Modern Cairo is a dazzling varied metropolis that hums with activity all year round.
A city of contrasts, it is a place where donkey carts, jockey with Mercedes along the crowded streets where a thousand minarets adorn the skyline alongside a sea of skyscrapers.
Each of the pagan, Christian and Muslim civilizations which Cairo has hosted has left its imprint in the form of customs, celebrations, monuments and artifacts.
Monuments such as the Pyramids, Sphinx, lively bazaars, Famous Islamic Mosques and ancient Coptic Churches open a window of a glorious past.
A Center of cultural, social intellectual, economic and political activity, Cairo also holds a diversity of world famous hotel chains, glittering nightclubs, Casinos, and discos Cairo the city that never sleeps, being the cultural and commercial center of the Arab world and the largest in Africa and the Middle East.
Cairo is, Egypt s capital, where East meets west, combining the exoticism of one and the sophistication of the other, is the largest city in Africa and the heart of the Arab world.
Cairo strikes one as a land of vivid contrasts. Its ancient civilization, unique history and culture blend harmoniously with the modern refinements of the 20th century.
Sites in Cairo
The Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum in heart of downtown
In Tahrer square
The Egyptian Museum was first built in Boulak. In 1891, it was moved to Giza Palace of "Ismail Pasha" which housed the antiquities that were later moved to the present building. The Egyptian Museum is situated at Tahrir square in Cairo. It was built during the reign of Khedive Abbass Helmi II in 1897, and opened on November 15, 1902 (More History). It has 107 halls. At the ground floor there are the huge statues. The upper floor houses small statues, jewels, Tutankhamon treasures and the mummies.
The Museum also comprises a photography section and a large library. The Egyptian museum comprises many sections arranged in chronological order
- The first section houses Tutankhamon's treasures.
- The second section houses the pre-dynasty and the Old Kingdom monuments.
- The third section houses the first intermediate period and the Middle Kingdom monuments.
- The forth section houses the monuments of the Modern Kingdom.
- The fifth section houses the monuments of the late period and the Greek and Roman periods.
- The sixth section houses coins and papyrus.
- The seventh section houses sarcophagi and scrabs.
A hall for the royal mummies was opened at the museum, housing eleven kings and queens. More than a million and half tourists visit the museum annually, in addition to half a million Egyptians.
it's worth to visit in Cairo
The Citadel Saladin
The Citadel of the Mountain (Qal‘at al-Jabal) in Cairo is one of the major works of military architecture of the middle ages. Situated on a spur that was artificially cut out of the Muqattam Hills, the Citadel dominates the city of Cairo and turns its back to the rocky hills and the desert behind. Founded by Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin) in 1176 AD, the Citadel was a sign of the coming of a new regime whose roots were foreign and tastes were military. For almost seven centuries (1206-1874 AD), it was the seat of government for the Ayyubids (1171-1250 AD), Mamluks (1250-1516 AD), Ottomans (1516-1798 AD), and the Muhammad ‘Ali Family (1798-1952 AD), as well as a real and symbolic barrier between the rulers and the ruled. During this long period, it was the stage upon which the history of Egypt was played out.
The Citadel has changed a great deal since it was first built. Subsequent Ayyubid and Mamluk patrons, especially al-Kamil Nasir al-Din (r. 1218-1238 AD), al-Zahir Baybars al-Bunduqdari (r. 1260-1276 AD), and al-Nasir Muhammad (r. 1293-1340 AD) divided it into northern and southern enclosures, rearranged its interior, endowed it with an impressive number of palaces and other structures, built a hippodrome for parades and polo games below its western side, and surrounded it with buildings, except on the east, where the rocky hills hindered construction. The later Mamluk sultans did not add much to it, but at the end of the 15th century they twice refurbished it. Under the Ottomans, it was divided into three semi-independent parts: the northern enclosure contained the barracks of the Janissaries (the main corps in the Ottoman army); the lower areas in the west became the residence of the al-‘Azab (the locally recruited troops); and the southern section of the southern enclosure was occupied by the pasha sent from Istanbul and his troops. Its interior was reorganized many times, though its surface area did not expand, but not much is known about these changes.
