Egypt’s capital, Cairo, is one of the largest cities in Africa and the Middle East, and it seems to stretch on forever along the Nile. The Pyramids of Giza are the most famous landmark in “the City of a Thousand Minarets,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many more wonderful places to visit there.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Cairo
When the Fatimids established Cairo in the tenth century, it swiftly became a major political and cultural hub. As a result, the city is filled with beautiful examples of Islamic architecture and ancient landmarks.
The Great Sphinx and Saladin’s Citadel are just two examples; there are also many palaces, mosques, and museums to visit. Tired of sightseeing? Lose yourself in the vibrant Khan El-Khalili bazaar and experience local life for a while.
Exciting day trips can be taken out into the desert, while Nile cruises can be enjoyed for relaxation. It’s easy to see why Cairo is considered the “Mother of the World” by Arabs.
1. Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza, one of humankind’s greatest architectural achievements, are located just beyond the city’s southwest border. All visitors agree that seeing these remarkable temples, created between 2580 and 2510 BC, is the highlight of their time in Egypt.
The three great pyramids of Khafre, Khufu, and Menkaure, perched on the edge of the Western Desert, are a sight to behold. The Pyramid of Khufu is the tallest at 137 metres and also the oldest. More than two million bricks went into its construction, and inside are lavish galleries and tombs.
In addition to gawking at their enormous size and taking pictures, camel rides may be taken through the nearby desert. The sight of the pyramids, so imposing in contrast to the barren environment around them, will remain etched in your mind forever.
2. Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum is home to a mind-boggling array of priceless artefacts and should not be missed. There are magnificent sculptures, stone reliefs, and glittering diamonds crammed into every available area. Nonetheless, the gold funerary mask of Tutankhamun is the main attraction.
The museum is housed in a striking pink palace-like structure that dominates one side of Tahrir Square. It was founded in 1835 and since then has amassed a collection of over 120,000 items from pre-dynastic origins all the way up to the Greco-Roman period.
The sensation of walking through rows upon rows of enormous stone statues and old carvings, despite the museum’s inadequate lighting, lack of labels, and disorganised layout, is quite remarkable.
However, many of its displays are slated for relocation to the forthcoming Great Egyptian Museum. In 2020, the NMEC also received the Royal Mummies Collection. All of this makes it difficult to predict exactly what exhibits the museum will include in the near future.
3. Coptic Cairo
Coptic Cairo, with its winding alleyways and countless churches, is another fascinating place to explore on foot. Although though it is jam-packed with priceless historical landmarks and architectural gems, it is noticeably quieter than the surrounding city.
Even after the Muslim takeover, this area of Old Cairo remained a bastion of the Christian population. The Hanging Church is the most well-known, but the oldest church in the area is the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which dates back to the fourth century.
It is also believed that after escaping King Herod and the Holy Land, Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus spent some time there. You can always stop by the beautiful Ben Ezra Synagogue after touring Coptic Cairo’s ancient churches. The magnificent Coptic Museum and the ruins of the Babylon Fortress, which date back to Roman times, are well worth visiting.
4. Islamic Cairo
Islamic Cairo is home to the Citadel, Khan El-Khalili, and countless magnificent mosques, among many other attractions. Its maze of winding alleys and crumbling mediaeval buildings takes up a significant portion of the downtown area and is a lot of fun to explore.
The Fatimids established this bustling neighbourhood in the 10th century, and it is now located close to the east of the city proper. In addition to monumental mosques like al-Azhar and al-Hakim, they erected ornate palaces from which to reign. Saladin built the castle here in later years to keep out Crusaders.
In addition to the souk’s bustling atmosphere and beautiful architecture, its maze of stores and cafes makes for a fun and exciting adventure. You may also buy colourful carpets and sparkly jewellery here in addition to spices and trinkets.
5. Great Sphinx
For more than four millennia, the Great Sphinx has stood guard above the Pyramids of Giza, making it one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks. It’s impossible to overlook, since countless people throughout history have been awed by its towering size and unique design.
