Mena House

The Egyptologist, the Islam Expert and the Copt in Cairo

The Cairo Pyramid Scheme

Mena House
En 4500 år gammel baggrund til vores middag på Mena House 6. november 2023

In a dictionary the words Cairo and cacophony are not that far removed. Here are huge crowds as well as, shall we say, vigorous traffic. Life in the city is at all times buoyant, exuberant and dynamic. A resting heart rate is difficult to come by.

At the same time, it is the Islamic culture’s unofficial capital. The city has also inherited the only manmade construction who can hold back time. With that in mind, it’s ironic that the pyramids are mausoleums. Bygone days in the West and life everywhere.

This city can be your home from 4th November for a week. We have rented all the room at the Beauchamp hotel, which we then have all by ourselves.
You will find the hotel in the Zamalek district, and almost Western area of the city. Its owner is the German Hebba Motz. Believe us, after a long day and just as long night in dissonance, what you need more than anything is a bit of German ordnung.

If you have questions to the below, then you are more than welcome to call us 5273 6316. Weekdays from 10 am to 6 pm. Saturday from 10.00 am to 3 pm.

Parnassos ApS medlem af rejsegarantifonden 3403

Parnassos.dk is a Danish company and member of “Rejsegarantifonden” the Danish equivalent to ABTA. It guarantees your money while we are the guarantor of your experiences.

Jesus and Parents’ One Month’s Stay in Maadi

Koptisk kirke i Maadi
”Den velsignede jomfru Marias kirke i Maadi” en koptisk kirke ved Nilens bred

For those of you starting the journey from Denmark: We will fly with Egypt Air departing Saturday 4th November at 2.45 pm from Copenhagen airport which will take us non-stop to Cairo.
A bus awaits us and brings us to the hotel where we will share a late dinner.
At 9.30 am Sunday morning – and after breakfast which is included in the price – you will hear the starting pistol.

And a propos, it’s Parnassos’ philosophy that our travelling programs are as compact as possible. We want to use every waking hour while we are in Cairo. Do join us on all tours during the day! Come along to all the restaurants and clubs in the night!

If you during the program get tired, or if the city’s screeching and noise all of a sudden becomes too much for you – which is quite likely – we will find a taxi that brings you right back to the hotel. They are everywhere at all times.
The taxis don’t have quite the same quality as a black cab or a Mercedes, but you will not complain about the price, which is almost embarrassingly cheap.

Sunday morning our bus will go a little south of the city where we will visit in my opinion the most interesting Coptic church, “The Virgin Mary’s church in Maadi”. The priest of the church, Stefanos, will welcome us to his congregation.
It’s interesting because it’s a little more intimate that their much larger churches in the city center. Not only that, it has had pretty classy visitors back in the day.
This is very you will find Christianity at its infancy – literally.

We read the following in the gospel of Matthew

 

An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.” So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother.

According to tradition the family stayed in Maadi for about a month – in an area where there was a large Jewish community in those days – exactly where the church was built later on.
Not only that, Stafanos has promised to open up for us the most holy area of the church, the crypt where it is said the parents and child were hiding from the spies of Herod.
It’s doubtful there is any historian who “buys” the story but let us, for about an hour, place our skepticism in the wardrobe and be for about an hour let’s be captivated by this story that is at least a thousand years old.

Equally riveting will be Stefanos speech about belonging to a Christian minority in the midst of an Islamic society.

Afternoon Tea at St. Regis

St. Regis hotel
Watergarden restauranten på St. Regis hotel.

The church is adjacent to the Nile. It makes therefore good sense to take the almost obligatory tour with a Felukah, large sailing boats in symbiosis with the river, that is at the same time both mythic and factual. We drift along with time and stream, ebb and flow in complete contrast to the hectic city.
The sail trip lasts about two hours that will bring us our and about and along the Maadi island. When we disembark we immediately will go on board again on a river taxi bringing us back to the city proper. It will land at the exceptionally luxuries St Regis hotel, that will welcome us to their afternoon tea at the Water Garden restaurant.

Will there be time for a small rest at our hotel before we embark on Sunday night? Possibly.

