Although it is no longer the central most area of Modern Cairo, Islamic Cairo is still a living reminder of the city’s interesting past and is one of the most recommended things to do in Cairo. Most of the Fatimid walls have long crumbled, but there are hundreds of relics and magnificent mosques still lining the historic streets of Al-Qahira. Islamic Cairo is unique from many historic districts because it is still very much a living part of the city and visited during all of Cairo Day Tours. Al-Qahira was filled with palaces and administrative buildings when it was initially constructed, the people of Cairo moved into the walled city during a 12th century siege and they never left since then. Despite its crumbling architecture and aging infrastructure, Islamic Cairo remains one of the most inhabited areas of the city.
Visiting Islamic Cairo can be an impossible task. It is quite a large area, including the old Fatimid city as well as the districts reaching south to The Citadel of Saladin and the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. There are literally hundreds of sites of different sizes and importance packed in along these narrow allies. Add to this the fact that it is still a busy commercial and residential area and Islamic Cairo can present quite a challenge. One can spend several weeks simply getting lost in these ancient streets without running out of new sights and experiences; however, there are several areas where more casual tourists should focus their attention to see much of what this historic district has to offer in a shorter amount of time.
Highlights of Islamic Cairo
The largest outdoor museum of Islamic art is called El-Moez Street. This street was the main street through the city when it was built during the 11th century and mosques, madrasas, sabils, mausoleums and palaces were constructed here. The northern part of the street (between Bab El-Fotouh and Al-Azhar Street) was recently restored. This is one of the most picturesque parts of Cairo. The Qala’un Complex here is one of the most impressive in Cairo.
Egypt Travel Packages including Islamic Cairo:
Cairo and the Nile by Air 8 Days 7 Nights
Cairo, Nile Cruise and the Oasis Tour
Tour to Giza pyramids, the Egyptian museum, Old Cairo and Khan El Khalili
Cairo Sightseeing Tour to The Egyptian Museum, Coptic and Islamic
You can easily spend the day in this area, ending up in the evening at Cairo’s famous 14th century market, Khan Al-Khalili. Restoration work on the southern section of the street (from the Ghouriya Complex to Bab Zuweila) began in 2011. Also in the area of Khan Al-Khalili is Al-Azhar Mosque.
To the south of Islamic Cairo is located The Citadel of Saladin (Salah Al-Deen) which was constructed in1176 AD. Today the Citadel offers an amazing panoramic view over the city and several museums dedicated to Egypt’s police and military. There are also three famous mosques within the walls: Al-Nasir Muhammed Mosque, Suleyman Pasha Mosque, and Mohammed Ali’s Alabaster Mosque.
Facing the Citadel is the massive Sultan Hassan complex,known as the pyramid of Islamic architecture and was built by the Mamluk ruler Al Sultan Hassan during the 14th century. This huge mosque includes a madrassa (religious school to teach the four rites of Islamic sect in Islam) and displays some of the most impressive architectural elements in any mosque in the city.
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is a walking distance from both The Citadel Of Saladin and the mosque of Sultan Hassan. built in 872 AD, it is the oldest standing mosque in Islamic Cairo and the largest by land area. It is a truly impressive space, owing its unique Samarran architectural style to the fact that it was built when Egypt’s rulers were from Iraq. Additionally, the Gayer-Anderson House Museum attached to its outer walls. The proximity of the Citadel and Sultan Hassan Mosque to Ibn Tulun makes them easy sights to combine into a day of touring.
Al Azhar Park has been added recently to Islamic Cairo. In the 1990’s the Egyptian government reclaimed land that had been used as a landfill for centuries to create a beautiful park for the city. Today,Al Azhar Park offers an area of approximately 74-acres of park space to a city that has few green spaces. This beautiful setting provides spectacular views over the city and manicured gardens. There is a café and a restaurant as well. Watching the sunset from the park as the evening call to prayer echoes up from Cairo’s thousands of minarets is truly a memorable experience.