The Giza Pyramids attractions are to be at the top of your Cairo travel plans. Here you will learn about what these attractions have to offer and how to visit them on a self-guided tour.
 
The Pyramids themselves are a constant and popular attraction for the world at large. They stand for ancient Egyptian civilization's best and most archetypal work. Together with the Sphinx, they simply embody ancient Egypt.
 
The Giza Plateau will eventually host the Grand Museum of Egypt, next to the Giza Pyramids. Irish architects created the design with Shih-Fu Peng in the lead. It will largely replace the Egyptian Museum and should be complete in 2014, hopefully.
 
Giza Pyramids
 
Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops)
 
The Great Giza Pyramid of Khufu is the last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was originally 146 m (479 ft) high but now stands a still impressive 137 m (449 ft). Over 2 million blocks of stone were used to construct it, and all with manual labor.
 
Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)
 
The Giza Pyramid of Khafre is a little smaller than the Great Pyramid but appears slightly larger than it from a few angles because of a better position on the plateau.
 
Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus)
 
The Giza Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the Giza Pyramids and stands just 62 m (203 ft) high (originally 66.5 m).
 
Inside the Pyramids
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you venture into the interior of the pyramids, be warned that they're hot, humid and may be claustrophobic. If you can stand it, however, entrance into them is very interesting and educational. Personal viewing of the interior walls and passageways can give you an even deeper appreciation of the tremendous achievements these pyramid builders attained when they built these impressive structures.
 
It should be noted that although not all of that Pyramids can be equally accessed so that interested parties can explore them inside, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities will be closing even the accessible ones one at a time so that they can do conservation and renovation work.
 
Giza Plateau
 
Great Sphinx
 
The Sphinx, a colossal, recumbent human-headed lion, was the Egyptians' representation of the sun god Re-Horakhty - "Horus of the horizon". Egyptians call it Abu el-Hol, the "Father of Terror." In addition, the Greek name "Sphinx," when translated, means "Strangler". 
 
45 meters long and 22 meters wide, it is carved from a giant block of sandstone and is much smaller than the Pyramids surrounding it. It's also missing the nose, purportedly the victim of target practice by bored soldiers. Some say these soldiers were British soldiers in World War I or that they were Napoleon's troops in 1798, but 18th-century drawings show the nose is already missing, which thus points the finger at the occupying troops.
 
Complete your visit by going to the various Queens' Pyramids and Nobles' Tombs, which are located in regimented cemeteries surrounding the royal Pyramids.
 
 
Solar Boat Museum
 
The Solar Boat Museum is just alongside the southern face of the Great Pyramid. This museum is well done and showcases an excavated reconstructed "solar boat," which was buried with the pharaoh for use on his daily journey with the sun across the sky. Entry fee is LE 40
 
 
The Pyramids Sound and Light Show
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The "voice of the Sphinx" tells visitors of the history of the Giza Plateau and its place in Egyptian history as a laser display simultaneously picks up the details of the Pyramids and projects historical scenes on the side of the Great Pyramid itself.
 
 
 
 
The Khan El Khalili Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in Egypt, begun in the late 1300s. This bazaar still operates and allows you to experience an exciting world where treasures can still be found.
 
Open Air Markets in Islamic Cairo
 
Islamic Cairo is famous for its open air markets where vendors hawk their wares to anyone and everyone who passes by. Haggling is the order of the day and, once one gets used to it, it can be quite fun! One of the most famous of these markets is the Khan El Khalili Bazaar. It's not just a tourist attraction, the many wares are of high enough quality to lure locals as well as those just visiting the nation.
 
History
 
This market has deep historical roots. It was started in the late 1300's and founded by Emir Djaharks el-Kalili under Burji Mamlik Sultan Barquq. 
 
The Emir built what is called a caravanserai, a place where travelers stopped to rest for a while on their long journeys. These waypoints are unique to the Middle East and allowed for enough room so that animals could be allowed to take in the shade, as well.The original caravanserai still stands today in the market.
 
Souvenirs
 
The market is famous for clothing, spices, traditional jewelry and perfumes. The items are of high quality which is part of the reason that this market has survived for so long. 
 
The bazaar is far from a tourist trap, though there are plenty of souvenirs available. Many of the high quality cloths and other items made by local artisans provide the best souvenirs, however, as they are a part of Egypt's people and culture.
 
The Coffee
 
This Egyptian bazaar is a great place to while away an entire day. The sights and sounds are enduring examples of the Egyptian culture that have been going on for hundreds of years. 
 
For a break from the heat, there are plenty of coffee shops along the street. Egyptians like their coffee strong, so be prepared for quite a jolt from their favored drink, but also prepare for some of the most exotic tasting coffee you'll ever have.
 
The Souk
 
Open air markets such as Khan El Khalili Bazaar and the other markets in Old Cairo are called a "souk" in Arabic. The tradition of buying and selling, haggling and bargaining among the crowds is more than a consumer activity in Egypt. It's a great way to socialize and meet new people. 
 
You'll find many tourists visiting the bazaar area and, given the fact that it's one of Cairo's major draws, you'll likely find more than a few from your own country as well.
 
 
 
 
 
The Ibn Tulun Mosque was completed in 879 AD on Mount Yashkur in a settlement named al-Qata'i by the founder of Egypt's Tulunid Dynasty (868-905 AD), Ahmad ibn Tulun. Al-Qata'i was about two kilometers from the old community of Fustat. He was born in Baghdad, the son of a Turkish slave of Mongol origin owned by the Caliph, al-Ma'mun. He would later rise to became governor of Egypt after his stepfather, who died in 870, was awarded that position.
 
