Citadel Shenanagins

Headed to the citadel today, fancied a wee bit of a tourist outing, as my hubby had never experienced this unique representation of Egyptian military history. Bad call. It was 41 degrees and very very sticky. Nonetheless, we persevered and managed to achieve a family outing that my daughter (14) will evidently remember as another traumatic event in her recollections of her teenage years, yip, scarred for life.

I had presented Peter, my hubby, with a very fancy Nikon something or other camera for his birthday, and nothing would do but he would prove his worth as David Bailey or some other artistic entrepreneurial force in the alternative photography field. 431 photos later, well, Megsie and I have had enough.

It all started rather well, welcoming smiles all round from the tourist police and vendors, they were happy to see some gullible white people approach ( we were the only non Egyptians visiting) but the smiles quickly deflated when we spoke in our pigeon Arabic and said we lived in Cairo. No, we don’t want a fez or Egyptology book, nor the key rings, or belly dancing outfits.

However, I had been to the citadel with a certain Mr Ford previously and had quite literally wet my pants with laughter ( well as you get older this is common at the exhibits in the police museum. I simply can’t do it justice in describing the home made paper mâché displays, plastic toy soldiers and nail polish for blood in the battle re-enactment displays. Suffice to say Blue Peter wouldn’t have a look in.

This in itself was hilarious but it was the security you had to pass through to get in that really set the tone. No Cameras were allowed and you must present your passport at the door. Now I am not in the habit of carrying my passport around but fortunately I am a member of Cairo Rugby Club. And the relevance?.. Well I don’t know either but it was all the photographic ID I had in my purse and it is invaluable in Cairo.

Egyptians don’t really know what rugby is but with true Egyptian flamboyance it doesn’t really matter. If they see something they don’t understand, well they are not going to let you know they haven’t got a clue and definitely not if you are a woman. So I pulled out the card with great authority and the very serious, highly decorated officer duly noted the membership number on his handwritten log which I then countersigned to gain admittance.

Also with Mr Ford I had been to the prison section. This consists of a series of cells showing the interior of an inmates cell through the ages. It depicts cells from the middle ages through to the present day with the only discernible difference being the size of the ball and chain attached to the inmates ankle. Oh, and in the modern age they are allowed to read, the Koran obviously, I’m not sure if any other publications are permitted.
It occurred to me that a delegation from Maghaberry Prison should visit the modern day section and adopt some of the Egyptian methods on display. There are no x boxes here, nor sky TV and quite right too, and as a special bonus think of all the money that could be saved on mollycoddling these hoods who rob your granny and wreck havoc on decent peoples lives. We all need a rant now and then.

Anyway, due to the current climate all things police related were out of bounds so I didn’t get the chance to flourish my Cairo Rugby card again. This brings me back to
the traumatic experience of the teenage daughter. As we were restricted in our perusal of all things police related we, meaning my husband and I, not Megsie thought we may as well do a bit of planking. For those of you uninitiated is this minor craze it basically involves lying down on your tummy in odd places and taking a photo, yes not that cool but sure little amuses the innocent, and i know far less the fool.

Now Egyptians have a wonderful childlike innocence, they stare at you constantly, full frontal regardless of age, and point their finger rather in the way a 3 year old wide eyed will ask “mum what are those silly people doing” so we had a raggle taggle bunch of onlookers that were fascinated and they formed a posse on our tail cheering us on. There was no point subtly trying to shake them off they don’t do subtle.
So.. Much to megsies embarrassment we scouted canons, statues and a few tanks and aeroplanes to capture classy cultural memories of the day. There now exists photographic evidence of her cringe inducing parents that will allow her to complain in future years that she had a tough time growing up, and she viewed being sent to boarding school as a massive relief.

Next we headed into the military museum proper. Now in all fairness this is a fairly classy establishment in comparison to the police exhibits but only if you don’t read the explanatory signs alongside each display. The signs don’t tell lies, not in a propaganda sense, but they do leave out vitally important pieces of information that allow to leave with the impression the egyptian military have never lost a battle and the security of the universe, never just the world is dependent on them.

There is an enormous photograph say 12ft by 8ft of Mubarak and all his generals walking near Sadats monument. It is black and white and actually very cool, well, nothing would do but Pete (my better half) decided he wanted a picture of it and him So he could Photoshop himself in later. We spied one general who bore a passing resemblance to himself so after careful study of this particular generals gait he adopted his pose.

Now we still had the posse in tow and they were not impressed with this fascination with Mubarak so it required some decoy tactics, again involving Megsie poor child to
shake them off. After hiding behind pillars and quick stepping into position I managed to get the required stance in focus so here you go….

