Things to do in Cairo

Cairo is an ancient city with a thousand-year history and a modern metropolis in which millions of people live. People come here to look at the mysterious Great Sphinx and the majestic pyramids, which are located very close to the city blocks.

However, the sights of Cairo are not only ancient Egyptian monuments, but also ancient mosques and Coptic temples, colorful markets, green parks and modern entertainment centers.

Giza pyramid complex

The Giza Plateau, on the southwestern border of Cairo, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The ancient necropolis consists of three large pyramids and several smaller archaeological sites.

Why visit:

There are three main pyramids that are considered mandatory:

  • The Pyramid of Cheops is one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World and the tallest building in the complex. The height of the monumental structure, erected about 4.5 thousand years ago, is slightly less than 139 meters. Tourists can see the inner chambers hidden under the vaults of millions of stone blocks.
  • The pyramid of Khafre is the second highest pyramid of the complex, just a couple of meters below its more famous neighbor. There is also a burial chamber inside, equipped for tourists to visit.
  • The Pyramid of Mikerin is a 62-meter-high structure, the smallest pyramid of the complex. In ancient times, it was faced with granite and limestone and was considered the most beautiful in Giza, but the decoration has not survived to this day.

Address: Pyramids of Giza, Al Haram, Egypt.

Great Sphinx

Next to the pyramids of Giza is another symbol of Egypt – the Great Sphinx. The origin of this monument is still controversial among historians. It is not known exactly who and when built it: it is possible that the statue of a mythical creature with a human head, the body of a lion and wings was erected by Pharaoh Cheops or Khafren.

Why visit:

The Sphinx statue is usually visited along with the pyramids – you can book an organized excursion or explore the complex on your own. The monolithic limestone figure is over 70 meters long and rises 20 meters above the desert. Tourists can take pictures against the backdrop of the mysterious giant; themed souvenirs are also sold nearby, and horse or camel walks in the desert are offered.

Address: Great Sphinx, Al Giza Desert, Egypt.

Egyptian Museum

For those who prefer to get acquainted with history in museum halls, the world-famous Egyptian Museum works in Cairo. It is housed in a large building on the central city square, Tahrir. The museum was founded in the middle of the 19th century at the initiative of the French archaeologist Auguste Mariet.

Why visit:

The museum’s collections include over 150 thousand artifacts, so it may take several days to fully get to know them. More than a hundred exhibition halls are open for visitors, in which exhibits related to different periods of ancient Egyptian history are collected.

Among them are the sarcophagi of the pharaohs, mummies, household items and much more. The museum is especially proud of the treasures found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, including a golden sarcophagus of the pharaoh weighing about 110 kg.

Address: Egyptian Museum, Ismailia, Qasr El Nil, Cairo, Egypt.

Khan el-Khalili market

You can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of medieval Cairo at the Khan el-Khalili market. In the 10th century, several caravanserais were built here – places for trading in imported goods. The market was rebuilt many times, but still retained its historical flavor.

Why visit:

There are many tourists among the market visitors, so here they sell goods that are in demand among foreigners. In shops and on open counters, you can buy souvenirs, Egyptian-style jewelry, national clothes, spices, antiques and much more. There are also coffee shops and restaurants serving local cuisine.

Address: Khan el-Khalili, El-Gamaleya, El Gamaliya, Egypt.

Muhammad Ali Mosque (Alabaster Mosque)

The Muhammad Ali Mosque was built in the middle of the 19th century and still remains one of the most interesting examples of Islamic architecture in Cairo. The monumental building is located on a hill and is the dominant feature of the area. Its walls are lined with alabaster slabs, therefore the mosque is also called Alabaster.

Why visit:

The mosque differs from typical Islamic religious buildings: its appearance clearly shows features of Christian Byzantine architecture and the local Egyptian style. The building is crowned with nine large domes, with graceful openwork minarets adjacent to them.

The mosque is active, but during breaks in religious services, it is also open to tourists. Inside there is a large prayer hall (accommodating up to 7 thousand people), decorated with a fountain, carvings and other decor.