The mosque that he had built over a period of three years of mudbrick became the focal point of the Tulunid capital that lasted only 26 years. It was the third congregational mosque to be built in what is now greater Cairo, and at approximately 26,318 square meters in size, is the third largest mosque in the world. It is the oldest mosque in Egypt that has survived in a fairly original form. An ancient calligraphy in 9th century Kufic script provides: "The Amir... has ordered the construction of this blessed and happy mosque, using the revenues from a pure and legitimate source that God has granted him...".
 
When the city center moved to what would become Cairo proper, away from al-Qata'a, the mosque fell into disuse. It was damaged when used as a shelter for pilgrims from North Africa to the Hijaz in the 12th c., but restored and refounded with madrasa-type functions by 'Alam al-Din Sanjar al-Dawadar at the behest of Mamluk Sultan Lajin in 1296. (Lajin had been one of the accomplices in the assassination of Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil ibn Qalawun, and while hiding in the deserted mosque, he vowed to restore it should he escape). It was also restored in later periods, and is in fact being restored again today. This mosque is one of Egypt's oldest, as well as a popular tourist attraction. The Ibn Tulun mosque reflects all the characteristic features of Abbasid art within the realm of architecture, and was obviously influenced, particularly with regards to the minaret, the great rectangular piers with engaged corner columns, the decorative motif and other features by the famous Samarra mosque in present day Iraq
 
The mosque is surrounded by an enclosure that measures 118 x 138 meters (387 x 453 feet). Surrounding the mosque on three sides (all but the qibla side) are narrow enclosed wings called ziyadas, and the mosque's famous minaret with its external spiral ramp is located within the northern ziyada. These small outer courtyards were an extension to insure privacy and separate the sanctified space from the public space of the outside world. They measure about 19 meters in width, and bring the mosque as a whole almost to an exact square shape. Both the enclosure walls and the walls of the ziyada are surmounted by a unique crenellation, a fortified parapet with alternate solid parts and openings, that is probably also of Samarra influence. However, the walls lack the heavy external buttresses and so were probably built strictly as a decorative motif. Rather, the single row of large windows with circular openings on the upper registers of the walls, the frieze of simple square frames and the decorative crenellation seem almost delicate. 
 
Top of the Ibn Tulun walls
 
This minaret, with its only remaining original element being the square base, communicates with the mosque by way of a passage. Its second story is cylindrical which is in tern surmounted by later Mumluk restorations in stone. The original minaret was built of brick. This is Cairo's only minaret with a spiraling external staircase and the overall structure is unique in Egypt 
 
The minaret of the Mosque is a famous Cairo landmark, though completely unique in its design.
 
Five traditional transverse aisles on the qibla side of the courtyard, which are separated by the heavy piers of the arcades. There are 13 arches on each side of the courtyard. Though the columns are of brick, decorative capitals and bases were modeled from wet plaster. The arches themselves are mostly not completely round, but rather pointed at their peak, and high up in the spandrels of the arches are small windows which both allow for circulation within the mosque, and help light the arcades. The fountain (sahn), which was a later addition built by Sultan Ladjin, is surrounded by double arcades on three sides. However, Ibn Duqmaq described the original structure, which apparently was very similar to that at Samarra but was destroyed by fire in 986, as: "the fawwara which was in the middle of the sahn had windows on all sides, and over it was a gilt dome on ten marble columns, and round it were sixteen marble columns with a marble pavement.
 
And under the dome was a great basin of marble, 4 cubits in diameter with a jet of water in the centre...and on the roof was a sun-dial. The roof had a railing round it of teakwood (saj)." Al-Mustawfi says it was known as "Pharaoh's Cup" (Kas-i-Fir'awn), and that its basin was formed from one block of stone 23 cubits in circumference, standing to a height of 7 cubits, and half a cubit in thickness. The prayer hall had a flat wooden roof and within, the mihrab bay, apparently restored during the Mamluk period, was accented by a wooden dome. On either side of the mihrab were two columns with perforated capitals. The inner column on each side is in the form of a basket, while the outer capital is decorated with vine leaves and branches of grapes detached from the background. The mihrab on a pier overlooking the courtyard is attributed to the Fatimid vizier, Al-Afdal (circa 1007 AD).
 
The mihrab and minbar
 
Behind the qibla wall, which interestingly has a somewhat different orientation then other Cairo mosques, was the Dar al-Imara consisting of three rooms connected to the mosque by doors on either side of the mihrab. This area was used into the Fatimid period for administration purposes, and may have housed a library, but it also gave access to the maqsura, a private area used by the Caliph, his close associates and his family during Friday prayers. The mosque's original decorations, presenting in both stucco and wood the most valuable and best preserved examples of the Samarra style, are of considerable importance from the standpoint of Islamic art/history. The stucco decorations are found both inside and outside the mosque, and the soffits of the arches were decorated with bands of stucco ornamentation, although they have been extensively restored. However, a number of them have survived in their original state, revealing a geometric band with floral filling. The inner arcades present a frieze of floral decoration that runs around the arches, and above the arches Kufic inscriptions of the Qur'an are said to run some two kilometers ( 6,600 feet).
 
Interestingly, folktales maintain that this frieze was believed to have been carved onto the planks from Noah's Ark. The 128 window grilles of the mosque's external walls also feature intricate geometric patterns of stucco, with each pattern varying from the others. As a final note, recent restoration work on the Ibn Tulun mosque is probably some of the most analyzed and debated. Some object to any restoration of this 1,100 year old monument, while others believe that the work is being rushed, and not properly supervised. Some of this criticism has apparently led to some refinements in the process, so we will simply have to wait and see how the final effort evolves.
 
