10 Things you must see in Cairo
No trip to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Giza Pyramids, eventually at dusk, when the Great Sphinx comes alive as a storyteller at the Cairo Pyramids Sound and Light Show. The City of the Dead is as mysterious and intriguing as its name, with people living amid their long departed ancestors. And don’t miss the wonders of the Coptic Cairo.
10- Fort of Babylon
The fortress that protected the city
Some would say that Cairo owes its
existence to the Fort of Babylon. What remains of the fort today is truly the oldest structure in the oldest part of the city. Several of the ancient Christian churches in Cairo were built into or on top of the walls of the Fort of Babylon.
The famous hanging church sits atop two gate towers from the original protective wall and suspends over an open passageway. The foundation of the Fort of Babylon now holds some of Cairo’s most popular tourist sites.
9- Birqash Camel Market (Souq al-Gamaal)
The largest camel market in Egypt
Less than an hour drive from Cairo is the Birqash Camel Market (Souq al-Gamaal). A trip to the camel market offers sights, sounds, and smells far different from what is found at city attractions. Hundreds of camels are bought, sold or swapped here every day.
Camel owners bring animals to be examined by traders or buyers. They are assessed for strength, speed and meatiness. Their legs, chest, eyes and ears are checked before the bartering begins. Spectators are welcome. If you tire of looking at the humped beasts there are also goats and other animals. A compound nearby the Birqash Camel Market sells furniture, knick-knacks, and souvenirs.
8- Al-Fayoum Oasis
A peaceful refreshing oasis experience
Al-Fayoum Oasis is fed by the Nile River rather than the usual underground springs that keep oases wet. It is the largest oasis in Egypt. This peaceful area is less than a 2 hour drive from Cairo.
The climate is pleasantly warm all year around. Crops of cotton, clover, vegetables and fruits thrive in the lush oasis area.
There are Bedouin settlements and fishing villages nearby. Sights to see include water wheels, canals, wildlife, and native birds. At Al-Fayoum Oasis outdoor sports like windsurfing, boating, fishing and swimming offer relaxation and recreation.
7- Cairo Tower
A tower with a spectacular view
On the Island of Gezira, in the middle of the Nile River, soaring over 600 feet high is theCairo Tower. To romanticize it, this tower stands amid beautiful gardens with green parks nearby in the wealthy district of Zamalek.
Its lattice looking facing was designed to resemble the revered lotus flower.
Atop the tower is a revolving restaurant. The observation deck surrounding the restaurant offers an incredible view of Cairo. Less romantic, the Cairo Tower is a fee standing concrete television tower. It is the tallest all-concrete structure in the world.
6- Museum of Islamic Art
One of the greatest in the world
All too often overlooked on the Cairo destinations map, the Museum of Islamic Arts is considered to be one of the finest such venues in the Arab world.
The Museum of Islamic Art is home to a staggering collection of some 10,000 art exhibits, the majority of which are of Egyptian origin, although it’s possible to find works here from just about everywhere in the Islamic world.
The exhibits, which include stucco, woodwork, ceramics, textiles and glass, are organized according to art medium, and illustrate the various eras of Islamic development, including Ummayad, Abbaside, Ayyubid, Fatimid and Mamluk.
5- Keops Pyramid
Last remaining wonder of the ancient world
The Keops Pyramid is also known as the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Keops is the Greek form of the Egyptian name Khufu. This impressive piece of architecture was built with over two million blocks of limestone.
The blocks at the base of the pyramid are over 5 feet tall and weigh from two and a half to fifteen tons each.
This structure was taller than any other man-made building for over 3,800 years. Inside the Keops Pyramid are 3 known chambers, the unfinished lower chamber cut into the bedrock base, a queen’s chamber and the king’s chamber are higher up. Also inside the pyramid is a solar boat museum.
4- Hanging Church (El Muallaqa, Sitt Mariam, St Mary)
Step up and look down
The most famous Coptic church in Old Cairo is the Hanging Church. It is also known as El Muallaqa, Sitt Mariam, or St. Mary. This church was built above the gatehouse tower of the ancient Babylon Fortress. The Nave of the church suspends over the passage between two gate towers.
The Hanging Church is an impressive site with twin bell towers and a high outer porch. At one time it was more dramatically impressive, before the towers became mostly buried. There are 29 steps leading to the entrance of the church earning it another name – the Staircase Church.
3- City of the Dead
Living and working among departed ancestors
The City of the Dead is a cemetery that stretches over four miles. The Egyptians refer to this area of Cairo as the cemetery. With the constant housing shortage in Cairo many people reside in this grid of tombs and mausoleums right amid their long departed ancestors.
Egyptian culture embraces cemeteries as a place where life begins, so this is naturally, an acceptable place to live.
The City of the Dead is a bustling place, nothing like the quiet, abandoned cemeteries of western culture. There are many monuments and burial places, notably the Mosque of Qaitbey and the Mausoleum of Ibn Barquq, to see when visiting the City of the Dead
2- Cairo Pyramids Sound and Light Show
Spotlighting the Great Sphinx
With lights, sound, and a little bit of action the history of ancient Egypt is told in several languages. The Great Sphinx comes alive as a storyteller at the Cairo Pyramids Sound and Light Show. Colored floodlights illuminate the awesome pyramids and the sphinx.
Recorded music, narrative and slide presentations comprise the show. Choose between theater-style seating and seats in a café where you can enjoy hot beverages. The nights are cold, dress appropriately.
You’ll want to check with the Cairo Pyramid Sound and Light Show before deciding on a performance. There are 3 shows per evening, each in a different language.
1- Alabaster Mosque (Mohammad Ali Mosque)
An alabaster fortress
The Alabaster Mosque, a massive structure built between 1830 and 1848, was the largest edifice built in the early 19th century. Its grand dome and towering minarets loom large in the skyline of the Citadel.
Named for the extravagant use of alabaster stone on both the inside and outside walls, this mosque can only be called magnificent.
The grandeur of the inside surpasses the outside with a large single chamber flooded by elaborate lighting. Mohammad Ali built this mosque as a monument to himself and it serves as his burial place. The Alabaster Mosque is an architectural break from tradition making this symbol of the city the least Egyptian looking monument in Cairo.