Cairo Travel Guide
Introduction to Cairo
While Cairo can be dirty, chaotic, and in the minds of some, dangerous, it is one of the world’s most iconic cities. With the only remaining Ancient Wonder of the World on its doorstep, and thousands of years of Egyptian, Christian, and Islamic history within its limits, you would be shortchanging yourself by not spending at least a few days in the capital on a visit to Egypt.
Cultural Attractions in Cairo
No trip to Cairo could be considered to be complete without seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza. The centrepiece in this complex is none other than the Pyramid of Cheops (or Khufu), the only Ancient Wonder of the World left standing after 4,500 years of existence.
Standing 481 feet above the Sahara Desert, it was the tallest man-made building on Earth for over 3,800 years until the spire of the Lincoln Cathedral in England took the title away in the 14th century. The ceremonial burial place for Pharaoh Khufu, his Queen, and privileged members of his inner circle, this monolithic monument took almost 20 years to build.
Moreover, this was done in an age when the state of technology was considered to be too primitive to lift its massive blocks into place, let alone with such precision. How they did it remains a mystery to this day, which only adds to the mystique of this place.
During the thousands of years when Egypt was a kingdom, there were prosperous times when this corner of the world was a dominant leader. Unfortunately, dark days were interspersed between those days of glory, and it was then when many treasures contained within its mausoleums and pyramids were raided by thieves.
In the present day, however, many of these priceless artifacts have been recovered, with the vast majority being repatriated to the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo. With 120,000 objects in their collection, you will be able to feed your endless fascination of all things Egyptian during your time here.
If you are on a tight schedule, be sure to not miss the fabulous Gold Mask of Tutankhamun, or the sculptures of Pharaohs from Khafre to Thutmose III.
Despite being a majority Muslim country in the present day, Egypt has been home to a significant population of Christians for close to 2,000 years. Not long after the death of Jesus Christ, missionaries entered Egypt and began converting those with pagan and animist beliefs.
While subdued in their practice during Roman times, Coptic Cairo became a definitive neighbourhood shortly after the fall of mighty Empire in the 5th century AD. Within its bounds are many notable attractions, which include the Babylon Fortress (a formidable defensive point on the Nile), the Coptic Museum (an impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts), The Hanging Church (one of the best examples of Early Christian churches in Cairo), and the Church of St. George (an impressive Greek Orthodox style church built in the 10th century).
Other Attractions in Cairo
As you might expect, Cairo is also home to some remarkable attractions related to its long history as a major city in the Islamic World. Start by exploring the Cairo Citadel, as this military installation was a major contributor to the nation’s defence during the Middle Ages.
Serving as an intimidating deterrent to invading Crusaders, it kept Cairo protected during this tumultuous time in history. In addition to the museums and mosques located within, the upper ramparts give photographers an elevated position from which one can take stunning pictures of the city, so be sure to show up early or late in the day to take advantage of the best light of the day.
While you are within the walls of the Citadel, make a point to visit the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Built in the 19th century in the Ottoman Style by Muhammad Ali Pasha in honor of his deceased son, its minarets stand over 170 feet high, and it is one of the most visible aspects on the Cairo skyline.
While its attractive exterior and richly decorated interior make this mosque worth a visit on its own, the tomb of Muhammad Ali Pasha also a highlight. Buried in a marble tomb in the courtyard, it is a worthy tribute to a man who many consider to be the father of Modern Day Egypt.
Finally, take some time to walk the streets of Islamic Cairo. While much of Europe was still recovering from the regressive years of the Middle Ages, this part of the world was erecting some the world’s earliest urban multi-storey buildings. This has given this part of the city a baked-in urban culture which has existed for countless generations.
Stroll around traditional markets, admire some of Islamic Cairo’s finest buildings along Muizz Street, and listen as the intoxicating melody of the call to prayer lets you know you are somewhere quite unlike your home country.