 
 

 

Cairo today is a modern city with virtually nothing to see of pharaonic remains. It was founded in the 10th century on the site of a Roman fortress town called Babylon but represents a varied culture and history since that time. The area known as ‘Old Cairo’ is a relatively tiny portion of the vast city, but is the oldest part of Cairo and has some interesting churches and museums as well as the remains of Babylon.

Babylon

The fortress of Babylon (pronounced in Egyptian, ‘Babalog’) was built as part of the Roman defences for the city of Memphis, on the edge of the ancient city of ‘On’ (Heliopolis). The site would have been on the east bank of the river at that time, but the Nile has since shifted westwards leaving the area of Old Cairo further to the east of the river. The original fortress town was founded around 30 BC – the year in which the Emperor Augustus entered Alexandria. The Romans brought Christianity to Egypt in the 1st century AD and the town of Babylon became known as a centre of the new religion, a safer place for Christians during the times of conflict than Alexandria to the north. It was built on the outskirts of an even older town, Heliopolis, which had been an important religious centre throughout Egyptian pharaonic history and was known as ‘On’ in biblical times. A new fortress was built in the 2nd century by the Emperor Trajan and these are the remains which can be seen today. Of Trajan’s waterside battlements, only the southern part of the towered entrance remains and below this, excavations have revealed parts of a quay below the modern street level.

 

The origin of the name ‘Babylon-in-Egypt’ is obscure, but it is suggested to come from ‘Per-hapy-en-Yenu’ (Nile house of ‘On’), which is derived from both the nearby Nilometer on the Island of Roda and the city of ‘On’ – Babylon may have been the name given to the town by the Romans. Old Cairo is known as Misr el-Qadima and visitors to the area can see the remaining restored towers of Trajan’s Babylon fortifications opposite the metro station at Mar Girgis (St George) and flanking the entrance to the Coptic Museum.

The word ‘Coptic’ derives from the ancient Egyptian language and was the word used to describe the early Christian religion in Egypt. This became the transitional period between pharaonic times and the Islamic era, but the Orthodox Coptic Church was very important for many centuries and remains the second religion in Egypt today. Numerous churches and monasteries were built in the Old Cairo quarter, which is still considered a sacred area by both Copts and Jews, because legend states that the Holy Family rested here in a cave when they came to Egypt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many Coptic churches to be seen in Old Cairo, most notably the ‘Hanging Church’ (el-Moallaqa). This is the nickname for the Metropolitan Church of St Mary the Virgin, which was built at the site of Babylon in the 4th century AD, right on top of the postern gate of the Roman fortifications with its nave suspended over the passage of the gatehouse. It is said to be one of the first churches in the world to host Coptic rituals, though the oldest parts of the church extant today date to the 11th century. It has seen many modifications, most recently in the 19th century when a fourth aisle was added to the original structure. The three original sanctuaries were dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St John the Baptist and St George. The Hanging Church is actually entered through a courtyard in the Coptic Museum which is surrounded by many buildings and churches of the old quarter. National restoration project funding has been allocated to the Hanging Church and Babylon Fortress in order to preserve the monumental identity of the Old Cairo area. Nearby churches of Old Cairo include Saints Sergius and Bacchus (the oldest church in Cairo),

 

the Monastery and Church of St George and the Convent of St George and the Church of St Barbara. Many of the old churches can be visited with permission.

 

Also there you can visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue is said to be the oldest surviving synagogue in all of Egypt, it originally being built in the 9th century. According to local tradition, it is located on the site of where baby Moses was found.

 

 
 
 
 
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo provides you with the opportunity to see Egypt ancient history up close and personal. This museum is a must on your Cairo travel itinerary.
 
The Egyptian Museum
 
Cairo has a number of wonderful things to offer to visitors. It is located on the beautiful Nile, and it is close to some of the most famous sites in all of Egypt – the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the Sphinx. Everyone who comes to the beautiful city will find a number of wonderful things that will keep him or her busy.
 
The Egyptian government established the museum, located in Cairo, in 1835. They began the museum as an effort to stop all of the plundering and looting that was going on at all of the different archaeological sites in the area. The museum would protect the priceless artifacts that trace Egypt's past.
 
The Egyptian Museum has a number of wonderful items in their collection. When you visit Cairo, you must stop by the museum and take a look at everything it has to offer.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Funerary Works
 
 
 
 
 
The Egyptians have a very unique belief in the afterlife, and this collection contains many traces of that. One can see sarcophagi, funeral art, and many other items and artifacts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jewelry
 
 
Egyptian jewelry is beautiful and unique, and the museum has the most incredible collections in the world. You can see jewelry of both silver and gold, some even inset with precious stones. The workmanship is highly detailed and beautiful.
 
 
 
Sculpture
 
Egyptian sculpture was used for religious depictions and was often located in temples and tombs. The museum houses a number of different sculptures from throughout the history of the culture of Egypt. The attention to detail in the sculptures is incredible.
 
Some of the most impressive pieces in the collection are a sculpture of the goddess Selket from the Canopic Shrine and the bust of King Merenptah. You can find a wide variety of sculptures.
 
King Tutankhamun
 
Probably the most famous artifacts in the entire museum belong to the King Tut collection. A boy king, he ruled for only nine years, but his power and legend are still felt today. He had in incredible collection of treasure and much of that is located at the museum.
 
