedly can't be visited as it also has been turned into an office.

A few kilometres from the city centre, towards Alexandria, lies the Qait Bay Citadel. It is very easy to find. From the Arab Qali house, head past the flower clock to the Nile (about 100 meters). Then take the road, direction Alexandria. At all times, stay right, so keep driving as close to the Nile as possible. You will come to Qait Bay. It is near this place that the Rosetta Stone was found. Almost no tourists seem to make it here. The French fortress itself looks as new. Climb onto the defensive walls and enjoy the good views over the Nile. You can see the mouth of this Rashid branch of the river in the distance. Entrance to Qait Bay is E£6 (students half). Photography is free for once.

There are a couple of hotels in Rashid: the Makkah and the al-Nil. I have no more information on them. The Delta is a great place to drive around in as the roads are good and the countryside is lush and green.

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