– the art of photoshop

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10 thoughts on “Citadel Shenanagins

  1. Mohamed Sherif says:

    Hello Mairead,

    First time to visit your blog, yet, it is really lovely and funny. Always interesting for me to know what people think of Egypt from non-Egyptian perspectives…

    Few comments I have here, first, my advice to you and your lovely family, during Cairo’s summer, try to avoid outdoor journeys as much as you can. Summer here is something that you can call “Feeling what it would be if you were baked in an oven..!!”

    My point is, even if you had to go out, try going out during the evening or nights…this would be significantly much better….Since you are here speaking about the Citadel, I guess you had 2 options, either to visit it during the hot summer days, or wait for few months before the weather starts to get better.

    Another comment,
    A lot of security guys here are too funny. Just show them any ID with a pic on it and tell them something like ” I am the VP of trans-universe world organization” and they will welcome you immediately. :))

    I hope you guys had a nice time at the Citadel…and I hope to read more of your posts…thank you for taking time and effort….

  2. Mairead says:

    Thanks Mohamed, shukron awee, apart from friends and family whose comments are unpublishable !!! you are my first real commentator , but this is my first day blogging, so thank you for taking the time and effort, much appreciated masalamma

  3. Doesn't really matter says:

    So, what is it exactly that keeps you going around here. It just hits me all the time. Why someone (an expat) like you had to put up with living in Cairo, while its just as easy to live and work in any other European city. I am pretty sure it is much cleaner and nicer over there. Did they made you an offer you can’t refuse, either for you or your husband ?

    Instead of making fun of it or the security guys or any other negative attitude or habit, and instead of pulling your hair out and cry at the very least. Not that I think that they don’t deserve to make fun of them.

    Why not leaving all the noise behind ?

    Please don’t think that I was offended by any of your remarks in anyway. I am just curious about the reasons and justifications to take this adventure here, instead of having a less stressful life back in Ireland or any other country for all that matter.

  4. Peter says:

    That’s easy to answer, we came to have a look and we stayed because we love Cairo, Other places may be cleaner, quieter and less stressful but no-where else is as much FUN

  5. Janet Spence says:

    Loved it, so funny. Wonder what your daughers blog would read like. keep up the good work. Look forward to many more.

  6. A Certain Mr Ford says:

    Well Mr Mairead,

    Thank you for invoking priceless memories of our trip to the Citedal.

    I am really enjoying reading your blogs (he says pretending that blog reading is a normal activity), finding them interesting and very witty.

    Just wondering if you will be blogging in August when you return to God’s Country?

    Anyway – keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing you soon.

    A Certain Mr Ford.

  7. Maxi says:


    Lol very funny-aww Egypt is a funny experience. I think the Egyptians do have a good sense of humour….wish I could join in (but can only speak pigeon Arabic!).

    So where are you going next? I find a simple trip to the supermarket always a laugh….though I’m British, I’m always mistaken for an egyptian cos of my Indian heritage so I’m constantly asked which bag a lady should buy for her daughter, or which flour is best quality (well I think that’s what they’re asking as I look at them like an ignorant demented moron;))

    Looking frwd t ur nxt installment!


  8. Patricia Cements says:

    I enjoyed your blog. I thought you wrote as you found. Sorry Mohamed, I can only conclude that you haven’t travelled much. The blog was useful to newcomers who don’t understand how things work here and how much Egyptians stare at us. What we don’t realise until we have been here for a long time is that Egyptians stare at each other. Irish, English, European, whatever – we are not used to such unabashed staring. I think that informing foreigners of some of the quirks (every country has them) is just informative. Wouldn’t anyone like to know, before they visit a country, that staring is considered rude or tp be informed of any other social etiquettes or not that another country embraces. Telling people how it is here is not being negative. There are lots of great things here and many fun things to do but being aware helps you settle in.

  9. Krista says:

    This brought back so many memories!! My husband is Egyptian and he also took me to the Citedel…on a WAY too hot day. I also laughed at the exhibits and their cheap construction (you gotta love em’ for trying though) We also gained a posse of children who followed us around everywhere we went. Drove me nuts. We ended up having a guy with a camera take a pic of us that he promised would only take a few minutes to develope. Several HOURS later we got the (really poor quality) pic and the small posse of kids suddenly swarmed us to get a look at it….I was so angry…pushing them away. Felt bad about it later as they were only being curious but it was definately NOT one of my better trips. That was about 15 years ago actually….we now have two young sons (we live in the U.S. currently) but are getting ready to move back to Cairo. Boys need to be exposed to the culture and the language. My hubby’s mother is old now and in need of his help. I personally am looking forward to it! Need a change….best of luck to you.

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