Some of the most impressive pieces in this collection are shields, bracelets, jewelry and more. The collection is vast, and has a great variety of items.
 
Anyone who comes to Cairo should make certain to visit the Egyptian Museum. It makes a great place to visit along with the pyramids and the other historical sites.
 
 
 
 
This is the first and oldest mosque ever built on the land of Egypt. Erected in 642 AD (21 AH) by Amr Ibn al'As, the commander of the Muslim army that conquered Egypt, the mosque is also known as Taj al-Jawamie (Crown of Mosques, al-Jamie'al-Ateeq (the Ancient Mosque) and Masjid Ahl ar-Rayah (Mosque of Banner Holders).
The mosque is said to have been built on the site of Amr Ibn el-As's tent at Fustat, is the oldest existing mosque, not just in Cairo, but the entire African Continent. Located north of the Roman Fortress of Babylon, it is actually on the edge of Fustat, the temporary city founded by Amr, and was an Islamic learning center long before El-Azhar Mosque. It could hold up to 5,000 students.
The mosque was originally built on an area of 1,500 square cubits, overlooking the Nile. The initial structure was quite simple; with walls bare of any plaster or decorations, but without niche (miharb), minaret or ground cover. It had two doors on the north and two others facing Amr's house.
The mosque area remained unchanged until 672 AD (53 AH), when Musallama al-Ansari, Egypt's ruler on behalf of Caliph Mu'awiya Ibn abi-Sufian undertook expansion and renovation works for the mosque. Walls and ceilings were decorated and four compartments for "muezzins" (callers for prayers) were added at the corners, together with a minaret, while the mosque ground was covered with straw mats.
 
In 698 AD (79 AH), the mosque was demolished and expanded by Abdul-Aziz Ibn Marwan, Egypt's ruler. Once again in 711 AD (93 AH), the mosque was demolished by Prince Qurrah Ibn Shuraik al-Absi, Egypt's ruler. Upon the orders of Caliph al-Waleed Ibn Abdul-Malek, the mosque area was enlarged, a niche, a wooden pulpit (minbar) and a compartment and copings of four cloumns facing the niche were gold-coated. The mosque had then four doors to the east, four to the west and three to the north. 
 
Under the Abbasid state, successive additions and repairs were introduced. In 827 AD (212 AH), Abdullah Ibn Taher, Egypt's ruler on behalf of Caliph al-Ma'moun ordered an equivalent area to the north to be added to the mosque, thus bringing its total area to its present level of 13,556,25 square metres. (112.3m x 120.5m). However, the Fatimid period was the gold era for the mosque, where gilted mosaics, marble works, a wooden compartment and a moving pulpit were introduced and part of the niche was silver-coated.
 
 
The last structural amendments in Amr Mosque were made during the rule of Murad Bey under the ottoman era, in 1797 AD (1212 AD). Because of the collapse of some columns, the interior of the mosque was demolished and rebuilt. As a result, eastern arcades were repositioned so as to be perpendicular to the mihrab wall. Accordingly, arches were extended across windows. Two minarets were built and are still extant.
 
Amr Mosque was not merely a place of worship but also served as a court for settling religious and civil disputes. Moreover, teaching circles were organized either for general religious preaching or teaching lessons in Quranic sciences, jurisprudence and Prophet Muhammad's Tradition (Hadith) as well as letters.
The mosque incorporates elements of Greek and Roman buildings, and has 150 white marble columns and three minarets. Simple in design, its present plan consists of an open sahn (court) surrounded by four riwaqs, the largest being the Qiblah riwaq. There are a number of wooden plaques bearing Byzantine carvings of leaves, and a partially enclosed column is believed to have been miraculously transported from Mecca on the orders of Mohammed himself. There are many other ancient legions related to the Mosque. 
 
 

 
 
King Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara is one of the oldest pyramids in all of Egypt, built under the supervision of the famed royal architect, Imhotep and dates as far back as the 27th century BC.
 
What is a Step pyramid?
 
Egypt is not the only ancient culture to have built pyramids but they are certainly one of the first we think of when we think of the image of a large, multi-step pyramid. In fact, the earliest types of Egyptian pyramids were step pyramids, not the “true” smooth-sided pyramids that gained Egypt the most fame later on. 
 
Dating from the 27th Century B.C
 
The Djosers Step-Pyramid was the first pyramid built under supervision of the architect Imhotep during the Third Dynasty. Construction of the step pyramid required that six mastabas (a then common type of tomb) be placed atop each other. 
 
The Djosers Step-Pyramid is located in Saqqara, an ancient necropolis on the plateau above the Nile Valley. If you see this feature advertised on Egyptian tours then make plans to see it. 
 
This pyramid was originally built for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by vizier and architect Imhotep at about the 27th century B.C. This pyramid is the center attraction of a vast mortuary complex in one massive courtyard. The decoration and construction of the pyramid combines stone as well as traditional materials such as wood, reeds or mud-brick. 
 
Some speculate that the addition of stone could have been a notion of artistry, symbolism or even technological innovation. 
 
What Else to See?
 
 
When you go and see the Djosers Step Pyramid you can look forward to seeing the unique look of the walls, originally designed to resemble woven mats, along with the 15 doorways, of which only one is the true entrance. The true entrance can be recognized by its colonnaded corridor with a wooden-log style roof, along with an entranceway with two large stone doors. 
 
You will soon notice that in between the Southern Tomb and the Step Pyramid there is a wide-open area that seems suspiciously empty. It is believed that this court was used for ceremonies of kingship. There is also a mortuary temple within the pyramid complex and a courtyard that was used for various national and religious festivals.
 
