Islamic Cairo, Cairo

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 Reviews

El-Darb El-Ahmar, Cairo Governorate
  • Islamic Cairo
    by June.b
  • Islamic Cairo
    by June.b
  • Islamic Cairo
    by June.b

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    Islamic/Fatimid Cairo

    by MM212 Updated Nov 26, 2011

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    Islamic Cairo, often referred to as Fatimid Cairo, is extremely fascinating, as this part of the city has changed little in perhaps 500 years. It was the centre of Cairo for 8 centuries, from its founding in 969 AD by the Fatimids through the Ayyubid and Mamluke periods, and until the 18th century when Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire. This area is thus the richest architecturally with about 800 listed historic buildings, including some of the most visited historic sites, such as Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, el-Azhar Mosque, the Citadel and many more. Interesting things and amazing architecture await you around every corner. A warning though, you have to be ready to walk through crowded dirty streets as this area is a poorer, and hence neglected, part of Cairo. Most distressing is seeing the magnificent old buildings falling apart, but there is finally now an increasing effort to restore the treasures of old Cairo. Here are a few pictures of old Cairo, including some of the recently restored monuments. Take a look at the Travelogues, "Images from Old Cairo" and Images from Fatimid Cairo for more pictures from this area.

    City of a Thousand Minarets, Apr 2007 The Minarets & Domes of Islamic Cairo, Apr 2007 The Streets of Fatimid Cairo, Apr 2007 Minarets of Bab Zuweila, Apr 2007 Recently restored in Fatimid Cairo, Dec 2007
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    Islamic Cairo - El Muiz Street

    by June.b Updated Jun 30, 2011

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    I know it's a huge area, but let me give my experience area-wise.

    I've read a lot of stuff weeks before I started this trip to avoid getting lost (much) and looking genuinely stupid. I've been to Memphis, Sakkara, Giza pyramids (twice), Coptic Cairo...so on the 4th day I decided to explore the most popular area in the city called Islamic Cairo. I took a taxi from my hotel (near Tahrir Square) to Bab Al-Futuh, I know I've to start here and walk my way until Bab Zuweila, and that is some kilometer and a half, traversing the length of Al Moez Ldin Allah or Mui'z Street or Moez Street --- if it's arabic, everyone has his own spelling -- sounds like that.

    This is the best street to walk along if you want to get to see most of the Islamic Cairo heritage.

    I paid the taxi EGP10 or 15, I know he went around again to extend the trip. Anyhoo, about 15 minutes from Tahrir, I reached the Bab Al-Futuh, it's a massive gate, a fortification of the city during the medieval times. I entered the gate and started my walking tour stopping by most of the old structures like the AlHakim Mosque, Qalawun Complex, Bayt Al-Suhaymi, House of Mustafa Jaffar, there was also an underground cistern, so many mosques, medrasas, old houses, buildings, and of course the Khan ElKhalili souq.

    Walking along the ElMuiz Street is like being transported in the Islamic past. This street used to be the principal street in Cairo -- those were the days when wide roads and highways are not yet in existence.

    El Muiz Street is the way to go if you really want to take in a lot of sights in the Islamic area of Cairo, and you have a limited time.

    Read the rest of my "Things To Do" tips starting from the Bab Al-Futuh to find out what I've seen during my own Walking Tour of Islamic Cairo...gooooo!

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    Khanqah of Sultan Baybars II al-Gashankir

    by MM212 Written Dec 17, 2009

    When I visited in December 2007, the Khanqah of Sultan Baybars II al-Gashankir was covered up in scaffolding for a much-needed restoration. Many monuments in this part of Cairo were undergoing such projects, which was really great to see, but it prevented the visitors from fully appreciating the beauty. Fortunately, here I was able to see the beautiful portal (see photo) to this khanqah, a type of Sufi monastery. In fact, this one is the earliest surviving Khanqah in Cairo, built in 1310 AD by the Mamluke Sultan Baybars II, on the site of an older Fatimid palace. It is said that some fragments of the palace have been incorporated in its construction. This Khanqah is located in the long narrow street linking Bab el-Nasr with al-Azhar area.

    Portal of Khanqah of Sultan Baybars II (Dec 07)
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    in Islamic Cairo

    by mindcrime Updated Apr 21, 2009

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    On my second visit to Islamic Cairo I walked for several minutes at Darb al-Ahmar which was the central road in the heart of Cairo back in the 14th century. The flee market was packed with locals screaming, I was lost and the heat was unbearable. When I tried to find my way out (most of the alleys were dead ends and the map couldn’t help me here) I tried to say famous mosques so they people started to point the way. The weird thing that some of them were pointing at the opposite direction at the same time! In some small streets I saw only workers and locals (pic 1)

    I liked the beautiful vitro windows at Qijmas al-Ishaqui mosque but the most peaceful moment was at al-Maridani mosque (pic 2) with a nice fountain and only a few locals drinking tea there.

    One nice surprise was the Aqsunqur mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue marble inside. The guard explained me many things about some artifacts inside (pic 3) and left me go up to the Minaret(pic 4) where I saw the Citadel and I realized I was close. Later I visited the Mahmut Pasa mosque(pic 5) that was built in 1567 the year that Mahmud Pasha died.

    alley in Islamic Cairo bal-Maridani mosque inside Aqsunqur mosque view from Aqsunqur mosque Mahmut Pasa mosque
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    the chaotic Islamic Cairo!

    by mindcrime Written Apr 21, 2009

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    I guess they call it Islamic Cairo because of the many mosques around. The atmosphere here is chaotic (pic 1), with people (and sometimes animals) everywhere in the small streets and alleys. I got lost and one of the best moments in Cairo was here trying to find my way out :) There are several beautiful mosques to visit but I liked the place so much that I came again the day after. The locals were very friendly and I enjoyed the morning bread and sweets in numerous different street bakers (pic 2) I also saw several breads waiting outside close stores in the morning like the newspapers in Europe :) (pic 3)

    Khan al-Khalili market is very famous but I got disappointed of the high prices and low quality in general. Definitely a tourist trap if you don’t have a local friend to show you around some secret corners but historically important because its there since the 14th century. If you come here try to drink a tea at Fishawi café which claims that it is open 24 per day the last 200 years!

