Cairo Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Cairo
The Egyptian capital of Cairo (Arabic El-Qahira or Misr el-Qahira), the largest city on the African continent and in the Islamic world, long known as the "Gateway to the East" and a mediator between Christianity and Islam, lies in latitude 30°4' north and longitude 34°17' east with the main part of the city on the right bank of the Nile, some 12.5mi/20km south of the point where the river divides into the Rosetta and Damietta arms.
On the east side of the city rise the barren reddish rock walls of the Moqattam Hills, beyond which extends the Eastern (Arabian) Desert. To the south the city reaches out by way of Old Cairo to the suburb of Maadi; to the west the newer districts spread beyond the Nile into the Western (Libyan) Desert. Cairo is the seat of government, of the Egyptian Parliament and the various Government departments and the residence of the heads of the Islamic, Coptic and Catholic Coptic religious communities. It has several universities and colleges of high academic standing.HistoryFrom a very early period there was a town on the east bank of the Nile, opposite the Pyramids, which bore the name of Khere-oho, or "place of combat", because Horus and Seth were believed to have fought here. The Greeks called it Babylon, and the Romans preserved this name when they built up the settlement into a fortress. After the Arab Conquest in A.D. 641 the Caliphs built a new capital in the plain to the north of the Roman stronghold, naming it Fustat, and the name of Misr el-Fustat, or Misr for short, was thereafter applied both to the city and the land of Egypt.After the fall of the Omayyads in 750 the entire town, with the exception of the Great Mosque, was destroyed by fire. A new capital was then established by the Abbasid governors in the El-Askar district, and at the end of the ninth C. the El-Oatai quarter, with the lbn Tulun Mosque, was built. When Gohar, the general of the Fatimid Caliph Muizz, conquered Egypt in 969 he built a military settlement to the north of El Gatai, naming it Misr el-Qahira (the "Victorious", after the Arabic name of the planet Mars, which was then at the meridian), and thus in effect founding the city of Cairo. In the 12th C. Saladin enclosed the two settlements of Fustat and El-Qahira within a single wall (never completed) and began to build the Citadel. Under the luxury-loving Fatimids the city was greatly enlarged and embellished, reaching its zenith in the 14th C. During this period, however, it was several times ravaged by plague, which carried off large numbers of people, and was frequently thrown into a turmoil by revolts, risings and bloody persecutions of Christians. In 1517, after the Battle of Heliopolis, the Ottoman Sultan Selim entered the city. Although Cairo suffered from plundering and oppression under Turkish rule, it still remained a busy provincial capital with an active cultural life.During his Egyptian expedition of 1798-99 Napoleon established his headquarters in Cairo. In 1805 Mohammed (Mehemet) Ali, as Pasha of Egypt, took possession of the Citadel, where in 1811 he treacherously massacred 480 leading Mamelukes whom he had invited to Cairo. Later in the 19th C., particularly after the opening of the Suez Canal, the city enjoyed a period of rapid economic development and grew considerably in size. Present-day Cairo is now an imposing modern city with streets and squares laid out on the European pattern and a sprinkling of high-rise blocks, in striking contrast to the overpopulated Arab quarters and the bazaars, still retaining their medieval aspect. In 1981 work began on the construction of a subway (underground railroad) system (Metro). The subway system, called 'The Metro' is a fast way to get around Cairo. Note: the middle two train cars on each train are reserved for women only, who do not wish to travel with men. Although they can ride any train. Cairo has an extensive road network that allows traffic to move at a relatively fluid pace.
The hub of the modern city of Cairo is the spacious Midan el-Tahrir, with the Liberation Monument (originally begun,as a monument to King Fuad). Here all the city's main traffic arteries meet. To the southwest of the square are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government Buildings, to the southeast the American University and the National Assembly.
To the northeast of the Midan el-Tahrir are the main commercial and shopping districts of the modern city, which are entirely European in character. The goods sold in the shops here are marked with fixed prices, which cannot be reduced by bargaining like prices in the bazaars.
In Shari Qasr el-Aini, which runs south from the Midan el-Tahrir, is the Ethnological Museum.
Address: 109 Qasr al-Ayni Street, Egypt
Opening hours: 9am-1pm; Closed: Fri
The Egyptian Museum, founded in 1857, contains the world's largest collection of Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts and is one of Cairo's top tourist attractions.
The Ezbekiya Gardens were laid out in 1870 and today its verdant greenery provides a pleasant refuge from the noise and chaos of modern Cairo.
The main thoroughfare of the old Arab town of Cairo is formed by Shari el-Muski, a street laid out in the first half of the 19th century, and its continuation Shari Gohar el-Qaid, which leads southeast from the Ezbekiya Gardens. Externally these streets, with their European-style shops, have lost their Oriental character, but they still present all the noise and bustle, the constant lively activity of the East.
The chaotic and fun Bazaar Quarter in Cairo is a maze of shops selling almost everything imaginable.
Old Cairo lies within the walls of historic Old Babylon. This area of twisty laneways is full of history and culture, and one of the city's top tourist destinations.
To the northeast of Old Cairo are the remains of Fustat. Numerous finds from the site are now in the Museum of Islamic Art and the Coptic Museum. Between the Mosque of Amr and Fustat is the Potters' Quarter, in which the popular big bellied water jars known as kulla are made.
Some 22mi/35km north of Cairo, 2mi/3km southeast of Shibin el-Kanatir, is Tell el-Yahudiya ("Hill of the Jews"), the site of ancient Leontopolis. Here Ramesses III built a temple faced with glazed mosaic tiles (most of which are now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo). The technique of manufacture of the tiles is interesting, the coloring being produced partly by glazing and partly by inlaid pieces of glass. Later (170 B.C.) a Jewish High Priest named Onias, with assistance from Ptolemy VI Philometor, built a temple, modeled on Solomon's Temple, for the Jews who had been expelled from Jerusalem. There is little left to see on the site.
Extending from the southern point of the Giza district up to the Imbaba Bridge, the west bank of the Nile in Cairo has several attractions, mainly of the botanical or agricultural nature.
Located at the Zoological Gardens on al-Giza, just south of Cairo University, this zoo is one of the oldest in the world. There are 100 acres housing endangered species, a reptile house and some "standard" zoo animals such as lions, bears and camels.
To the west of Gezira and Roda, on the left bank of the Nile, is the modern district of Dokki, with the Agricultural Museum, set in a beautiful park, and the Museum of Modern Art.
The Agricultural Museum is housed in the Palace of Princess Fatma.It opened in 1938 and is dedicated to the history of agriculture in Eqypt.
Address: Duqqi, Egypt
Opening hours: Apr 21 to Sep 20: 9am-11am, 1pm-2:30pm
Sep 21 to Apr 20: 9am-11:30am, 1pm-4pm
Sep 21 to Apr 20: 9am-11:30am, 1pm-4pm
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is located in the Cairo Opera House. Exhibits feature Egyptian artists and foreign artists, who once lived in Egypt.
Address: Gazirah Exibition Grounds, Egypt
Opening hours: 9am-1:30pm; Fri: 9am-11:30am
Entrance fee in EGP: Adult £10.00
On the way from the Cairo airport is the tomb of the unknown soldier, site of President Sudat's assassination and burial.
More Cairo Pictures
Map of Cairo Attractions