This Step Pyramid was thought to be the most ancient large-scale stone construction still in existence, though it appears as if Gisr el-mudir, also located in Saqqara, was created first, possibly dating back to the Second Dynasty. 
 
Sightseeing at Saqqara, including the Step Pyramid, is a popular activity on a variety of guided tours in Egypt. Make your plans to visit the Djosers Step-Pyramid, one of Egypt’s oldest and grandest creations.
 
 
 
 
The Sultan Hassan Mosque and madrasa (School) is considered stylistically the most compact and unified of all Cairo monuments. The building was constructed for Sultan Hassan bin Mohammad bin Qala'oun in 1256 AD as a mosque and religious school for all sects. It was designed so that each of the four main Sunni sects (orthodox Muslim, or Sunni rites, consisting of Shafite, Malikite, Hanefte and Hanbalite) has its own school while sharing the mosque. The cornices, the entrance, and the monumental staircase are particularly noteworthy.
 
The madrasa was originally introduced to Egypt by Saladin to suppress non-orthodox Muslim sects. There is a difference in congregational as opposed to Madrasa style Mosques such as the Sultan Hassan. While some congregational Mosques have been used as schools, those designed for that purpose generally have smaller courtyards (Sahn) and the buildings are more vertical, allowing for classroom space.
 
Many consider the Sultan Hassan Mosque to be the most outstanding Islamic monument in Egypt. It is of true Bahri Mameluke origin, built of stone, and while it is entirely different in design, it shares a like boldness to the Ibn Tulun Mosque 
There is no architectural indulgence here, but rather self confidence in its clarity of execution and restraint. In allowing separate schools for the four Sunni rites, the Sultan Hassan is based on a classical cruciform plan, meaning that the Sahn opens from each of its sides into a separate liwan, which is an enormous vaulted hall, each serving one of the rites.
While the design of Eiwans predates Mohammed (Peace and Prayers Be Upon Him), it was the Mamelukes who arranged them in the Cruciform manner, and as in the Sultan Hassan Mosque, advanced this architecture with the addition of a domed Mausolea. However, this Mausolea is empty, for Sultan Hassan died several years prior to its completion 
Structurally from the outside, the Mosque is very impressive, holding its own with its impressive cornice and the protruding verticals of its facade, even though it stands in the shadows of the massive Citadel. As one enters the Mosque from Sharia el Qalaa, there is an impression of height, especially from the towering doors decorated in a Mameluke fashion. Even during the Mameluke error in Cairo, building space was at a premium. Thus the outer walls are somewhat askew, in order to fit the available lot, but these designers had a wonderful way of creating the impression of uniform cubistic effect inside regardless.
 
 
 
 
 
For centuries the ancient city of Memphis Egypt was the political and administrative hub of the country, and nearby Saqqara with its vast number of royal burial sites attests to the significance of the area.
 
Memphis, Egypt
 
It is hard to imagine the vast enormity of the ancient Egyptian capitol city of Memphis. Most historians believe it extended approximately nineteen miles along the eastern shore of the Nile. If the size of the city alone is not impressive, the age is mind-boggling. It is long held to have been founded by the first pharaoh of the first dynasty, and was the first capitol of a united Egypt – making it well over five thousand years old!
 
For centuries Memphis, Egypt was the political and administrative hub of the country, and nearby Saqqara with its vast number of royal burial sites attests to the significance of the area. Even after the turmoil created by the reign Akhenaton, who relocated the capital to Thebes and built his own special temples to the Aton, or sun, the pharaoh Tutankhamun returned to Memphis.
 
As centuries passed however, Memphis began to fade as a powerful location and with the end of Pharaonic Egypt came the dismantling of many of Memphis’ temples and large structures. Medieval construction in Cairo, and the rise of Alexandria caused much destruction in the once grand city.
 
The Memphis Open Air Museum
 
Today however visitors can still find some of its remaining wonders, including a monumental statue of Ramses II and a beautiful sphinx carved from a single, enormous piece of alabaster. Weighing in at around eighty tons, the sculpture is one of the most commonly visited attractions in the city.
 
In addition to its political and administrative functions, ancient Memphis also served as a center for the worship of the god “Ptah”, in fact the city was seen as the “seat” of the god. Today, the remains of a great temple to Ptah as well as some royal palaces, and a large necropolis are also available for visitors to explore. 
 
Outside of Memphis Egypt, and very nearby, are Giza and the amazing cemetery at Saqqara.
 
 

 

In 988 the khalif al-Aziz, at the suggestion of his wazir Ya'qub ibn Killis, made provision for the lecturers who taught at the mosque and on this simple basis the University of al-Azhar was founded

Khalif al-'Aziz had the roof of the mosque raised in the 980s and Khalif al-Hakim, although he gave the khutbah from his own mosque, presented al-Azhar with a beautiful door (now in the MIA). Khalifs al-Mustansir and al-Hafiz also restored the mosque and in 1125 Khalif al-Amir presented a wooden mihrab.

 

The original minaret was pulled down in 1397 and a new one built, but by 1415 this had started to lean so Amir Taj al-Din al-Shawbaki had this demolished and rebuilt in stone. Five years later this also tilted and was demolished and rebuilt: Gawhar al-Qunuqbayi added his madrasah and tomb to the NE c 1435 and in 1446 some work was undertaken by Amir Sudun. Sultan Qayt-bay made many alter¬ations. In 1467 he built the huge main gates, and other work was done in 1494-96, when presumably his minaret was erected. Another minaret was built for Sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri in 1510.