The Citadel was radically reconfigured in the first half of the 19th century when Muhammad Ali Pasha razed the few standing structures that date to the Mamluk period, rebuilt most of its walls, changed its interior organization, added a monumental funerary mosque, four palaces, a hall of justice, an arsenal, a mint, a powder house, a huge terrace, numerous barracks for the troops, and established new entrance routes. It remained the residence of his descendants and their seat of government until 1874 AD, when Isma‘il Pasha (r. 1863-79 AD) moved to the newly built ‘Abdin Palace. During the British colonial occupation (1882-1946 AD), it became the headquarters of the British army until 1946 AD, when it was turned over to the Egyptian army. In subsequent years, it was slowly acquired, one section at a time, by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), with the last army personnel leaving the premises in the late 1980s. Its layout was reshaped again in recent years by the SCA to accommodate tourist movement around the remaining monuments.
Today, the Citadel is the most visited Islamic monument in Egypt. Within the enclosure walls are several important buildings that are open to the public, including the famed Mosque of Muhammad Ali (1828-1848 AD), which dominates the skyline of Cairo; the Mosque of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad (1318); the Mosque of Sulayman Pasha (1528 AD); Gawhara Palace; and several museums.
Khan El- Khalili
The skinny lanes of Khan Al Khalili are basically a medieval-style mall. This agglomeration of shops – many arranged around small courtyards – stock everything from soap powder to semiprecious stones, not to mention tacky toy camels and alabaster pyramids. Most shops and stalls open from around 9am to well after sundown (except Friday morning and Sunday), although plenty of the souvenir vendors are open as long as there are customers, even on Sunday.
Cairenes have plied their trades here since the khan was built in the 14th century, and parts of the market, such as the gold district, are still the first choice for thousands of locals. The khan used to be divided into fairly rigid districts, but the only distinct areas are now the gold sellers, the coppersmiths and the spice dealers. Apart from the clumsy ‘Hey mister, look for free’ touts, the merchants of Khan Al Khalili are some of the greatest smooth-talkers you will ever meet. Almost anything can be bought here and if one merchant doesn’t have what you’re looking for, he’ll happily find somebody who does.
Sakkara is one section of the great necropolis of Memphis, the Old Kingdom capital and the kings of the 1st Dynasty as well as that of the 2nd Dynasty. are mostly buried in this section of the Memphis necropolis. It has been of constant interest to Egyptologists.
Three major discoveries have recently been made at Sakkara, including a prime ministers tomb, a queens pyramid, and the tomb of the son of a dynasty-founding king. Each discovery has a fascinating story, with many adventures for the archaeologists as they revealed the secrets of the past.
Sakkara is best known for the Step Pyramid, the oldest known of Egypt's 97 pyramids. It was built for King Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty by the architect and genius Imhotep, who designed it and its surrounding complex to be as grand as it was unique and revolutionary. Imhotep was the first to build stone tombs in honor of the king's majesty. His many titles included 'Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt', 'Administrator of the Great Palace', and 'Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vessels'. Imhotep may have also designed the pyramid of Djoser's successor, Sekhemkhet.
Pyramid of Unas
5th Dynasty kings such as Userkaf (pyramid) and Djedkare-Izezi built their pyramids at Sakkara. The last king of 5th Dynasty, Unas, decorated his burial chamber with the famous 'Pyramid Texts', spells written to help the king ascend to the heavens and descend again, which reveal the relationship of the king to the gods. 6th Dynasty kings such as Pepi I, Merenre and Pepi II built their pyramids to the south of Sakkara.
Sakkara is also famous for its private Old Kingdom tombs (see our feature story on 1st Dynasty Tombs), which contain beautiful and revealing scenes: men force- feeding geese, cattle crossing a canal, men dragging a statue on a sled to the tomb. The best-known tombs are those of Ti, Kagemni, the 'Two Brothers', and Ptahhotep; the most famous is that of Meruruka.
