Located along the banks of the Nile River, Cairo is one of the world’s most captivating cities. It’s a place of contrasts where centuries of history collide with the present day.
There are plenty of Cairo points of interest to explore – but you’ll want to take a guided tour to see it all properly. It’s an excellent way to learn about this fascinating city, while saving yourself time in transit (and avoiding the hassle of getting lost in the winding streets).
The Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are built on the Giza Plateau in Egypt, and each one holds the tomb of a pharaoh. The largest of the three is a masterpiece, known as the Great Pyramid of Khufu (also referred to as Cheops).
It is made up of 2.3 million stone blocks, weighing between 2.5 and 15 tons each. The pyramid’s core is of yellowish limestone, while the interior burial chamber is a mix of granite.
A new theory suggests that the Great Pyramid is aligned with precision to cardinal points in the sky. This is a mind-boggling connection, and it has archeologists puzzled.
The Pyramids of Giza are one of the oldest structures in the world, and they are a must-see while visiting Cairo. You can visit them in a group tour, or on a private excursion with an expert guide.
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar
The bazaar of Khan el-Khalili is a fascinating place to shop, haggle and people-watch. It is a cross between New York City, the circus and 1001 Arabian Nights, where Egyptian locals buy this-and-that, herd their kids through crowds, and negotiate prices in booming voices.
This market dates back to the 14th century and was established by a powerful Mamluk ruler. Today it is one of the largest markets in Cairo.
Originally a caravanserai, the market has developed over the centuries and now features a variety of shops selling items from perfume to traditional Egyptian textiles. It also has an area dedicated to the sale of gold.
The Bazaar is a crowded place and can be overwhelming, especially during the peak tourist season. To make the most of your visit, it’s best to plan ahead. You can take a guide who will show you around and get you to the right district for your needs.
The Citadel of Saladin
The Citadel of Saladin is the centerpiece of the historic city of Cairo. It is a fortress built on Mokattam hill near downtown Cairo and was among the most impressive and ambitious military fortification projects of its time.
The first ruler of Egypt during the Ayyubid dynasty, Sultan Saladin, recognized the importance of a massive fortress to protect his capital from the Crusaders, and also as a retreat if enemies overran Cairo. Using inspiration from the Syrian and Lebanese citadels, he started construction on this site.
He ordered his Vizier Bahaa El-Din Karakosh to demolish the buildings and tombs that were occupying this site, starting construction of the fortress in 1176. The citadel was completed during the reign of his brother, Sultan Al-Malek El-Kamel.
During the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, the citadel expanded and was reinforced. The citadel is connected to the rest of Cairo by a network of aqueducts that provided water for the palaces, mosques and other structures located inside.
Coptic Cairo is a neighborhood that’s been cultivated by a vibrant Christian community for centuries. The area is known for its numerous churches, monasteries and convents.
A visit to Coptic Cairo is a humbling experience. Here, people still live, work and worship in the same place as they have for centuries.
This ancient neighbourhood is a complex of cobblestone roads connecting dozens of churches, active monasteries and convents. It’s a peaceful, secluded oasis amidst the 22-million strong bustle of Cairo outside its walls.
The Hanging Church is one of the oldest and most famous of the area’s churches. It was built in the 7th century.
Inside, the church is awash in 110 icons plastered throughout. It was the site of several reported visions of the Virgin Mary. It’s said that she appeared to Pope Abraham and asked him to show his faith by moving Mokattam Mountain. He did so by seeking out Simon the Tanner who gave him the power to do so.