Tag Archives: writing

Al-Qahira

12 Feb

 

 

CAIRO – SOME IDEAS OR THOUGHTS THAT HAVE MADE AN IMPRESSION.  BELOW ARE PEOPLE WHO ONCE STEPPED FOOT IN CAIRO. ENJOY!

IBN BATTUTA 1304-1369, A BERBER FROM TANGIER, MOROCCO, WHO TRAVELED THE WORLD AND LATER WROTE ABOUT IT IN HIS BOOK RIHLA. HERE IS WHAT HE HAD TO SAY ABOUT CAIRO:

I arrived … at the city of Cairo, mother of cities … mistress of broad provinces and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendor, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the stopping-place of feeble and strong. … She [Cairo] surges as the waves of the sea with her throngs of folk and can scarce contain them...”

AND THEN THERE IS THE REMARKABLE PHILOSOPHER, RABBI, AND SCHOLAR MAIMONIDES  (1135-1204), WHO LIVED IN CAIRO AND SERVED AS THE PHYSICIAN TO THE SULTAN. HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM HIS TIME IN CAIRO:

I dwell at Fostat, and the sultan resides at Cairo [about a mile ­and­ a­ half away]…. My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any of his children or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one of the two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I leave for Cairo very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . I find the antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.

Maimonides astounds, not only for this deep thought,but that he wrote so many  of his commentaries and essays while on the run, fleeing from persecution.   Many quote him and yet don’t know him. His is the famous “give a man a fish and you feed him a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Here are his progressive thoughts on giving:

“Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellow man, either by a considerable gift or a sum of money or by teaching him a trade or by putting him in the way of business so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his had for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity’s golden ladder.”

THEN WE HAVE RABBI IBN BEN EZRA, THE GREAT POET, MATHMETICIAN, GRAMMARIAN AND WRITER 1089-1164, WHO LIVED IN CAIRO AROUND 1109. HE LIVED, TAUGHT, AND WROTE ALSO WHILE LIVING IN EXILE AND WANDERING THE WORLD. HERE IS HIS POEM:

I HAVE A GARMENT

I have a garment which is like a sieve

Through which girls sift barley and wheat.

In the dead of night I spread it out like a tent

And a thousand stars pierce it with their gleams.

Sitting inside, I see the moon and the Pleiades

And on a good night, the great Orion himself.

I get awfully tired of counting all the holes

Which seem to me like the teeth of many saws.

A piece of thread to sew up all the other threads

Would be, to say the least, superfluous.

If a fly landed on it with all his weight,

The little idiot would hang by his foot, cursing.

Dear God, do what you can to mend it.

Make me a mantle of praise from these poor rags

Translated by Robert Mezey

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