Yellow Fever in Old Cairo

Jakob Skovgaard Petersen
Jakob Skovgaard Petersen
We are both proud and pleased to be able to announce that the leading Danish Islam expert, professor Jacob Skovgaard Petersen from Copenhagen University will join us for the full week in Cairo. That gives us solid ground under our feet when we are dealing with one of the world’s large cultures. Since you are reading these lines it’s a good guess that you are not from Denmark. He was embroiled in controversy in the 00’s. Parts of the right wing press aggressively attacked him because of his attitude towards the Muhammed crises and opinions about immigration. Sad and shameful. Unless you see it from a marketing point of view, then it doesn’t get much better than that. We will give a more detailed description of our “guest of honour” soon, for example when, during the 1980s, he lived in Old Cairo, the most exotic place of the city, where he picked up one of the most exotic diseases. Not only is he an expert in the Arabic cultures, his Arabic language is at a level where even the Danish expats feel intimidated.

Incognito in "Garbage City"

The Al Abageyah district in Cairo is a strong candidate for being the most bizarre place on earth. It really is beyond belief.
The area has 15,000 inhabitants and their livelihood consists of collecting and sorting the garbage from the 10 million city. All kinds of refuse end here: Plastic, bottles, paper, furniture, tires… you name it they have it.
A constant traffic of vans, easels men and children brings stuff of all kinds back and forth and it is all covered in a certain whiff of decay. Wandering around here makes you feel you are walking around in a Federico Fellini scene. The only issue is that the occupants genuinely don’t like visitors of touristic origin. It’s understandable.

 

We have however found the perfect solution to this so you, with your own eyes, can roam the streets, not quite believing what you see without stepping on anyone’s toes.

We will explain the “trick” when we stand at the Al-Mokattam street adjacent to the quarter. You will have half an hour on your own before we meet again – this time on the other side of the large mountains of waste.

Here we have moved out of the Fellini scene and straight into a new created by yet another surrealist.

St. Simon's Cave Church

Simon Tannerkirken i Kairos udkant
To koptiske ungersvende løber om kap op ad kirkens relativt stejle stensiddepladser. På toppen står ungmøerne og følger med

Al Abageyah in Cairo is primarily a Coptic district. And, while we are at the subject, I think you will be surprised by how many Christian churches you’ll find in this solidly Islamic city. It’s in their honor that Egypt gives an extensive religious freedom to their Christian minority which probably consists of 10% of the population.

Behind Garbage City a new revelation will be disclosed to us, one of the largest churches in the world with space for 5,000 churchgoers. It has been carved out directly into the Mokattam Cliffs that surrounds Eastern Cairo. Granted, there are tourists, but not many. On the other hand, the church is well visited, not least by the Coptic youth not least outside the religious service.

It’s my opinion that the Coptic society doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves. I, on the other hand, find it fascinatingly interesting. If you join us on the trip, I’ll happily tell about the day, quarter a century ago, I first visited Garbage City and experienced a little episode, a Coptic Cultural Chock of a non-religious quality, that has followed me ever since.

The Opera House in Cairo

OPerahuset Zamalek, Kairo

The building you can see in the background? A mosque perhaps? Well, the headline gives the answer away, it’s the Cairo Opera house. And we are genuinely dealing with a complex that primarily promotes European Classical music. Egypt has a symphony orchestra and an opera orchestra. One of our evenings will be dedicated to this rather fascinating house which roof covers two cultures. The audience does not at all represent the general population. No trophies to be won even if you guess correctly what social layer the might belong to.

And yet again, there is this creeping surreal feeling. You sense that the audience, the singers and the musicians have been taken out of one culture and implemented into another. Which, actually, is exactly the case.

In reality, Egypt has shares in the European Opera tradition with its “Aida”, composed by Giuseppe Verdi and ordered by the Egyptian ruler, Ismael Pashe, in year 1870. It turned out to be a phenomenally expensive opera to produce (he also had an opera house build) and de facto bankrupted the country. All in the name of art.

My brother, Bent, in Cairo's "Agouza"

Bent Bach Christophersen i Kairo

Autumn 1992. My brother’s depressions get worse. Consequently, his doctor suggests he should move to a warmer climate with sun filled days to take the sting out of the dark Scandinavian winters. That was what he did, what he chose was… Cairo!