    When I got of of Khan al-Khalily I visited the Sayydna al-Hussin mosque(nothing special) and then Al-Azhar mosque (pic 4). It was built in 970 and it’s the oldest (still in use) university. The sheikh of Al-Azhar is the regilious leader in Egypt and still powerful enough among the muslims.

    Then I walked back at Sharia al-Azhar to isit Al-Ghouriyya (pic 5), an impressive couple of black and white buildings that date back from 1505. Later in the afternoon I returned here to see a free Soufi dance.

    at Islamic Cairo my baker! bread someone?... Al-Azhar mosque Al-Ghouriyya
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    Islamic Cairo

    by illumina Updated Dec 7, 2008

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    East of the Nile and Downtown, is the area of Cairo described by guidebooks as Islamic or Fatimid Cairo, a maze of warren-like streets, bustling bazaars, and medieval mosques and madrasas. Further south is the 800 year old Citadel on its hilltop, dominating the skyline.

    You can use taxis and the metro to get around, but with a little stamina we found it perfectly possible to walk from Downtown to Khan el-Khalili to the Citadel and back again.

    Dress modestly here, and if you're planning to visit mosques, wear shoes you can slip on and off easily.

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    Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Updated Nov 25, 2007

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    There are a number of notable examples of Mameluke architecture in the northern part of the Fatimid town. The Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun stands northwest of the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. This was a part of a large hospital in the XIII-th century, now ruined. It was built by the Mameluke Sultan El-Mansur Qalaun.

    The complex displays typical Mameluke architecture. The exterior windows are columned and reminiscent of Gothic style, which Qala'un was familiar with from the Crusader's churches.

    Cairo - Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun Cairo - Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun Cairo - Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun Cairo - Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun
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    Islamic Cairo

    by vdoortje Written Jul 30, 2007

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    If you stroll in the suburbs between the Citadel and the Khan el Khalili you will see a part of Cairo that hardly any tourist will see. It is as if time stood still there. There you will see how the poorest of the Caireens live. You will see the ruins of the houses that collapsed during the last great earthquake in Cairo. Houses that are never restored.
    But still the general hospitality of the Egyptian people can be felt there; they will greet you, you might even be invited into their house.

    Islamic Cairo

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    Islamic Cairo

    by kentishgirl Updated Jan 19, 2007

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    I loved Islamic Cairo.
    Islamic Cairo is a fabulous area and offers an abundance of things to see and do. I do think that just wandering the streets exposes you to loads, but here you can shop to your hearts content at the Khan El Khali Bazaar, visit mosques and sit in the small Islamic owned cafes drinking tea to sound of the muezzin.

    Islamic Cairo
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    Islamic Cairo

    by JohnniOmani Written May 7, 2006

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    Many tourists go to Giza, the museum, the souq and Coptic Cairo and I must say that is for good reason. My favorite part of Cairo was Islamic Cairo because it offered a vibe like no other in the city. It is one of the best places in the city to see traditional life of Egyptians and your best bet of meeting curious and honest locals. Islamic Cairo is a true highlight of Cairo. It was great!

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    Old arab block in Cairo

    by schlumpf Written May 16, 2005

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    In the area of El Khal Khalilli marklet, as said before, there are a lot of mosquee and a lot of monuments that a lot of people miss during their stay’ in Cairo.
    That’s obvioulsly not a great choise, ads the monnuments in the area are simply fabolous!
    Simply walk up and down, left and right from the market, and, once you will lose yourself, you will find the most beautifull monuments in Cairo...and moreover, without all that folks around! That’s the great deal!!!!

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    Islamic Cairo (Huseyn Mosque 1)

    by travelife Updated Feb 24, 2005

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    Huseyn Mosque is the main mosque in Cairo, which means it holds the largest gathering in Friday Prayer. And also largest political rally starts after the prayer, in recent past, against intervention in Iraq. This mosque does not allow tourists to get inside and serve only the faithfuls.

    Huseyn mosque

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    Islamic Cairo (Huseyn Mosque 2)

    by travelife Updated Feb 24, 2005

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    Since the mosque is just off Khan al Khalil bazar area, you may just pass by to see its large umbrella structure in front which open up to make shade over people who pray outside the mosque when the mosque cannot accommodate everyone inside.

    Huseyn Mosque

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    Islamic Cairo (Al Azhar 10)

    by travelife Updated Feb 23, 2005

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    Though not a condition, you are expected to leave an amount at the entrance where caretaker (a group of them, actually) take care of your shoes. After all, this is a highly tip conscious society. We were 3 and we left 10 Elbs at the entrance.

    Al Azhar mosque entrance

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    Islamic Cairo (Al Azhar 9)

    by travelife Updated Feb 23, 2005

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    Today the university built around the Mosque is one of the most prestigious Muslim schools. The university classes are conducted in adjacent buildings and the Mosque is reserved for prayer. In addition to the religious studies, modern schools of medicine, science and foreign languages have also been added.

    mosque interior new part

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