The strange monolith, which has been dated back to the Old Kingdom, was skillfully hewn from a single slab of limestone. The sphinx, a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, is represented here. The neighbouring pyramid is named after the king Khafre, and its worn picture is thought to depict him.
The area around the Great Sphinx can get crowded, but you should be able to locate a spot to take pictures nonetheless. If you’re interested in hearing more about its unique history and the circumstances surrounding the loss of its nose, guides are available.
6. Salah El-Din Citadel
Cairo’s massive fortress sits in a strategically important location at the base of the Mukattam Hills. Massive fortifications, mosques, and museums all contributed to Saladin’s legacy at this place. The enormous structure also features stunning architecture and breathtaking vistas.
The fear of Crusader attacks prompted construction of the massive castle that stands guard over the city today. Although only the outside walls and gates from the Ottoman period survive on the east side of the vast site, they are nonetheless fascinating.
The magnificent Mosque of Muhammad Ali, inspired by Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is the city’s best-known structure. You can also visit the much older Al-Nasir Muhammad and Sulayman Pasha mosques, whose minarets are just as impressive. Its carriage, police, and military museums failed to captivate us, but you could always see them on the way out.
7. Mosque of Ibn Tulun
The ancient mosque of Ibn Tulun is one of the oldest in Egypt and all of Africa. Its open courtyard and earthy hues are modest, but they have a weird elegance that draws the eye. Its original mihrab and minaret date back to 879 CE, when it was built by the Abbasid administrator of Egypt, Ahmad ibn Tulun.
The design of the tower’s spiral staircase was inspired by the Grand Mosque in Samarra. Guests can see panoramic views of the surrounding area from the top of the 40-meter-tall minaret.
It’s equally as nice to stroll about the arcades below ground and look for remnants of the faded decorations. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun, a tranquil destination not far from the Citadel, is a great location to unwind.
8. Al-Azhar Park
Al-Azhar Park’s lawns and gardens offer a beautiful respite from Cairo’s unceasing urban sprawl and are sometimes referred to as the city’s “green lungs.” It occupies a sizable chunk of Old Cairo and is filled with lovely walkways, green spaces, and fountains.
The entire region, which had been used as a waste for the previous 500 years, was converted into a beautiful park in 2005. These days, you can see colourful flowerbeds, fountains, and lookout points amidst meticulously maintained gardens and spotless walkways. Children may have a great time at the playground.
In addition to its beautiful vegetation, the area also features a few excellent dining establishments. The gorgeous park is a nice place to relax after a long day of sightseeing in the city. The contrast with the mayhem outside was almost too great to believe.
9. Al-Azhar Mosque
The beautiful and peaceful Al-Azhar Mosque may be reached in just a few minutes on foot from the nearby busy market. The five magnificent minarets that rise around its central courtyard make this building one of the best examples of Fatimid-era architecture.
The first mosque in Cairo was built in 970 and has served as a hub of Islamic scholarship for centuries. The second oldest continuously operating university in the world is housed in its spectacular complex, proving the building’s continued relevance and importance even now. You can enter the massive prayer hall and wonderful marble mihrab through the stunning Gate of the Barbers.
You can go about and see buildings from all different periods of the capital’s history. This is because the mosque was modified and enlarged numerous times during the course of its history by a wide variety of rulers, including the Mamluks and the Ottomans.
10. National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC)
The National Museum of Egyptian Culture is a must-see for any history buff. Surprisingly, its displays cover the full span of Egypt’s history, from the earliest civilizations to the modern day.
A brand new attraction, opening in 2021, the museum is housed in a large, modern structure to the southeast of the downtown area. The Royal Mummies Collection is on display there, and new (well, old…) items keep getting added. Famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs like Rameses II and Amenhotep I are among them.
In addition to the incredible mummies, the museum also features over 50,000 other artefacts, such as sculptures, vases, fabrics, and tools. They are structured both chronologically and thematically.
The museum is divided into several sections, some of which focus on religion, government, and history (such as the Coptic, Medieval, and Islamic periods).