He lived here for close to 30 years, got himself a new life, new friends and acquaintances and found Aladdin’s cave. Almost. I have no doubt that he played the cards he was handed as well as could reasonably be expected. One of the times we met in Cairo was February 2020, shortly before the Corona crises that wreaked havoc with the world – and our plans; that of arranging a guided tour to his city.

Late February he went to Athens, where he also had an apartment, while I stayed in Cairo. A five week planned stay ended being a five months unplanned ditto because of Covid.

We sadly had to say goodbye to my brother early 2022, but the plans we made is still alive with this trip that can be seen both as a memory and a synopsis of a life fully lived despite uphill struggles.
I have taken over his apartment in “Agouza” and inherited his friends who have been indispensable with this arranged tour.

I will happily show you all Agouza. When visiting my brother and you couldn’t quite figure out where his flat was among the small alleys and streets, you could always ask where “the stranger” lived. He was well liked, they looked after him during his “dark” periods and he ended up being the district’s mascot. This hospitality I have inherited as well – and now it’s me who is the stranger!

Mohammed Kora's Tale

Mohammed Kora

The name of my brother’s landlord in Agouza – and now mine – is Zakaraya, originating from Sudan. A nicer man will be hard to find. His English language level is… let’s say rudimentary. But his son, 27-year old Mohammed is in full command of the language as he for a couple of years worked in customer service of Vodafone. (It was, however, a challenge for him to understand Scottish. He is not alone).

One evening, while we sat in a taxi, he opened up a little bit about his life and said, “Erik, the traditions in Egypt can be toxic!”. Curiously I asked what in his opinion was the difference between tradition and culture. He pondered about it for a bit, then replied, ‘traditions are acts; culture is achievement’. A pleasure when you have to re-evaluate a person.

He has promised to hold a little speech for us about being young in Egypt, their dreams, their indignities.

Not only that, Mohammed has “the finger on the pulse”. He will the same evening bring us to whatever place is “in” next November. The Arabian youth is exactly as fickle as the European counterpart, so what’s in today is hopelessly out next month.
No worries about the fact that some of us will be one or two generations apart, they will gladly bid us welcome for a night.

He has put a price for all this, next I go to Cairo he wants me to bring him two books about the European Middle Ages.

Reception at the Danish Ambassador's Residence

Den danske ambassadørresidens
Det danske flag vejer over ambassadørresidensen i Zamalek

In walking distance from our hotel, through the Zamalek district, an old area for the city’s many embassies and the most “westernized” part of Cairo, you’ll find The Danish ambassador’s residence.

They will hold a reception for us in one of our evenings, while our “guest of honor”, Jakob Skovgaard Petersen will hold his speech.

We also hope at the same time to reenact the expat feel, which is still very much alive in those parts of the world.

One Pyramide in Djoser, Three in Dahshur

We will head towards the West at least one of the days – and possibly one and a half day – to visit the out of this world majestic pyramids. They are close to incomprehensible, especially when we talk about the three large pyramids in Giza. However, the Egyptologists have a certain ambivalence towards them as they have ended being almost clichés. No matter, naturally we will visit them. Naturally.

Beside this must-visit, we will let the Egyptologist decide our program. It’s likely we will go further south to see the equally incomparable pyramids around Dahshur. Perhaps just a tad less awe-inspiring as their siblings in Giza, but there will be a whole lot less of the scammers and hustlers who really understand how to diminish the breathtaking experience of watching the world’s 1st wonder. Hard to understand why they are allowed. We will do what we can to keep them at arm’s length.

The Egyptologist is from the American University in Cairo. We will announce the name in the Spring, but it will be one of the “big shots”.
And then there is a must see. The visit to the Grand Egyptian Museum ↗. The opening has been delayed for years but it is now highly likely it will open Spring 2023, a museum who will set new standards. There is every reason to look intensely forward to this part of the trip.

The Armenian Watchmaker

Ashods urforretning i Kairo
Ashod Pa

Unsurprisingly, there are several minorities in Cairo. Several of them have withered and dwindled considerably since the end of the Colonial times and especially after president Nasser became president after a coup in 1954. But they are still to be found. We shall meet one of them, the Armenian, the same evening where the Moon’s sickle raises above the Attaka roundabout.

Hidden inside an old Haussmann building and away from the unforgiving commotion of the streets, we find a watchmaker, a shop that has attracted many a documentary as for example this one.