 

The entrance into the sahn of al-Azhar is through the Gate of Sultan Qdyt-bdy (1483), decorated with the magnificence characteristic of the period. Set in a recess and flanked by mastabahs, the flat lintel is elaborately joggled. 

 

Above is a releasing arch above which again is a band of dedicatory inscription. At the shoulders of the trefoil stalactite arch which covers the door are small rectangular grills and medallions. Complex crestings run across the top of the wall. To the SW rises Qayt-bay's minaret of three tiers, the lower two with octagonal sections. The lowest tier is decorated with carved keel-arched panels and the second with elaborate plaiting; the cylindrical upper section is plain. Fretted balconies rest on stalactite corbels.

 

 
 
 
Visitors make a point of touring the Dashur pyramids complex for a glimpse at the earliest true Egyptian pyramids.
 
The Pyramids Complex
 
Historically, all architecture evolves from very simplified forms to more complex varieties. This can be seen in the development of such structures as log cabins to skyscrapers, and even in pyramids. For a glimpse at the earliest true Egyptian pyramids most visitors make a point of visiting the Dahshur pyramids complex.
 
It is here that the pharaoh Snofru, or as some say Sneferu, transitioned away from his earlier “step” pyramid formation and attempted the first smooth sided structures. Though it is generally unknown as to why the styles changed, since it required a bit of experimentation and advanced engineering in order to perfect these structures, but the Dashur pyramids are the very first of their kind.
 
 
The Bent Pyramid
 
The “Bent Pyramid” is considered to be the earliest of the Dashur
pyramids, and it earns its name from the distinctive change in the angle of the pyramid. Historians and archeologists alike believe that the builders of this pyramid realized that they were working at far too steep a pitch and quickly shifted to a gentler slope for the remainder of the building.
 
 
The Red Pyramid
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Later, the “Red Pyramid” was built and is considered to be the first true Egyptian pyramid due to the complete absence of steps or bends of any kind. Visitors to the Dashur pyramids are able to enter this structure, climbing into the chamber where human remains were found. Though many believe it likely that Snofru could have been laid to rest in his best burial structure, it has yet to be determined if the pharaoh was indeed inside.
 
 
 
The Black Pyramid
 
The final of the Dahshur pyramids is the Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III, unfortunately the pharaoh was forced to abandon his construction plans when the desert sands beneath were determined to be too unstable to support the weight of the enormous structure.
 
Archeological work is ongoing at the Dashur pyramids location, and only recently it was determined that structures dating from the Old to the New Kingdoms are spread throughout the site.
 
 

 
 
The Refa'i Mosque is located next to Sultan Hassan Mosque in Salah El Din Square near the Citadel in Cairo. Actually, it is separated from the mosque of Sultan Hassan by a pedestrian street. As I entered this lane I was overwhelmed by the huge structure of the Refa'i Mosque and the tiny details of the decorations on its exterior walls, and by the large marble columns that are a part of the entrance portal. The designers and builders of this grand mosque paid considerable attention to every single detail of its ornamentation.
 
 
 
 
The Al-Rifa'i Mosque was constructed in two phases over the period between 1869 and 1912, when it was finally completed. 
 
Khoshiar Hanem, the mother of Khedive Ismail, was really the one who wanted the mosque built in 1869. It's construction took 40 years. It now contains the tombs of many royal family members in Egypt, which is the reason why Khoshiar Hanem wanted it built in the first place. She placed the most important engineer in Egypt, Hussein Fahmy Pasha, in charge of its design.
 
This enormous structure was built upon the site of the former Rifa'i zawiya, acquired and demolished by the Princess Khushiar. Shaykh 'Ali al-Refa'i was a medieval era Islamic saint. The zawiya was a pilgrimage site for locals who believed that the tomb had mystical healing properties. It houses his tomb, along with that of Yehia Al Ansary, a companion of the prophet.
 
The Mosque is rectangular in shape, measuring some 6500 square meters in size. 1767 square meters of this area is reserved for praying, while the remainder is the mausoleum of the royal family. The Refa'i Mosque was built in the Bahri Mamluk style which was popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. This style was similar to the European style of buildings at the time. Most of the materials were imported from Europe. The building of Refa'i Mosque was part of a vast campaign by the 19th century rulers of Egypt to both associate themselves with the perceived glory of earlier periods in Egypt's Islamic history and modernize the city. Construction on the mosque was moving along at a good pace when, first Hussein Fahmy died and then in 1885, Khoshiar Hanem also died. She was granted her wish of being entombed here, and then in 1894, when her son Khedive Ismail also died, he was entombed next to her. All of this caused the process of building the mosque to stop for about twenty five years. During Hussein Hilmy II rule of Egypt, he ordered Max Hertz Pasha, who was Austrian, and his Italian assistant Carlo Virgilio Silvagni, to finish the enormous task of completing work on the mosque. They also completed the decorations of the mosque, for which the original architect had left no plans, from models taken from the best mosques in Cairo. This was accomplished in 1911, and it was opened for Friday prayer for the first time in 1912. The mosque came to represent a turning point in the cultural and political history of Cairo.
 
 
 
The doorway through which I entered the mosque opens onto the narrow street between the two mosques. It had two huge marble columns to either side, with an unusual spiral design on their columns. The decorations on the walls above the door and all around it are fascinating, and even the ceiling of the entranceway is interesting. The designers seem to have been very articulate, paying attention to the smallest details. The ceiling above this portal is wonderful with golden Mamluk inspired decorations. However, this was not its main entrance originally. That was located at the western end of the building, but it is now closed.
 