Address: Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Al Abageyah, El-Khalifa, Cairo, Egypt.

Abdin Palace

The opulent palace in eastern Cairo was built specifically for the royal family in the 1860s. The project of the building in the European classical style was developed by the Frenchman Leo Rousseau, and craftsmen from different countries of the world took part in the decoration of the interior halls.

Why visit:

Today there are several museums in the palace – here you can see ancient weapons, jewelry, relics of the royal family and other exhibits. The decoration of the halls is of great interest to tourists: the original furniture and decor have been preserved in the palace. The interior is eclectic: there is, for example, the Egyptian-style Throne Room, which adjoins the rooms in the French classic style.

Address: Abdin Palace, El-Gomhoreya Square, Rahbet Abdin, Abdeen, Cairo, Egypt.

Monastery of St. Anthony

Almost 300 kilometers south of Cairo is one of the world’s oldest Christian centers – the monastery complex of St. Anthony. It was founded in the 3rd century. AD next to the burial place of Anthony the Great. In the XI century, the monastery was abandoned, but was soon rebuilt by Coptic Christians.

Why visit:

The monastery is active, but it can be visited by both religious pilgrims and tourists. The main building of the complex is the church, which has preserved frescoes from the 13th century. You can also visit the holy springs – it is believed that the water in them has medicinal properties.

Tourists and pilgrims can also explore the cave of St. Anthony, which is located near the monastery: an altar is installed in it and sometimes religious ceremonies are held.

Address: Monastery of Saint Anthony, Ras Gharib, Egypt.

Sakkara

About 20 km from Cairo is the Sakkara necropolis – a complex that includes several pyramids and other types of burials. For many centuries, representatives of the ancient Egyptian nobility were buried here. After the decline of Ancient Egypt, the necropolis was gradually covered with sand, but in the 19th century, large-scale archaeological excavations began here.

Why visit:

Today Saqqara is one of the most interesting historical sites in Egypt, although not as well-known as the complex at Giza. Here are:

  • Pyramid of Djoser: the oldest of the “large” pyramids, built in the 17th century BC. It has a stepped structure and a height of about 58 meters. Tourists are allowed inside: you can see the inner chambers accompanied by a guide.
  • Serapium: a religious complex dedicated to the bull-god Apis.
  • Ancient mastabas are burials in the form of truncated stone pyramids.  

Address: Pyramid of Djoser, Pyramid of Djoser, Al Giza Desert, Egypt.

Dashur

Another pyramid complex – Dashur – is located about 25 km south of Cairo. This is a relatively small necropolis (area of ​​about 4.5 km2), which was built up during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu (XXVI century BC) and later dynasties.

Why visit:

The complex includes more than a dozen pyramids, but many of them are in ruins. Two pyramids of Pharaoh Sneferu are well preserved: Broken and Pink. The first is distinguished by an unusual shape with a changed angle of the edges – probably this was done to maintain the stability of the structure.

The Pink Pyramid is also in good condition, so named because of the shade of the limestone blocks. It is considered the first strict pyramidal tomb in Egypt. The height of the tomb is about 104 meters.

Location: 10 km from the Sakkara necropolis.

Monastery of St. Paul

The Coptic Monastery of St. Paul is located 150 km from the southwestern part of Cairo, in the sands of the Arabian Desert. It was founded in the 5th century, but was later destroyed. In the 17th century, monks appeared in the monastery again, it remains in operation to this day.

Why visit:

Both pilgrimage and regular tourist tours are organized to the monastery. On site, you can book a guided tour who will tell you about the history of the monastery. The attention of tourists is attracted by the massive walls of the monastery, which have no entrance gates: to get inside, you need to use a special lift.

When visiting the complex, you should also pay attention to the monastery tower with a drawbridge and the chapel of the Archangel Michael, decorated with ancient wall paintings.

Address: St. Paul Monastery, Qism Ras Ghareb, Egypt.