The owner of the shop, Ashod Papazian, will open the doors for us after we have visited the most intense part of the city, Khan el-Khalili. The shop is a most charming time capsule, a living museum for an obsolete époque. Ashod inherited the shop from his father, who took over from his father. Today it possesses spare parts to clocks and watches you cannot find anywhere else in the world. (By the way, the chain of my old Tag-Heuer has recently been in care here).

We will enjoy a glass of wine – and beer undoubtedly – while we listen to the story about his family’s journey from Turkey to Egypt. A story not that dissimilar to that of a certain other family fleeing Herod.

The American University Campus

AUC, Kairo

The American University Campus, AUC, is adjacent to the El Tahrir square (where demonstrations were held during the Arabian Spring in 2011 that brought down the then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak).
They have kindly allowed us to use their “Oriental Room”. They have very recently been gifted with a grand piano by the country’s most famous ballerina, who retired a couple of decades ago and which name I need to have confirmed.

We will have a little classical concert and afterwards we will sit in the garden where the finest catering company will cater for our wishes – recommended by the Dorte Westentoft, the culture attaché of the Danish embassy, who has been exceptionally helpful in arranging all the events involved with this trip.

Just the difference in decibel between city and AUC is almost an adventure in itself.

A bit of Exorcism in Eastern Cairo

In the El-Sayeda Zainab district you’ll find a small theatre house that plays Nubian music, the purpose of the tones is to expel any demons that might possess you. I have attended a few performances. And it works!

Yet again, it is difficult to put words to this performance, but I have rarely seen and listened to such charismatic singers. And here it’s the women who are in control. They will make a performance just for us. Half of us will need to sit on the floor, makes it easier to levitate. We’ll bring pillows and plaids.

All of the above represents about ¾ of the full program. The last quarter should be set in stone late February 2023. As previously mentioned each and every hour in Cairo will be used in full.

We hope to see you November next year. We promise a trip that simply is out of the ordinary and lives fully up to our slogan, “Once in a lifetime – every time”.

At Your Pleasure in Cairo

Restaurant Granitas på Zamalek, Kairo
Restaurant Granitas på Zamalek

As mentioned below the trip includes 3 lunches and five dinners. We have yet to make final decisions about a couple of the restaurants, but whatever the final result they will live up to our demands: authentic and charming – where none of us will experience the revenge of any Pharaoh.

If you have questions to the above feel free to call us on 5273 6316. Opening hours, as mentioned, weekdays between 10 am and 6 pm, Saturdays 10 am – 3 pm.

And our Purpose is?

We want to create exclusive experiences – without excluding anyone. Granted, our tours are not among the cheapest, but they are still accessible to most of those who walk in the footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish poet who once said, ‘to travel is to live’. (He visited Vienna several times). The ‘trick’ is to be a large group. We’re talking about 50+ people. Being many has its own dynamic. And a larger budget allows us to offer truly unique adventures, that surely will be beyond most of us if we acted on our own. Our purpose is to tear us away from our day to day lives, to ensure that when you are back home again, you will ask yourself, ‘did I really experience what I think I experienced’?  

What do you get for 17.200 dkk - cirka 2,300 €?

The 17,300 dkk includes a return and direct flight with Egypt Air, Copenhagen – Cairo. (If you wish to fly from another airport you can easily opt-out of this during the purchasing process).

Seven nights, breakfast included at hotel Beauchamp. You can choose an upgrade to the nearby five * hotel, Marriott, for one or more of the nights.

All transports, (except taxis of your own choice) all guides, all concerts and museum fees are included.
Afternoon Tea at St. Regis.
3 * lunch. (we have a light touch approach to our lunches. Too heavy and we all want to go back to the hotel to have a nab. We hardly have time for this.
5 * dinner or buffets, including our banquet at Mena House. Drinks and amuse-bouche at speeches and lectures.

What is not Included?

Wine and spirits in general. Visa, pt $ 25, which you can obtain at the Cairo airport on arrival.

Date

04 - 11 Nov 2023

Price

13,000.00.-

Buy ticket

Order Here

Lokation

Cairo
Zamalek
Categories

Arrangør

Parnassos.dk, Overgaden oven Vandet 58A, 2. 1415 Copenhagen Denmark
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