I went to جمعة this past Friy at جامع الأزهر. Well, first I took the metro downtown to عتبة station and, coming out of one of the many station exits, found السوق الازبكية, which is this book market I’d been looking for last time I came downtown and didn’t find. But I was on a mission, جامع الأزهر ! So I flagged down a taxi, and we made our way through the crowded streets surrounding the market, past some amazing mosque-looking buildings over a bridge to the top of the hill. “مشيخة الأزهر” my driver said, gesturing to the large complex of buildings across the street from us. “مسجد الأزهر؟” I asked. “هنا” he gestured to the building again. I paid him, thanked him, and got out. I could tell from the buildings’ locked-down look, the towering chained wrought iron gate, and the two guards with their heavy weaponry that this wasn’t the masjid. But I wasn’t upset. From that hill, I could see all of Cairo, a city of minarets, domes, and brown apartment buildings. SubhanAllah. I probably could have seen the pyramids if I’d thought to look that far out. A sign on the side of the road pointed the way to Azhar Park; I’ll have to go see that too. But not that day. That day was for جمعة at جامع الأزهر (I know; once I get set on an idea I really get set). “It must be one of those amazing mosque-looking buildings we passed,” I thought to myself. But how to know for sure? So since those weaponed-up guards were the only people around, I asked them. They looked a little surprised that I was speaking to them. But they were very helpful, especially because mixed in with their verbal ammiy explanation were plenty of hand gestures. I thought I understood what they were saying, so I said, “كذا و كذا ” including my own gestures and they nodded. Alhamdulillah;) After a short walk, I made it to جامع الأزهر before the adhan was called, Yay!
After jumuah, I hung around the mosque for a while. I love how after jumuah everywhere (at least in my mind) is serious napping time. I saw people sprawled out in the masjid, getting their snooze on! Love it! I, however, did not take a nap. I walked around taking pictures of the courtyard, stunningly white under the sun and hot, very hot on the bare feet. An Azhari Sheikh was given an after jumuah dars in one of the rooms. There were people sitting in the shaded walkway around the courtyard reading. And other tourists, like me;) walking around taking pictures.
After a while, I finally left and made my way through a series of markets; don’t know if I was in Khan Al Khalili or not. Downtown Cairo, at least around عتبة station, seems to be covered in اسواق. At some point in my walking, I noticed a sign pointing toward Sayyida Zeinab’s Mosque, so I followed it and followed and followed. Let’s just say I get my walk on in Cairo (my teacher said the correct word is تجوّل). People were out in throngs; after all this was Cairo on Jumuah. Then I was there quite suddenly, on the opposite side of the street, yes, but the big sign saying Sayyida Zeinab’s Mosque was actually pointing at the mosque. So I maneuvered myself across the road, walked through the souq surrounding the mosque, and stumbled upon a hadra! in the courtyard of Sayyida Zeinab’s Mosque. It was packed. There were people sitting on rugs around the edges, people standing and then, at the center, the group in full hadra swing. It wasn’t one of the hold hands and bend your knees together type hadras. For the most part, they were in sync, bodies swinging in the same direction at the same time. There was this one ammu, though, standing a little outside of the circle, kind of in his own circle surrounded by onlookers. And at one point, he started to say “Allah!” and couldn’t stop or didn’t want to, ever. It was just “Allah. Allah. Allah. Allah. Allah. Allah. Allah. Allah….” and him swinging his head and body. Like he was untying this enormous knot in himself, maybe the knot of himself. Even when his voice became inaudible, his face was still saying, “Allah.”
(btw, none of these pics are mine. They are available courtesy of the World Wide Web. My camera’s being fritzy; I can take pics but won’t be able to get them off of the camera until I get home.)