During the New Kingdom (c 1570-332 BC) Memphis took second place to Thebes as Egypt's capital. But although the administration was established at Thebes, the government officials who ruled Upper Egypt lived in Memphis and were buried at Sakkara. Here Geoffrey Martin found the famoustomb that Horemheb built for himself before he became pharaoh, while he was still the overseer of Tutankhamun's army.
Old Cairo & Coptic Cairo
Cairo, Egypt Tour
Old or Coptic Cairo, Egypt
We begin our journey into Old Cairo just opposite of Rhoda Island and below it's southern tip. The area is known to the Egyptians as Masr al-Qadima and stretches down to the sub-area often called Coptic Cairo. Again, appropriate dress covering the body including shoulders and legs is required for entering both Coptic and Islamic monuments.
Old Cairo is so named because it is the oldest part of Cairo, and in fact, predates what is now Cairo. Some Egyptologists believe that there was a settlement here as far back as the 6th century BC. Later, the Romans built a fortress here which we call Babylon. Some of these Roman walls still exist. Later, it became a Christian stronghold, with as many as 20 churches built within an area of one square mile. There are only five remaining, but these are certainly a must see when visiting Cairo, along with the earliest Mosque ever built in Egypt. In addition, after the fall of Jerusalem in about 70 AD, the area also saw an influx of that religion into the area, where the oldest synagogue is also located. Most of Pharaonic Egypt is a relic of one of the Worlds first and grandest religions, including the great Pyramids outside Cairo. Yet if the modern world can be said to have four major religions consisting of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, then three of those are represented by some of their most ancient relics in this section of Old Cairo.
For simplicity, we will head south along Corniche el-Nile until we pass the southern point of Roda Island. Just before we arrive at the Masr al-Qadimah River Bus landing, we will pass the Mosque of Abdin Bey. At the river bus, take the first street available east and away from the Nile. This should lead us to Mar Girgis street. Make a left heading north and look for the first entrance to the right (east). This will lead us into at least part of the area now sometimes called by the government the 'Multi-religious Compound' and the area within Old Cairo known as Coptic Cairo. This main entrance is through perhaps one of the two oldest structures in Cairo, the rounded towers of the western gate of the Roman fortress of Babylon built in 98 AD by Emperor Trajan. The Southern gate is the other oldest structure.
The Coptic Museum Here is the Coptic Museum (1), founded in 1908 and it is advisable that we visit this first, for an orientation of the area. Just southwest of here is the Hanging Church (2) (The Church of the Virgin Mary), built into the walls of the Water Gate of the Roman fortress. It is possibly the oldest Christian church in Egypt, dating to around the 4th Century. From here, the possibility exists that one must exit the first entrance due to construction work in the area and head up Mar Girgis north a few steps to a second entrance. This entrance leads into the Monastery and Church of St. George (3). This is not an old church, dating only from 1909, but there has been a church in Coptic Cairo dedicated to he Martyr since the 10th century. Turn left outside the door to St. George and the path leads to the Church of St. Sergius (4) (Abu Serga), which legend has it is built atop one of the sites where the Holy Family rested on their flight from Herod. Continuing on this path brings one first to the Ben Ezra Synagogue (5), which is Egypt's oldest and dates to the 9th Century. Past that is St. Barbara (6), named for the young girl who was martyred for trying to convert her father to Christianity. There is also a gate that leads to the Greek Orthodox cemetery, which surrounds the complex to the east.
Old Roman Walls
Northern Old Cairo
To exiting Coptic Cairo, go back out the door at St. Georges, and take a left back on Mar Girgis and head north. The rubbish fields one passes on the right are actually Fustat, the first Islamic city in Cairo and the origins of modern Cairo. The area was razed to the ground when the Fatimids took Cairo, and the Mamluks made it a dump ground, yet it is one of the most important Islamic archaeological sites in the world. Continuing past this, and veering right at a y in the street we will eventually come to the Mosque of Amr Ibn al-As (7). Though little remains of the original structure, this Mosque is the oldest in Egypt, it's ancestor having been built in 642 AD.