Discover Egypt / Cairo
Modern Cairo Egypt's splendid capital, is a city rich in history and religion that encompassed many cities and civilizations in the past. The largest city in the Middle East and Africa, Cairo is decorated by the remnants of Ancient Egyptian civilization, most profoundly seen in the Pharaonic pyramids of Giza. The city’s skyline is also decorated with dazzling Mamluk and Ottoman mosques, early Christian monasteries and churches and modern skyscrapers and hotels.
Greater Cairo can be sectioned into three districts: downtown, including old Cairo where religious relics of the major Western religions are wellpreserved; southwest, including the grand Pyramids and Pharaonic Memphis; and the northeast Heliopolis area, which boasts all of the accoutrements of modern society and is home to the Cairo International Airport. Regarded by many as the Mother of the World, Cairo is Egypt's hub of cultural, social, intellectual, economic and political activity.
THE GREAT PYRAMIDS AND SPHINX (a must-see)
On the outskirts of Cairo stands one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the great Pyramids. Built around 4,500 years ago, the three towering Pyramids are massive in size, constructed from around 2,300,000 blocks, weighing an average of two-and-a-half tons each. In addition to being dazzled by the external magnificence of these wonders. Within short walking distance of the Pyramids is the Great Sphinx of Giza, built in 2620 BC in the likeness of then King of Egypt Chephran (Khafre). The ancient monument - 187 feet long and 65 feet high - is a human-headed lion wearing a royal headdress, sitting in guard of the Great Pyramids.
Sakkara is one section of the great necropolis of Memphis, capital of the Old Kingdom. Egyptian kings of the first and second dynasties are buried in Sakkara, located 12 miles southwest of Cairo. The famous step pyramid of King Zoser was the first pyramid to be erected in ancient Egypt, preceding those at Giza by many centuries.
This historic area was the capital of ancient Egypt during the first dynasty, founded in 3100 BC as the legendary city of Menes, the King who united Upper and Lower Egypt. In its early years of existence, Memphis was the fortress from which Menes reigned over the land and water routes connecting Upper Egypt to the Delta.
Old Cairo, the eldest district in the Egyptian capital, was settled as far back as the sixth century BC. In later centuries, Romans built the fortress Babylon in the area, remnants of which still exist. Later, Old Cairo became the center of Christianity in Egypt, with as many as 20 churches built within an area of one square mile. Only five of these historic churches remain today, nestled between many other ancient monuments that decorate the quarter. Among the most notable of these are:
THE CITADEL (a must-see)
The Citadel, situated on a highly visible spur of the Mokattam Hills of Old Cairo, was the nerve center of Egypt for almost700 years. Construction of the grand structure began in 1176 and was completed by Muhammad Ali Pasha, ruler of Egypt in the late 19th century. Mameluk sultans and Turkish governors resided in the Citadel, which is among the world's most splendid monuments of medieval warfare. Facing the Citadel is the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, built between 1356 and
1363 and perhaps the most majestic monument of Arab architecture in Egypt.
THE IBN TULUN MOSQUE
Built by Ahmed Ibn Tulun in 879 (265 Hijra), the Ibn Tulun Mosque in the Sayyedah Zeinab district is known for its atmosphere of tranquility, unparalleled by any other mosque in the city.
Mosque of Amr Ibn ElA'as This is the first and oldest mosque to be built in Egypt, erected in 642 AD (21 AH) by Amr Ibn ElA'as, the commander of the Muslim army that conquered Egypt.
BEN EZRA SYNAGOGUE
The Ben Ezra Synagogue located in Cairo center was built by chief rabbi in Jerusalem Abraham Ben Ezra in the late 9th century within the walls of the Fortress of Babylon (as Old Cairo was known in ancient times). The basilica-style temple is home to a Jewish heritage library, which includes a Torah on gazelle skin dating back to the fifth century BC and an "Atlas of Moses" manuscript. The synagogue is known principally for its storeroom, or Geniza, which housed a rich store of political, economic and social books and manuscripts about the condition of Jews under Arab rule in Egypt in the Middle Ages.
THE OLD CAIRO GATES
Surrounding what is now old Cairo, these walls were built by Fatimid commander Badr al-Jamali between 1087 and 1092 to defend Cairo against foreign invaders. Inscribed on the walls are the names of French officers who came to Egypt with Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition. These massive gates are called Bab el-Futuh (Gate of Conquest), Bab al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) and Bab Zuwaila, and they mark the southern and northern boundaries of the ancient city.
Bab El Nasr
It was established by Gawhar El Sakaly, and renewed by Badr El Gamali in 1085. This gate is considered one of the remaining Islamic monuments. It is placed at the north east corner of the enclosure of Fatimid Cairo, consists of two great square towers, solid for two thirds of their heights, flanking a very fine arched gateway. In the middle of a very huge door there is the name of the builder and date of building above. The stairs reach to the highest door, a building of stone with knots which is considered the first of its kind in Islamic architecture.
Khan ElKhalili, known as the Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman period, was built in 1382 by Emir Djaharks ElKhalili, in the heart of what was then Fatimid City. Until this day, the bazaar is a center of trade and communion in the city, and offers a wide array of antiques, handcrafts of gold, silver and copper as well as numerous old coffee shops and local restaurants which attract both Egyptians and tourists alike.
The Egyptian Museum (a must-see)
The Egyptian Museum was built during the reign of Khedive Abbass Helmi II in 1897, and opened its doors on November 15, 1902. Today, the museum contains the most important collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. Exhibited are over 120,000 objects from the Pharaonic and Greco-Roman periods, including the celebrated mummies of ancient Egyptian kings and the treasures of King Tut Ankh Amun. A special 'Hidden Treasures' exhibit in the museum's re-designed basement features more than 150 artifacts on display for the first time.
The Coptic Museum
The museum was founded in 1910 by Marcus Simaika Pasha, and is the most recently built of Cairo's major museums. The museum is home to one of the richest collections of Coptic Christian art in the world, featuring antiquities of the Coptic period (300-1000 AD). Around 16,000 pieces are displayed in the museum, arranged where possible in chronological order.
The Islamic museum is a notable depository of Islamic art from Egypt, Turkey and Persia dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It was founded in the El Hakim Mosque in 1880, moving to its present location in 1903.
The Museum of Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil
The museum of Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil and his wife, built in 1920, was inaugurated on July 23, 1962. The museum contains one of the largest personal artifact collections in the region, including works of art and paintings of great artists who led the fine arts movement in Europe, especially France, during the latter half of the 19th century.