What to See in Cairo (Egypt)

By | July 9, 2022

According to Babyinger, Cairo – the capital of Egypt, the largest city in Africa, the “Gate of the East” and the city of “Thousand Minarets”. Cairo has 14 million inhabitants and has concentrated the achievements of the culture of all six thousand years of Egyptian civilization. Divided by the Nile and surrounded by sands, Cairo mixed up both the old and the new history of Egypt. Cairo is high-rise buildings and villas, minarets and bell towers, palm trees and neon lights, noisy bazaars and numerous shops with souvenirs. And along with chic buildings – squalid shacks of the poor.

Citadel (or mountain fortress, as the Cairoans call it) was built between 1176 and 1207. Sultan Salah ad-Din, better known in history as Saladin, at the foot of Mount Mukattam and is the hallmark of Cairo. The giant mosque with a domed roof and two thin minarets bears the name of Muhammad Ali. Before its construction, the main mosque of the Citadel was the mosque of Sultan Nasir. The silvery tops of its minarets are lined with colored faience tiles, this is not the case in any other mosque in the city. Immediately in the mosque is the tomb of Muhammad Ali himself . Now most of the complex is available to visitors. In 1994, the Al-Mahka open-air museum was opened in the northern part of the Citadel where handicrafts from different eras are displayed. Also, the mosque of Ibn-Kalawn, built in 1318-1335, has been preserved here; Al-Ghawra Palace (now mannequins dressed in costumes from different eras are on display in its halls); the well of Joseph, 88 m deep, dug by captive crusaders; cannon “Haga Fatma”, which in the days of Ramadan announces the breaking of the fast after sunset with shots. Another museum of the Citadel is the Evidence Museum, which contains antiquities confiscated by the police from smugglers. From the observation deck of the Citadel you can see the city.

On the left side, about 1 km from the observation deck is the mosque of Ibn-Tulun Mosque. This is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the city. It was built at the end of the ninth century. – before the official founding of Cairo. Directly under the observation deck – two mosques very similar to each other. The left mosque, Sultan Hassan, was built in the 14th century. Its minaret is the highest in Cairo (81 m). Inside the mosque itself, which resembles a church, there is a richly decorated mausoleum of the Sultan, in which, however, it is not he who is buried, but his early deceased son and heir Anouk. The construction of the right, Rifai, was completed only at the beginning of our century. The Rifai Mosque houses members of the Egyptian royal family, overthrown by the 1952 revolution. The last Shah of Iran is also buried there Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who died in exile in Cairo after the Iranian revolution of 1979. To the right of the observation deck, behind a string of low houses, another mosque is visible – with a bifurcating and therefore also unique minaret. This is the Al-Azhar Mosque, built at the end of the 10th century. – perhaps the most famous mosque in Cairo. Many centuries ago, an Islamic university was established next to it, the theologians of which are the most authoritative among Muslims around the world.

One of the districts of the city – Christian Old Cairo – was known in antiquity as Babylon of Egypt. At the beginning of our era, it was an important center of Christianity. Six of the most interesting Coptic churches have survived in this area, little changed since they were built many centuries ago.

Coptic Church of Our Lady – one of the oldest and most beautiful in Cairo. It is better known by its Arabic name, Al-Muallaqa, which translates as “suspended church”. This name is due to the fact that the temple itself was built on the gates of the Roman fortress of Babylon. From an architectural point of view, the plan of the temple corresponds to the plan of the Byzantine basilica. The church consists of a naos, the main space divided by columns into three naves with three altars dedicated respectively to the Theotokos, St. John the Baptist, St. George, and a separate chapel bearing the name of the Ethiopian patriarch St. It is believed that the Church of the Virgin was founded in the III century. Carved wooden panel, kept in the Coptic Museum, depicting the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem and what comes from this church belongs to the 5th-6th centuries. The church has undergone numerous destruction and reconstruction, and by the XIX century. turned into a vast temple with four aisles. The interior of the church is truly unique: the decoration of the temple includes wall paintings of the 11th-13th centuries, altar barriers of the 13th-19th centuries, painted ciboria of the 13th-17th centuries, a rich collection of icons of the 18th century, a marble pulpit of the 11th century. and many other elements.

No less famous in Old Cairo is another church – Abu Serga (Saint Sergius). According to legend, it was built over the grotto where the Virgin Mary lived with the baby Jesus when she was fleeing in Egypt from the persecution of King Herod.

In the labyrinths of the narrow streets of Egyptian Babylon, a tiny church was hidden – the chapel of St. George. To get inside, you need to go down the worn stone steps. Under the low vaults there is a bright mosaic panel depicting St. George piercing a snake with a spear. Here you can see unique wooden gates. Their height is 7.6 m, and their width is 2.22 m.