Once inside the mosque, one finds oneself in front of the mausoleum of Shaykh 'Ali al-Refa'i, the head of the Refa'i tariqa, or order of dervishes. He was considered a saint during his lifetime, and people still walk around his tomb, touching their hands to the sandalwood screen, while seeking his blessed intercession in their lives. Some people still come to this mausoleum to read a verse of Quran for the Shaykh. Reading the verses of " Fatha" for the dead is a well known Islamic tradition. His tomb is covered with fine pieces of wood engraved with marvelous decorations. What really completed the amazing scene were the many flowers and roses placed on top of and all around his tomb.
 
 
 
 
 
To the left of this tomb, behind the mashrabiya screen, in other chambers lie the
 
tombs of King Fuad, who reigned from 1917 to 1936, and his mother along with
the mausoleum of the Shah of Iran. It contains the tomb of Mohamed Reda
El Bahlwy, who died in exile in South Africa in 1944, and was returned to Iran after
World War II. 
Part of the burial chamber is currently occupied by Reza Shah's son, Mohammed
Reza Pahlavi, who died in Cairo in 1980. For Iranians who find themselves in this mausoleum there is poignancy for an emperor who reigned for 37 years during which Iran was an island of stability and progress in a volatile part of the world. The mausoleum is small but it has many amazing decorations. Colorful designs and golden verses of Quran are all about the room and here is one of the most beautiful Mihrabs I have encountered. It is decorated with marble and gold and shines as if it were built just yesterday. The room was also filled with flowers. The tomb itself is only a small step rising from the floor with the name of the Shah and his dates of birth and death. After leaving this mausoleum, I entered the prayer hall of the mosque. Most people do not enter a place looking at the ceiling, but I did. The ceilings were carefully chosen and decorated in a charming style. They are stepped in a way that is similar to the ceilings in other historical Islamic buildings such as the Gayer Anderson Museum and the Suhaymi House. The gold for its gilding was imported from Turkey at a cost of 25,000 LE, which between 1906 and 1912, was a very large sum. Muslims paid great interest to the ceilings especially in mosques because when a Muslim is speaking to God, he is supposed to look upwards towards the sky and therefore the ceiling.
 
 
                                       
 
Most of the walls of the mosque are covered with colorful marble with different styles of the Mamluk style ornamentation. This is an impressive place, both in its monumental size and in the variety of its dazzling ornamentation. Here, nineteen different kinds of marble from seven different countries were used. Pointed arches divide the royal mosque into three porticoes. Two marble columns, one white and the other dark green, stand at the sides of the great dome There are forty-four grand columns in all, and eighteen intricately worked window grills. Each cost 1,000 LE. There are many doors in the walls and all the doors are made with the finest wood and decorated with pieces of expensive Abanos wood. Many of the walls have blue decorations highlighted by golden lines all around them.
 
 
Lighting has always been an interesting element of mosque design. The lighting of this mosque is well suited, consisting mainly of huge, ornate brass lanterns that hang from the ceiling. These lanterns are electric now, but in the past used candles as a source of light. There are also many smaller lamps hung haphazardly, it would seem, from the ceiling.
 
 
 
The Dikka here is one of the most beautiful I have seen. It is a raised platform from which the respondents (qadi) repeat the ritual postures of the iman and speak the responses so that the stages of prayer may be transmitted to larger congregations. This rectangular Dikka is made out of white, pure alabaster supported on eight columns. It is adorned with Quran verses engraved using pure gold all around it. Beside the Dikka, there is the Quran table, known as a kursi, which is a wonderful work of art in wood. It is well designed and in very good condition.
 
 
 
The Minbar of the mosque is decorated with mother of pearl. The door to the minbar is made of wood and decorated with abanos wood and alabaster. The platform of the minbar is like many other in Cairo, surmounted by a dome. This minbar is the most brilliant one can see in the Mamluk style. Unlike the minbar, the mihrab of the mosque is rather plain and familiar, not unlike many others in Cairo. It is only a niche in the wall to show the direction of the qibla. There are five lines of decorations in the mihrab with some very small golden decorations in the second line but the whole mihrab is still very average and unassuming. The founder and her family are buried in funerary chambers along the north wall of the mosque. Access to them is from a door on a line with the column cluster nearest the qibla.
The first tomb I saw belonged to Khedive Ismail. This was the first time I had ever seen one of the tombs of the last royal family in Egypt. . Khedive Ismail was certainly one of the most important of his dynasty. It was he who was responsible for the building of the Suez Canal, along with many bridges and railways in Egypt. His tomb is very unique and appealingly  decorated. It is in a rectangular shape with three levels, shaped not unlike a small step pyramid, with each step elaborately decorated. At one end of it is a column. The second tomb is of Khoshiar Hanem, the founder of the mosque, a consort of Ibrahim Pasha and the mother of Khedive Ismail. It was her wish to be buried with her son in a great mausoleum and her wish was granted. Her tomb is similar to her son's but with only two steps, adorned with golden Quran verses written all around it.
We then moved to the other room where the three wives of Khedive Ismail were buried. The first and last the tomb of khedive ismail's Christian wife tombs are just like Khoshiar Hanem tomb with two, ornately decorated steps.. These two wives were Muslims. The tomb in the middle belongs to the Christian wife of Khedive Ismail, though just before her death, she converted to Islam. Her tomb, like the other two, are decorated with Islamic scripts, but here there is also a Christian cross. Two of his daughters are also entombed in these chambers. The third room belongs to Sultan Hussein Kamel and his wife. Hussein Kamel was one of the two Khedives that held the title of Sultan. He did not reign for long, nor did he contribute much to Egypt. However, his tomb is fascinating, with three steps adorned with monumental Quran verses, that can be easily read. This is the largest tomb in the mosque.. The final tomb is that of King Farouk, the last king deposed during the revolution of 1952. He was crowned in 1936 and reigned for 45 years. He died abroad in 1965. His tomb is very simple, perhaps because he did not die as a king, and it is interesting to see the difference between the tomb of the last shah of Iran and the last king of Egypt. Though not an ancient mosque, this is nevertheless an interesting one with its very ornate decorations, and housing the remains of the last vestige of Egyptian royalty. Given that it is very convenient for most tourists, situated as it is next to the more ancient Sultan Hassan Mosque and just outside the Citadel, it is well worth a short visit to see the final glory of Egypt's royal past.
 