Papyrus Museum

Papyrus is a type of reed that grows on the banks of the Nile, from which the ancient Egyptians made a convenient writing material. Papyrus has played an important role in Egyptian culture: you can learn about it when you visit a museum dedicated to this plant. The museum operates in Giza, next to the pyramids and the Great Sphinx.

Why visit:

The exposition of the museum is relatively small, but visitors can not only look at papyrus scrolls and other archaeological artifacts, but also take part in master classes. On them, tourists are shown the accelerated process of making papyrus. After the tour, you can go to the souvenir shop and buy something for memory.

Address: Pharaonic Papyrus Museum, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Egypt.

Al-Azhar Park

Al-Azhar Park.

One of the new city attractions is Al-Azhar Park, which appeared in 2005. This is a large green space of about 30 hectares, which combines elements of different traditions of landscape design.

Why visit:

Al-Azhar is a great place to walk. It includes areas planted with fruit trees, elements of an Arab terraced park, Persian gardens. There is also a lake, artificial hills with observation decks, fountains, many walking paths and flower beds. In addition, there is a section of the old city wall, several cafes, playgrounds, and picnic areas on the territory.

Address: Al-Azhar Park, Salah Salem Street, El-Darb El-Ahmar, Cairo, Egypt.

Fort Babylon

Babylon is a Persian fort on the banks of the Nile, founded in the 6th century BC. Later, Copts settled next to it, and Roman fortifications appeared in the vicinity of the Persian fortifications. Today Babylon is the historic quarter of Cairo.

Why visit:

Several attractions of interest to tourists have survived in the fort and its surroundings, including:

  • Roman defensive wall, built in the III century. BC.;
  • a bastion of the antique period (diameter – more than 30 meters);
  • Church of St. Mary;
  • Coptic Museum;
  • Church of St. George;
  • many residential buildings and other historic buildings.

Address: Fortress of Babylon, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Egypt.

Church of St. Mary

Mary’s Church is one of the attractions of the Coptic Quarter of Cairo, located in the vicinity of Fort Babylon. This Christian temple was built on a hill above one of the gates of the fort, therefore it is also called the “hanging” church.

Why visit:

The temple is well preserved: the architectural appearance of the building did not change after the reconstruction of the 7th-9th centuries. It is decorated in the style typical of Coptic religious buildings: the outer walls are light, without decor, and there are two bell towers crowned with crosses above the entrance. If you go inside, pay attention to the cedar iconostasis, which dates back to the XII-XIII centuries. More than a hundred icons from different historical periods have also been preserved in the church.

Address: St. Mary’s Church, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.

Citadel

In the XII century, Cairo was under the threat of attack by the crusaders. So that the city could resist the enemy, in 1176 the construction of a large military fortification – the Citadel – began. The large-scale project took many years and was completed only 62 years later. Later, the Citadel was completed and rebuilt several times.

Why visit:

Today you can see the well-preserved defensive walls and towers of the Citadel, built of light stone. The Alabaster Mosque is also located on the territory, there are several museums. Tourists often visit the observation deck, which offers good views of the city skyline of Cairo.

Address: Cairo Citadel, Salah Salem Street, Al Abageyah, El-Khalifa, Egypt.

Roda Island

Rhoda Island is separated from the main part of Cairo by a narrow strip of the Nile, which is easily crossed by bridges. People lived on it even during the period of the pharaohs, long before the modern capital of Egypt appeared. Today the island is home to the historic quarter of the city.

Why visit:

The main attraction of the island is the Royal Palace, which is adjacent to a large park. In addition, there is a nilometer – a structure that allows you to accurately measure the water level in the Nile and predict its spills.

The device was built in the 9th century and has been actively used by local residents for more than a thousand years. Access to it is still open today – although the nilometer is closed by a pavilion, most of the internal details have been preserved in their original form.

Address: Roda, Al Manyal Ash Sharqi, Old Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.

TV tower observation deck

In Cairo, there are not only the monuments of Ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages, but also modern engineering structures. The latter includes the TV tower, built in the 1950s. The building is 187 meters high and is one of the tallest in the city.