Cairo came close to the desert plateau of Giza, where only one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx , has been preserved.. The pyramids were built for three pharaohs – Cheops, Khafre and Menkaure. The Pyramid of Cheops is still the largest architectural creation of human hands. At the base, it is a square with a side of 227.5 m. The height during construction was 146.6 m, but now the pyramid is 9 m lower: the upper stones fell during earthquakes. The faces of the pyramid are oriented to the cardinal points, the entrance to it is from the north side. There are no inscriptions or decorations inside the Cheops pyramid. There are three burial chambers. The burial chamber of the pharaoh is a room about 11 meters long, 5 meters wide and almost 6 meters high. The walls of the tomb are finished with granite slabs. The red granite sarcophagus is empty. Neither the pharaoh’s mummy nor grave goods have been found. It is believed that the pyramid was plundered in ancient times. On the south side of the pyramid is a structure shaped like a ship. This is the so-called Solar Boat – one of the five on which Cheops was supposed to go to the other world.

The second largest pyramid belongs to the pharaoh Khafre. It was built 40 years later than the first one. Sometimes it seems that the pyramid of Khafre is even larger than that of Cheops. In fact, it is slightly smaller. The side of the square base of the Khafre pyramid is 215 m, and its height is 136 m. However, in ancient times, like the pyramid of Cheops, it was 9 meters higher. Here the whole complex of structures is more clearly visible, consisting of a temple in the valley, a road, a temple of the dead and the pyramid itself. The lower temple, in which 25 statues of pharaohs once stood, is known for the fact that Khafre was mummified here, on the threshold of the kingdom of the dead.

The pyramid of Menkaure completes the ensemble. Its construction was completed in 2505 BC. This pyramid is much smaller than its predecessors. Base side – 108 m, original height – 66.5 m (today – 62 m). The only burial chamber of the pyramid is carved into its rocky base. The Pyramid of Menkaure emphasizes the greatness of the pyramids of Cheops and Khafre. The latter are not difficult to distinguish from each other: at the pyramid of Khafre, near the top, a white basalt lining is partially preserved.

30 km from the pyramids of Giza in Saqqara is the necropolis of the first capital of Egypt – Memphis. The center of this vast necropolis is the step pyramid of Djoser, the first pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, who lived 4,700 years ago. The Pyramid of Djoser, called the “mother of the pyramids” by scientists, is the world’s first grandiose stone structure. The dimensions of its base are 160 by 120 m, and the height is 60 m. The pyramid consists of 6 mastabas decreasing upwards (mastaba in Arabic means a stone bench) and burial chambers located deep underground. The main premises of the tomb are a series of chambers carved into the rocky ground under the mastaba. In one of them stood a sarcophagus with a mummy, in all others they placed things necessary in the afterlife, and statues of the deceased.

In Saqqara you can see dozens of relatively small tombs, pyramids and temples. Not far from the step pyramid are the tombs of the sacred bulls of Ptah, known as Apis. The deceased Apis were embalmed and buried in sarcophagi at the Serapeum cemetery. The priests found the new Apis by a number of signs: a black suit, a white spot of a certain shape on the forehead, etc.

Despite the fact that the necropolis was founded at the dawn of Egyptian civilization, here you can find monuments relating to almost all eras of the existence of ancient Egypt. From the southern outskirts of Saqqara, a view of the fertile plain opens up, where the “white stone” Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt, was once located. built by Pharaoh Menes. There is practically nothing left of the city of Memphis, which flourished for three millennia. But it’s still worth stopping by here at least to look at the 20-meter statue of Ramses II in a pavilion specially built for it, or to see the sphinx, which is very small compared to the Giza colossus, but which is its forerunner, or just to visit that where this great civilization began.

The Egyptian Museum houses the richest collection of Egyptian art in the world, housing the famous treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Cairo Papyrus Institute will reveal to visitors the secret of the ancient method of making ancient Egyptian “paper”, and at the perfume factory you can compose your own composition and get it in an elegant bottle.

You can see how people lived in Ancient Egypt in the “Pharaoh’s Village”, located on a small island in the Cairo region of Giza. Lively scenes of ancient life are performed by artists who plow the land, grind grain, mold pottery, and make papyri.

In the central part of Cairo is the Khan el-Khalili artisans’ bazaar – the largest in the Middle East. Not changed at all since the 14th century, it is a reflection of oriental exoticism with its unimaginable turmoil and diversity. In Cairo you can buy everything that the East is famous for: spices, perfumes, gold, silver, carpets, products made of copper and bronze, leather, glass, ceramics. The choice of fabrics, including the famous Egyptian cotton, is the largest in street markets like Vekelat el-Balah, musical instruments – on Mohammed Ali Street.

In addition, having visited Cairo, you can make an exciting cruise on the Nile.

Cairo (Egypt)