The Church of Virgin Mary in Old Cairo is more commonly referred to as the “Hanging Church”. It gets its name from the fact that it was built on the ruins of two towers from the old roman fortress of Babylon. The church dates back to the 4th century and is one of the oldest churches of any kind in Cairo. The entrance to the church is quite stunning as you have to climb 29 steps up to the entrance, which sits on top of the ruins. It is harder to imagine today the effect that it had of seeming to be suspended above the towers, hence the feeling that it is hanging above the ruins.
The Hanging Church was built in the basilican style and was meant to mimic the shape of Noah’s ark. There is a large, marble pulpit and one of the main features is the sanctuary screen, which is made of cedar wood and ebony inlaid with ivory. The church also has 110 icons that have been provided to the church over the centuries and are on display. It was one of the last places that we visited on a very busy day in Cairo that included going to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, sailing in a felucca on the Nile River, visiting Abu Serga Church (Cave Church), Ben Ezra Synagogue, Church of St. George, and the ancient Babylon Fortress.
Most of our time on our safari trip was spent winding our way through the national parks and seeing the incredible wildlife. However, on the day that we traveled from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, we spent the majority of the day driving through towns and the countryside. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how the people of Kenya live their daily lives. We made the trip on a Sunday, so people were out and on their way to the local markets to buy and sell items. Everywhere that we went in both Kenya and Tanzania, the people that we met were always very friendly and helpful.
No matter where you are in Kenya and Tanzania, you will see the young boys herding the cattle, goats, and sheep. Usually they would move them out of the way of the traffic and other times it was up the vehicle to push its way through the animals. There were also many different stands along the road selling fruits and vegetables of all kinds and at one point we saw many men on bicycles carrying bananas to the market place. There were also the traditional women carrying items to and from their homes by balancing them on their heads.
Most of the time was spent on dirt roads, but there were some times when there were paved roads in the towns themselves. In addition to the people walking on the sides of the roads in their colorful garments, there were always motorcycles buzzing along the roads. The people who owned the motorcycles used them as a form of a taxi and they would pick up and drop off people along the way. Since our drive would take more than six hours, especially due to the border crossing, we didn’t have time to stop at any of the markets, but they were certainly quite busy with all of the locals.
For us, as with any trip that we take, it is important to learn as much as we can about the culture and the lives of the people who live there. Even with the limited time that we had driving through these small towns, seeing the homes, stores, and people was something that we really enjoyed. Whenever the young children, those around five years old or younger, would see our Land Cruiser, they would always smile and wave to us as we drove by. As always, taking photographs from a moving car isn’t easy, but we try to do our best to capture our journey in its entirety.
When visiting Strasbourg in France, one of the highlights will certainly be walking the streets of Petite France, which is the historic quarter of the city. The medieval buildings with their timbered exteriors will truly make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. You should definitely expect large crowds as you make your way through the streets, but there are plenty of shops and restaurants to visit as you wonder through the district.
In addition to the beautiful architecture, there are several canals that meander through the quarter with stone bridges across them. There are also several companies that offer river boat sightseeing tours that are well worth doing. We visited during the holiday season, so the stores were adorned with extra decorations to celebrate the season. It also meant that there were Christmas markets in the area with gluhwein, sausages, and sweet treats. Although Strasbourg borders Germany and has been influenced by both France and Germany, they are truly Alsace and proud to be so.
We enjoyed seeing other medieval towns in the area, including Eguisheim and Riquewihr, but even if you don’t get out into the countryside, walking through Petite France in Strasbourg is an amazing experience. We were in Strasbourg for several days and enjoyed walking through the historic district several different times, each providing a unique surprise as we turned down a different side street.