Why visit:

There is an observation deck at the top of the TV tower, which is the best place to look at Cairo from above. The city blocks and the Nile are visible from here. You can get to the site any day – it opens at 8 am and works until midnight. There is also a revolving restaurant at the top of the TV tower.

Address: Cairo TV Tower, Cairo Tower, Zamalek, Egypt.

National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations

In 2017, a new museum dedicated to the history of Egypt opened in Cairo. It is located in the Fustat quarter – the historical center of the city. UNESCO specialists took part in the creation of the museum.

Why visit:

The exposition of the museum is divided into several parts dedicated to different periods of Egyptian history. In addition, there are galleries dedicated to the local material and religious culture, the development of the Egyptian state and writing. The museum collections already number more than 50 thousand exhibits, and it is planned to expand them in the future.

Address: The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Ein as Seirah, Old Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.

Pharaonic village

On Yakhtub Island, next to the Giza pyramid complex, there is a theme park dedicated to Ancient Egypt. A settlement of the period of the pharaohs with a total area of ​​about 13 hectares has been recreated here.

Why visit:

A visit to the Village of the Pharaohs is a good option for those looking for something to see in Cairo with children. Visitors are offered a boat ride around the island, stopping to watch theatrical performances about the life of the ancient Egyptians.

Then, guests of the park can walk around the Village and see how actors in national costumes are engaged in agriculture, make dishes, and reproduce religious rituals. There are also several special playgrounds for children, cafes and souvenir shops.

Адрес: Pharaonic Village, Al Bahr Al Aazam, Saqiyet Mekki, Giza District,.

Ibn Tulun Mosque

The Ibn Tulun Mosque was built in the 9th century. It is located in the Fustat area, from which Cairo once began. According to historians, Ibn Tulun is the oldest mosque not only in Egypt, but throughout Africa.

Why visit:

Today Ibn Tulun is not only an important Islamic center, but also a historical monument. The mosque is decorated in the Samarra style, decorated with stucco and carved decorative details. Although the complex has been rebuilt several times over more than a thousand years of its existence, the original architectural elements are still preserved here, including the building of the mosque itself with a spiral minaret and a crenellated protective wall.

Address: Ibn Tulun Mosque, Tolon, El-Sayeda Zainab, Cairo, Egypt.

Manial Palace

The Grand Palace in the El Manial area on the island of Roda was built at the beginning of the 20th century. The building was intended for the Egyptian prince, but soon after construction it was transferred to the state and became a museum-reserve.

Why visit:

Tourists can view the palace building from the outside: this is a luxurious manor in the European Art Nouveau style with features of oriental architecture. Indoor rooms are also available for visiting: walking through them, you can see features of a variety of interior styles – from Art Nouveau to Moorish. Inside, there are also preserved samples of furniture, works of art, old manuscripts and other valuable things that have become museum exhibits.

Address: Manial Palace, Old Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.

Nile

The Nile, on the banks of which Cairo is located, has always played an important role in the life of the city. Today it is used, among other things, for tourist purposes: you can ride along the river and admire the city and its surroundings.

Why visit:

Tourists are offered boat trips on feluccas – these are sailing boats of a special design, which have been used by local residents for a long time. As a rule, they can accommodate about ten people; a walk can be arranged both during the daytime and at dawn or dusk. Cruise ships also go along the Nile – they offer standard excursion programs, as well as mini-cruises with additional activities.

Baron Empain’s castle

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Belgian Baron Edouard Empain was engaged in the construction of the new Cairo quarter of Heliopolis. He bought a large plot of land on which an unusual eclectic castle was built, reminiscent of the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat.

After the death of the baron, the mansion was abandoned and acquired a mystical fame: the dilapidated rooms were chosen by bats, and the locals said that strange sounds were heard from it. In 2008, reconstruction began in the castle, and in 2020 it opened as a tourist attraction.

Why visit:

There is an exhibition space for tourists in the castle, and outdoor events are held in the garden. Alternatively, you can simply stroll through the renovated rooms of the unusual building.

