Known as the city of a thousand minarets, Cairo is the natural starting point for your visit to Egypt.
Most travelers spend two or three days here, but you could easily spend more.
There’s so much to explore in the fascinating city, from ancient religious sites to bustling markets to world-class museums, not to mention the history and culture and architecture!
Plus, it’s your hub for day trips to the pyramids.
1. Bab Zuweila As you walk through Old Cairo, visiting Al Azhar Mosque and the Tentmakers' Souk, make a stop at Bab Zuweila (bab means “gate” in Arabic). It’s one of the last gates still standing in the Old City. Here, you’ll find two of Cairo’s famous minarets. Be sure to head to the rooftop for panoramic views.
2. The Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan Architecture lovers will be in awe. Home to the tallest minaret in Cairo, this massive mosque and madrasa (Islamic college) is one of the best examples of Mamluk architecture in the world. Built in the mid-1300s, the monument is still appreciated today for its innovative architectural components.
3. The Egyptian Museum / Grand Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square in Cairo is considered one of the best museums in the world, with an astonishing collection of antiquities.
The Grand Egyptian Museum, when it opens near the Pyramids of Giza, will replace the Egyptian Museum. The new museum will be larger, more modern, and even more renowned than its predecessor.
Whether you visit the old or new location, you won’t be able to see everything in a single visit, but you must check out the famous Tutankhamun Galleries. Beyond that, you can decide what treasures interest you most.
4. National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations If you’re fascinated by mummies, you’ll want to make a stop here. The National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations (NMEC), dedicated to telling the entire story of Egypt's human history, is the permanent home of the Royal Mummies Collection. You can expect to see Ramses II and III, Hatshepsut, Amenhotep I, Seti I and II, and more!
5. Coptic Cairo Near NMEC, you can visit the Christian stronghold of Old Cairo called Coptic Cairo. The area is filled with many biblical sites, including the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, where local legend says Mary, Joseph and Jesus sought refuge from King Herod.
Just outside the quarter, you’ll find the first mosque built in Egypt: Mosque of Amr Ibn al-As.
6. The Nilometer on Roda Island
Ancient Egyptians used the nilometer to measure the Nile River’s clarity and water level to determine if there would be famine or flood. Head over to Roda Island to see this fascinating piece of Egyptian history often overlooked by visitors to Cairo.
Two Day Trips:
1. The Pyramids of Giza You can’t plan a trip to Egypt without the pyramids! About 10 miles from Cairo, the sprawling Giza Necropolis is home to the iconic Great Sphinx and Great Pyramid, as well as many other structures that have endured the last 4,500 years. The massive ancient tombs, still so mysterious to modern humans, never fail to delight and leave visitors in awe.
2. Dahshur & Saqqara Less than 20 miles from Cairo, you can visit "the other pyramids" …pyramids that are even older than those in Giza.
In the royal necropolis of Dahshur, ancient Egyptians perfected their pyramid-building skills. You can see their first attempts. And in Saqqara, you’ll find the 4,700-year-old Step Pyramid of Djoser, the world’s oldest. Check the news before you visit. Ongoing excavations here mean ongoing discoveries that often make headlines.
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