The Fatimid Caliphs (rulers) founded Islamic Cairo on the year 969 and converted the medieval district in a majestic area exclusive to royalties and their ties only. The district is not located far from, Fustat, which was at that time, the economic center and capital of all Egypt (750 to 868). As years went by, the district expanded an influential Islamic center, attracting Muslims and Muftis from all around the world, which resulted in the building of several Islamic monuments, buildings and mosques. Thus this part of the Egypt gained its title "Islamic Cairo" or "Medieval Cairo", and for the record, many Egyptians till today, refer to the district using those titles as well as "Fatimid Cairo".
Its amazing how the Islamic part of Cairo offers travelers a chance to observe the daily life of simple Egyptians while exploring the many monuments, antiquities and historical buildings everywhere in the area. Expect to meet one of the most amazing places of Cairo, where you will surely make some golden memories. The people there, are beyond hospitable and friendly, which makes it an even nicer experience. If you're ever planning a trip through Islamic Cairo, there are some attractions and places you must not miss.
Building of this massive mosque took place in the year 972. Its one of the most important historical structures dating back to the Fatmid period. Azhar mosque underwent several renovations throughout the years, which let to the building gaining the unique blend of architectural flavors. Bab el Musaiyini (the barbers gate) is the chief entrance, leading to a small courtyard after which comes the main courtyard that houses five minarets. Tourists are welcomed and allowed to explore the praying area. The prayer hall is decorated by beautiful pillars made of alabaster as well as gorgeous carpets. Entrance is for free.
For a long time, Midan Hussein has been one of the most essential squares in Islamic Cairo, partly gaining that importance from being located between Al Azhar Mosque and the Sayyidna Al Hussein Mosque, in addition to being quiet close to Khan el Khalili (bazaar). No matter what time of the day it is, you will always find Midan Hussein busy but usually its more occupied during the holidays and special occasions as well as religious celebrations.
Sayyidna al-Hussein Mosque
It is among the holiest and most sacred Islamic places in Egypt and the whole Middle East region. Only Muslims are allowed in there. The oldest portion of the mosque was constructed on year 1154, and its believed that the head of Ibn al- Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohamed, is buried in that place. It underwent several renovations leading it to today's beautiful appearance. It contains more than 40 marble columns that are white, providing support to the wooden ceiling. The mosque has two minarets, one of which dates back to the 1100s. This is one the most wonderful mosques you will ever visit in Egypt.
An authentic Arabian market, that's been around for hundreds of years, Khan Khalili was founded during the 1400s. Its one of the most popular tourist attractions in Egypt, for the products sold there vary from souvenirs to jewelry and handmade crafts as well as authentic Egyptian dresses and clothes. It also has several cafes and restaurants such as Nageeb Mahfouz where you can enjoy your drinks while listening to live Egyptian folkloric music. Walking through the alleys of Khan Khalili, line with simple shops on each side, you'll get the feeling a time machine drove you back to the Medieval era, instantly. It would be helpful if you gathered some info about the prices of things you want to buy before making your move at any shops there. That will give you a general idea, to say the least, and thus will help you negotiate properly in order to get the fittest price.
.Located on the northern side of Khan Khalili is Wekalet Al Bazara : historical hostel for traders and foreign traders. The merchants used the upper floor while the ground floor was dedicated to animals and storage space.
In the same area there are two gates : Bab Al Nasr "Triumph Gate" and Bab al Fotooh "Conquest Gate", the two of which were built 1087. They play an important role as major entrances to Cairo.
Al Hakim Mosque
• Construction of this mosque took place from 990 to 1012
• The second largest Fatimid mosque in Cairo
• The Arabs used it as a prison for captivated Crusaders
• Al Hakim, who's the sixth Fatimid ruler, was quiet a tyrant and dictator of the worst kind
• Till today, the fate of Al Hakeem remains unknown for one he woke, and rode his horse to El Mokattam hills without returning, which left a huge question mark.
El Moez Leh Deen Ellah Street
It is one of the major Cairene street, that lately became exclusive to walkers only, no cars. This street is completely full of historic sites, such as the Madrasa and Mausoleum of Sultan Nasser, Madrasa of Sultan Barquq, It was named after the Fatimid king of Egypt Moez Leh Deen Ellah "from 969 AD". On the southern parts of the street you can visit the Suleiman Aga El Selahdar Mosque (built 1839) and has the iconic minaret with the shape of a pencil.
Restored in 1997, Beit as Suhaymi is a great example of an Egyptian family house built in Cairo during the 19th century.