Address: Baron Empain Palace, El-Orouba, El-Montaza, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.

Museum of Islamic Art

The Museum of Islamic Art has been operating in Cairo since 1881: it displays exhibits relating to the Islamic period of urban history. In 1902, he moved to a new building specially built to house the exhibition.

Why visit:

Now the museum’s collections number about 100 thousand items, among which there are unique historical monuments. During the excursion, you can see a large collection of Korans, masterpieces of Arab art, details of architectural monuments. Exhibits for the museum were collected not only in different parts of Egypt, but also in other Muslim countries.

Address: Museum of Islamic Art, Port Said, St ، El-Darb El-Ahmar, Cairo, Egypt.

Guyer-Anderson Museum

In the historic center of Cairo, there is an old mansion that belonged to the British officer Guyer-Anderson in the middle of the 20th century. During his service in Egypt, the British military has collected a large collection of rare artifacts and other valuable things brought from different countries. Before leaving for his homeland, Guyer-Anderson handed over the entire collected collection to the local authorities, and a museum was opened in the mansion.

Why visit:

Take a guided tour of the museum to see rare Persian carpets, ancient Egyptian artifacts, Chinese porcelain, and more from around the world. The museum building itself is also noteworthy: it is a traditional Ottoman-style mansion, decorated with latticed windows.

Address: Gayer-Anderson Museum, As Sayedah ، El-Sayeda Zainab, Cairo, Egypt.

Sultan Hasan Mosque

Sultan Hassan was the Egyptian ruler in the 14th century. In 1356, on his order, the construction of a large mosque began: according to the plan, it should have had four large minarets, but in the end only three were completed. Work on the religious complex was completed after the death of the Sultan, in 1361.

Why visit:

The Sultan Hassan Mosque is one of the largest not only in Egypt, but also in the world. The highest minaret rises to 68 meters, the total length of the building is 150 meters. Outside, the building is finished with basalt, decorated with columns, bas-reliefs, medallions and decorative windows.

Elements of the Byzantine style are visible in the design. Tourists can also explore the interior of the mosque: the premises are decorated with carved stone, marble columns, mosaic canvases and paintings.

Address: Sultan Hassan Mosque, El-Darb El-Ahmar, El-Khalifa, Cairo, Egypt.

Abu Serga Church (Church of the Holy Family)

The Abu Serg Church was built in the 5th century. AD The place for her was not chosen by chance: it is believed that here Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus hid from the soldiers of King Herod who were pursuing them. The temple, which has survived for more than one and a half thousand years, is considered one of the most important Christian shrines in Cairo.

Why visit:

Although the church has been reconstructed several times, it has largely retained its original appearance. The building looks like a basilica, typical of early Christian churches, with symmetrical side chapels. Columns complement the architecture of the church.

Abu Serga is not only a tourist site, but also a place of pilgrimage. A cave has survived under the temple, in which, according to legend, the Holy Family was hiding. The relics of Christian saints – Sergius and Bacchus – are also kept here.

Address: St Sergius and St Bacchus Church, Mari Gerges, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.

Coptic Museum

Copts are a large ethnic group that directly dates back to the ancient Egyptians and have always played an important role in the Egyptian state. The Coptic population of the country, despite centuries of Islamization, still professes an ancient branch of Christianity. The history and culture of this unique ethnic group are dedicated to the exposition of the Coptic Museum.

Why visit:

The museum has been operating in Cairo since 1910. Today, its collections number more than 15 thousand storage units; three dozen halls are open for visitors. During the tour, you can see icons, fresco paintings and church utensils, as well as get to know the culture of the Copts: there are historical documents, books, tapestries and many other exhibits.

Address: Coptic Museum, Mari Gerges, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Egypt.

Church of St. Barbara

The old church of St. Barbara dates back to the 5th-6th centuries. It is located next to the Coptic Museum, in the territory of Fort Babylon. The building has survived several earthquakes and fires, was repaired and rebuilt many times, but it has survived in good condition to this day.

