Experience the Charm and History of Sleepless Cairo

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Have you ever dreamed of visiting Cairo, the sleepless city, to enjoy its charming weather, the warmth of its people, and hospitality, not to mention its unforgettable prehistoric and historic sights? Do you worry about fitting everything into a limited visit? Fear not, this article will make it all within your grasp.

Once everything is well-planned, you can clear your head and fully enjoy your stay. Here are some outstanding attractions and destinations that you can visit either as a whole package or by selecting some locations for a partial package.

If you’re planning a trip to Cairo and want to make the most out of your visit, we highly recommend checking out some of the Egypt vacation packages available. These packages can help you plan your itinerary and make sure you don’t miss out on any of Cairo’s incredible gems, from the Pyramids of Giza to the Khan el-Khalili market to the ancient mosques and churches of Coptic Cairo. With a well-planned vacation package, you can relax and enjoy your stay without worrying about the logistics.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

Located in the archeological site of Alfustat, the former capital of Old Cairo, and overlooking Ain-Sira Lake – the last natural lake in Egypt, you will find yourself surrounded by a great deal of human heritage and monuments ranging from prehistoric to the present day. The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) will be the first museum entirely devoted to Egyptian Civilization, designed by the Egyptian architect Algazzali Kossaiba, with its exhibition spaces being designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the NMEC will shine a light on the tangible and intangible heritage of Egyptian civilization through six thematic categories: Dawn of Civilization, The Nile, Writing, State and Society, Material Culture, and Beliefs and Thinking, along with the Gallery of Royal Mummies.

Cairo Citadel

Also known as the Saladin Citadel, this iconic medieval Islamic-era monument was originally constructed on a promontory of the AlMukattam hills overlooking the whole city of Cairo, serving as the residence of Egyptian rulers for 7 centuries. King Saladin ordered the start of its construction during his reign, but it was completed during his successor’s reign. The citadel played a strategic role throughout its history, and it was used as a military garrison by the British forces and then by the Egyptian army in the 21st century. In 1976, UNESCO proclaimed it a world heritage site, and it was opened to the public in 1983, making it one of the top tourist attractions in Cairo and is often in Egypt package tours

Muhammad Ali Mosque

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Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, the ancient king, Muhammad Ali, initiated the construction of this mosque on the summit of the Cairo Citadel to be his eternal home after his death. He constructed it to commemorate his deceased oldest son, Tuson Pasha, who passed away in 1816. Muhammad Ali, the founder of the Egyptian Renaissance, made significant economic and social changes during his reign. The mosque was designed by the Turkish architect Yusuf Bushbaq and followed the Turkish architecture style of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. With its two minarets, this remarkable landmark of Cairo is the most visible mosque in the city, and it is a testament to the enduring legacy of Muhammad Ali.

Khan El-Khalili Bazar

The Khan El Khalili Bazaar, established in the 12th century by the Fatimid Empire that covered North Africa and parts of the Hijaz, is situated in the heart of Islamic Cairo. Named after one of its historic caravanserais, the bazaar was established as a trade center and has since become Cairo’s main tourist attraction for both tourists and Egyptians alike. The district is home to several artisans and workshops involved in the production and manufacturing of a wide range of products, including spices, jewelry, costumes, wooden artifacts, and souvenirs. This crowded, open-air bazaar, with its colorful and exotic items and unique alleys, is a sight to behold and can easily distract you, so be careful not to lose track of time.

Al-Muizz Street

Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah Al Fatemi Street and Al-Muizz for short is an imperative streets in the walled city of Ancient Cairo, Egypt. Alongside the establishment of the city of Cairo by the Fatimid dynasty, Al-Muizz street construction was commissioned by Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah Caliph, (whom the name was derived from). Al-Muizz Street was considered the most important artery of the historic city since it constituted the main axis of the city’s economic zone where many markets (souqs) were situated.

The street’s particular and appealing location also attracted the construction of many monumental religious and charitable buildings by Egypt’s rulers and elites. It is notable to mention that Al-Muizz Street is the largest open-air museum for Islamic monuments in the world.