Resting beautifully is this mind blowing group of buildings. It was built by Sultan Qansuh al Ghuri who built the mosque and mausoleum. It’s a must visit site in Islamic Cairo. The body of Sultan Qansuh is not buried in the complex, for its completely lost prior to his death in battle against the Turks. Nowadays Al Ghouri plays a role as one of the greatest cultural centers in Egypt. The silk market, is the area located between the mausoleum and the mosque. It's very famous for sellin all kinds of amazing carpets. Another part of the complex is Wikalet Al Ghouri, which is another great example of a hostel for traders and merchants. Today it is a hub for crafts and arts.
The best days to visit Wikalet Al Ghouri Centre of Arts is on Wednesdays and Saturdays : 8,30 pm to get a chance to watch the Tannoura dancing show. Its completely for free.
It is the only remaining gate from the walls of Cairo, that date back to the Fatimid period of Egypt's rules "11th and 12th centuries". Considered among the top landmarks of Egypt, Bab Zuwayla is made up of two twin towers, on top of which you can get a fabulous view of old Cairo, upon climbing. The gate acted as a hub for dancing shows and snake taming artists during the 15th century. Also on top of the walls you will be able to see the minarets that belong to Mosque of al-Mu'ayyad. For years it was the location where thieves, dishonest traders and cons were executed in the presence of sultans.
Museum of Islamic Art
Located on the northern side of Midan Ahmed Maher. It houses one of the most stunning collections of Islamic art. The museum, which was built on 1869, is made up of many libraries, some in oriental languages and others in Western. It has more than 23 rooms, the most important of which is the 10th : has a model of an old Arab living room. The 13th room has models of pottery and a door from Sayyed Zeinab Mosque..
One of the most eye catching sites of Cairo. It's easy to spot from many places in the capital for the Citadel has a central position on a high point in the city. Saladin built the citadel in the 12th century, by implementing some of the most advanced construction techniques at the time. It was Egypt's center of command for hundreds of years. Bir Yousef and parts of the walls are the remaining parts of the original fortress. Bir Yousef is the well that provided the Citadel with water supply. Inside the Citadel there are three mosques which must be visited. The largest one of them is Mohammed Ali's Mosque, which is the part of the Citadel that actually dominates the skyline. Also the Mosque of Suleiman Pashaout is mounted by a number of intersecting domes. .
Mosque of Sultan Hassan
Known for being among the largest mosques in the globe. The area is 7906 square meters. The walls are 36m high with the tallest minaret is 68m. The entrance of the mosque is made up of a marvelous gate followed by a dark alley from which you will find yourself in a lighted up open area (courtyard). There is a fountain used for washing up positioned in the heart of the open area. In addition, there spaces named 'liwans' which are put in use as prayer rooms, each one having a madrasa behind it, used for Islamic studies or classes. Sultan Hassan, ruler of Egypt from 1347. built the mosque starting from 1361 AD till 1365. On the opposite side of Sultan Hassan Mosque is another historical mosque that was built as a tomb for Khedive Ismail, Al Rifai Mosque : built 1912.
Ibn Tulun Mosque
Located on Ibn Tulun street, this mosque was constructed between 876 and 879, under the rule of Ahmed Ibn Tulun. He was the Egypt's ruler for almost 15 years. It’s the oldest mosque in Egypt to have remained as close as possible to its original appearance. On a clear day, you can observe the pyramids of Giza from the highest point of the mosque.
It's on the opposite side of Ibn Tulun Mosque and you can easily make your way to it from there. Originally it was an old Ottoman house inhabited by a British army doctor, after which the museum was called. This doctor did a great job restoring and redecorating the place with different artworks and antiques, which he came across while on his many travels throughout the world.
City of the Dead
It is also known as The Northern Cemetery, found on Al Azhar Street. This area used to be exclusive to Sultans and Princes dedicated to the building of massive mausoleums, which weren't only burial places, but also fun spots for entertainment. With time the City of the Dead became a shelter for the homeless and poor till our date. It is both a residential and local tourist attraction where people enjoy picnics saluting and honoring the deceased. There is actually a post office and police station there, as well as facilities such as electricity, water and gas.
Mosque of Qaitbey and Other Monuments
The Mosque of Qaitbey represents an integral part of the southern gathering of sepulchers and is a standout amongst the lovliest. It was constucted in 1474 by Sultan Qaitbey, the last Mamluk king, with any genuine power in Egypt.
In 2005, almost Cairo became home of the first Egyptian park of significant size. People enjoy their time through the collection of gardens, beautiful grass and fountains while some choose to sit beside the lake or on the terraces of one of the restaurants, looking upon the superb views over Cairo.