Why visit:

The church can be visited on a guided tour of the Coptic Quarter. Note the traditional architecture of the temple, similar in style to the Abu Serg church. The interior decoration is also of interest: although some values ​​were transferred to the Coptic Museum, ancient icons and decorative elements have been preserved here.

Address: Saint Barbara Church Complex, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Egypt.

St. George monastery and chapel

In the Coptic quarter of Cairo, for several centuries, two monasteries functioned – a male and a female. By the middle of the 20th century, the monasteries ceased to function, but the complex still retains an important religious significance.

Why visit:

Now in the monastery complex is the residence of the Patriarch of Alexandria, there is a museum. The monastery is open to pilgrims and tourists who can visit the building of the ancient chapel of St. George, built in the 6th-7th centuries.

The peculiarity of the church is its unusual round shape – it was inherited by the chapel from the ancient Roman bastion, the foundation of which was used for the construction. An ancient nilometer, a construction for measuring the level of the Nile, has been preserved in the church.

Address: St. George’s church, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Egypt.

Synagogue Ben Ezra

The Ben Ezra Synagogue has been used by the Jewish community in Cairo since the 9th century, when it opened in an even older Coptic temple building. At the end of the 19th century, during the reconstruction, a large repository of unique ancient manuscripts was found here.

Why visit:

Now the building of the synagogue functions as a museum. Visitors can view the interior, which retains the historical decoration. The sacred place of the religious complex is a deep well located in the building of the temple: it is believed that it was built on the place where the prophet Moses was rescued from the Nile.

Address: Synagogue Ben Ezra, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Egypt.

Solar Boat Museum

The solar boat is one of the latest finds, discovered in 1954 near the Cheops pyramid. A large boat (more than 40 m in length, more than 5.5 m in width), disassembled, was buried in an underground chamber near the tomb of the pharaoh. Archaeologists were able to restore and assemble the boat, after which it was placed under the dome and opened to the public.

Why visit:

Tourists can walk around the reconstructed boat: the main hall of the museum is surrounded by galleries, from which the main exhibit is seen from different angles. The exposition also includes illustrative materials about the complex process of reconstruction of an ancient boat.

Address: Solar Boat, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Egypt.

Ruins of memphis

Ruins of Memphis.

The ancient city of Memphis was located about 20 km from modern Cairo. For many centuries it served as the residence of the Egyptian pharaohs and the religious capital of the country, but in the first millennium AD. gradually began to lose value and fell into decay. Archaeological excavations are currently underway on the territory of Memphis.

Why visit:

Although there are no whole buildings left on the territory of the city, tourists can view artifacts and building details unearthed by archaeologists. Among them are a 10-meter statue of Ramses II, an 8-meter alabaster sphinx, as well as many architectural elements of temples and other buildings. The archaeological complex functions as an open-air museum.

Address: Ruins of Memphis, Mit Rahinah, El Badrashine, Egypt.

Muski Street (Al-Muiz)

Muski or Al-Muiz is an old Cairo street with many historical buildings preserved. Most of the day (from 8 am to 11 pm) it is pedestrianized, so it is good for walking.

Why visit:

Walking along Muska street, you can see:

  • the Al-Hakim and Al-Akmar mosques, the Kalawna complex and more than a dozen religious buildings;
  • several markets – with antiques, spices and other goods;
  • many mansions of different historical eras and architectural styles.

Address: Al Muski, El-Gamaleya, El Gamaliya, Egypt.

Wikala of Al-Ghuri

The Wikala in the historic Al-Guri complex is an old inn where traders who came to Cairo stayed in the Middle Ages. There was also a brisk trade in goods from all over the world.

Why visit:

Vikala Al-Guri is well preserved to this day; tourist excursions are often led here. Pay attention to the main architectural feature of the complex: windows decorated with carved bars. You can also take a walk in the courtyard with a fountain. Master classes of artisans and other events are regularly held on the territory of the complex.

Address: Wekalet El Ghoury, Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatmi, El-Darb El-Ahmar, Египет.