The Egyptian Museum

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Situated close to Cairo downtown and inaugurated in 1902 by the Egyptian Khedive Abbas Helmy 11, the Egyptian Museum was the oldest archeological museum in the middle east and houses an extensive collection that outnumbers 100 thousand artifacts that grade from the predynastic period to the Greco-Roman era.

The museum boasts unrivaled antiquities and pharaonic monuments such as the Narmer palette that commemorates the unification of two kingdoms, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.

In a previously unmatched international competition, the French architect Marcel Dourgnon won to design the Egyptian Museum also known as the Museum of Cairo. In the final quart of 2023 or the beginning of 2024, the museum is due to be superseded by the newer and larger Grand Egyptian Museum.

Sultan Hassan Mosque

Enormous yet elegant, the Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan is regarded as the finest piece of early Mamluk architecture in Cairo. As its name suggests, it served as both a mosque and a madrasa (the Arabic word for school). Like all other mosques, it was oriented toward Mecca, while the madrasa had four special iwans (halls) for studying Sunni Islam in the four schools of Hanafi, Malaki, Hanbali, and Shafi’i.

This remarkable monumental mosque was built in the 14th century by the Mamluk Sultan Hassan, who ruled Egypt from 1356 to 1361. It is still considered outstanding for its massive size and unique architectural structures.

There is a mysterious story about Sultan Hassan’s commissioning of the mosque-madrasa. He ascended to the throne at the age of 13 and was restricted to a limited amount of money, 100 dirhams per day, while another emir received 200,000 dirhams. This deprivation had an extravagant impact on Sultan Hassan’s tendency to spend money, which later led to his imprisonment and assassination. Despite this, he spared no expense in the construction of this unique attraction, which was said to have had the most expensive cost of any building in medieval Cairo.

Today, visitors can marvel at the intricate decorations and architectural details of the mosque-madrasa, including the impressive central courtyard with its soaring arches and ornate mihrab (prayer niche).

Al-Refai Mosque

Al-Refa’i Mosque is regarded as a remarkable architectural masterpiece in the historic city of Cairo. Visitors are dazzled by its joyful, colorful, and luxurious walls and massive gate columns.

Located in Saladin Square, Cairo Citadel’s square, Al-Refa’i Mosque was built in the 19th century to complement its 14th-century neighbor, Hassan Mosque-Madrasa, and it is named after Imam Ahmed El-Refa’i, who founded Refa’i Tariqa (Sunni Path). Although he was never buried in this mosque, joyous celebrations of him take place in it every year.

Initially built on the Fatimid pattern, Al-Refa’i Mosque was modified by Ottoman Queen Koshier Hanim, and the architect Hussain Pasha Fahmy was in charge of it. The Italian marble and other materials used for the renovation of the mosque were imported from Europe. The usage of cement in the construction of the mosque, for the first time for any Islamic monument in Egypt, signaled the transition into modern times.

Many members of the royal family were buried in this mosque, including Khedive Ismail and his mother, Fouad I and Farouk, the last two rulers of Mohammad Ali Pasha’s descendants, who ruled Egypt for nine centuries, as well as Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

Ibn Tulun Mosque

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Was Commissioned by Ahmad Ibn Tulun, during the Abbasid dynasty in the 10th century. Ibn Tulun Mosque is located in Cairo on a small hill called Jebal Yashkur, and it is one of the oldest mosques in Egypt and Africa that survived in its original form. In terms of land size, Ibn Tulun is the largest mosque in Egypt, it has broad spaces and consequently, it has both light and shadow.

The mosque is a popular tourist attraction since it features the style of ancient Egyptian architecture.

The mosque was designed by the prominent architecture designer Saiid Ben Kateb Alferghany who also designed the Nilometer (a tool to measure the River Nile’s clarity and water level during the annual seasonal flood), and the construction continued for 3 years.

Following the Abbasid design, the mosque was built with a resemblance to Sammaran architecture like the spiral minaret and the arches with geometric shapes. Worthwhile to mention here that Ibn Tulun Mosque was meant to serve several purposes such as being the congregational administrative capital of Ibn Tulun, It was also a shelter for pilgrims from North Africa to Alhijaz.

Ibn Tulun Mosque is distinguished by boasting 6 Mihrabs (niches), five of which are flat as opposed to the main niche, it indicates the direction of Kibla, and the profession of the Islamic faith is inscribed in Kufa Calligraphy.

Al-Azhar Mosque

It is commonly known as Gamae’ and Gameae’a in Arabic which means a holistic Mosque and university, Al-Azhar is regarded as the second oldest Islamic university in the world after Al-Qiraouane University in Morocco and universally, it comes second after Oxford. It was initially built in the 10th century by the Fatimid Commander Jawhar As-Siquilli to serve the newly established capital city. It was the first mosque established in Cairo, the city that has ever since gained the nickname of the city of a thousand minarets.

Al-Azhar is thought to be named after Az-Zahraa, the daughter of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam. On its establishment, it was dedicated to the Shi’ite school, it became a Sunni university under the consecutive different dynasties that ruled Egypt.

The mosque itself has been renovated and expanded numerous times over a thousand years of alternative governments and regimes. The remarkable architecture of its 5 minarets witnesses the cultural and Islamic influential values of Al-Azhar, It has introduced, and still is, an uncountable number of pioneers and leaders in different domains.

Ben Ezra synagogue

Amidst all the monumental attractions in Cairo, Ben Ezra synagogue points out to be the living proof of the cultural and religious diversity Egypt used to, and still, has.

Ben Ezra synagogue is situated in Alfustat, old Cairo. According to national myths, it was erected where baby Moses was found.

This synagogue is where a storeroom was found in the 19 century and is said to contain a treasure of forgotten and hid- away Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic sacred manuscripts and documents which were known under the name of Cairo Geniza. The collection was brought to the University of Cambridge and is being displayed in several academic libraries.

Ben Ezra synagogue is ancient and it is claimed that its construction was prior to the pre-Islamic era, It is constituted of 3 buildings, the newest dating to the year 1890. The synagogue witnessed many minor and major renewals and changes in its history.

Little is known about the origin building, but there are many changes the synagogue underwent, it was destructed in 1012 by Fatimid caliph Bi-Amr Allah, then reconstructed by his successor. During the Crusades Campaigns, in a deliberate setup fire, it was burned with the whole city of Alfustat, to be rebuilt as a whole by Sultan Saladin. Like almost all Cairo mosques, this synagogue is a popular tourist attraction. After thorough restorations, it is now open to the public.

The Hanging Church

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The hanging church is also known for its beautiful wooden screen that separates the nave from the sanctuary. The screen is intricately carved and features images of saints and biblical scenes. The church also has a number of unique features, such as its 7th-century marble pulpit that is supported by 13 columns, representing Jesus and his 12 disciples.

The hanging church has undergone several renovations and restorations over the centuries, with the most recent one taking place in the 20th century. Despite these changes, the church has retained much of its original character and remains a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.

In addition to its religious significance, the hanging church has played an important role in Egyptian history. It was the site of the coronation of several Coptic patriarchs and was also used as a meeting place for Christian leaders during times of persecution. Today, it serves as a symbol of the enduring faith and resilience of the Coptic community in Egypt.

The Abu Serga church

Also known as Saint Sergius and Bacchus Church, it was built to commemorate the soldier-saints Sergius and Bacchus martyred in Syria by the Roman empire Maximian.

Situated in Old Cairo, it is regarded as one of the oldest churches in Egypt. It is said to be built in the 5th century though some historians believe it was probably built in the 8th century. Traditionally,  It is said that it was built in the spot where the sacred family’s journey to Egypt ended.

Its significant historical importance is derived from being the election center for many Patriarchs, and the first to be elected here was Patriarch Isaac during the 7th century.

It was being constructed in the 4th century and works finished in the 5th century. The most interesting feature was the crypt where Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the infant rested. It is 10 meters deep, and when Nile’s water levels rose, the crypt was flooded.

Whether you are interested in ancient history or modern culture, Cairo is a city that has something for everyone. So travel and discover the magic of this sleepless city for yourself.

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