 
 
 
Just south of Cairo, you willl find the Maidum Pyramid, built for Pharoah Huni, the last ruler of the Third Dynasty. This is a unique sight to see during your Cairo travels
 
The Pyramid of Maidum
 
The Maidum Pyramid, also spelled as the Meidum Pyramid, is found south of Cairo. This pyramid was originally built for Pharaoh Huni who was the last ruler of the Third Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. After the step pyramid’s completion, it was usurped by Sneferu, who succeeded Huni, and then turned it into a “true” pyramid by fitting in the steps with a special encasing. Eventually this pyramid collapsed at some point during the New Kingdom rule. 
 
The Collapsed Pyramid
 
The Maidum Pyramid is also known as the Collapsed Pyramid, since now the outer layers of the casing have fallen in, leaving just the core exposed. The shaky appearance of this pyramid has also given it the title of El-Haram el-Kaddab, which translates to False Pyramid in the Arabic language. By the fifteenth century, this pyramid had collapsed so badly it was very often described as a mountain with five steps. By the time Napoleon's Expedition rediscovered it in 1799 it only had three steps left. The next excavation took place in 1837, though two more would follow in the same century, accompanied by three more investigations in the 20th century. 
 
Now the pyramid is merely ruins of its original form, though it still stands an impressive 65 meters high. The core can still be seen, though you can also see rubble from the original construction. It is not really known whether Sneferu was buried at this location. No strong evidence of Huni’s remains has been found either. However, experts think Huni’s burial is a strong possibility since it is known that construction of the burial place took place in Huni’s reign, it does remain a distinct possibility. 
 
Other Attractions in the Area
 
In addition to this pyramid, tourists can also see a subsidiary pyramid on the south side, located in between the Maidum Pyramid and the enclosure wall. There is also a memorial temple on the east side and a mastaba of an unknown noble. You can see this chamber by entering by way of a robber's tunnel. As you might expect from a robber’s tunnel, the initial entering is steep and confined. However, when it turns into the chamber it becomes quite spacious.
 
 

 

Located in the heart of old historic Cairo and commanding stunning panoramic views of the world's most intriguing city, Al-Azhar Park offers every visitor a glimpse into the captivating past. Lush green landscaped gardens are an enjoyable sojourn away from city's major tourist attractions. Embracing valuable history, the park is home to the newly discovered Ayyubid wall, constructed by Salah El Din more than 800 years ago.

Visitor will enjoy exotic settings, reminiscent of ancient times gone by a variety of unique cafes and restaurants, that offer 5 star services, were built and thoughtfully positioned for visitors to appreciate the most dramatic views of Cairo. Perfect venues for private functions, you can create your own history. 

 
 
 
Explore amazing medieval architecture at The Cairo Citadel. Learn why you should consider adding the Citadel of Cairo to your travel itinerary.
 
Saladin Citadel of Cairo
 
The Citadel, also known as the Saladin Citadel of Cairo, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cairo and throughout all of Egypt. Cairo is the capital of Egypt and also the 13th largest city in the world. About 16 million people live in the city and enjoy it not only for its thriving modern society but also for its historical significance. 
 
The Citadel is part of the Muqattam Hill near the center of the city. It was once renowned for its breezes and beautiful scenery, as far back as Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din, who built it and then fortified it against attack. The estimated construction date is between 1176 and 1183.
 
Mohammed Ali Mosque 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
You may notice that the Cairo Citadel is also referred to as the Mohamed Ali Citadel because inside, it holds the actual Mosque of Mohammed Ali Pasha, built in the 19th century. The mosque was constructed in honor and in memory of Muhammad Ali's oldest son who died young. There are two other mosques to see at the Cairo Citadel: the Hypostyle Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad and the Mosque of Suleyman Pasha. 
 
 
Other sights to see include Al-Gawhara Palace, the National Military Museum and the Police Museum. There are also music events that are held in various areas of the citadel.
 
The Citadel of Cairo has been called a grand castle and still contains many artifacts and surviving properties of ancient civilization. For example, water pipes that used to carry the water from the Nile River to the citadel can still be seen. 
 
The View is Spectacular
 
What have tourists said regarding the experience? The scenery is definitely the best feature of the Citadel. Some tourists have remarked that it’s as if nothing has changed in the Saladin Citadel for century. There are still medieval decorations, wooden bay windows and decorative arches. Many tourists have commented that the view from the terraces is the most exciting and inspiring aspect of the experience.
 
In addition to the scenery, remember that there are also several museums to enjoy as well as historical buildings, mosques and other “ancient” style amenities. Experienced tourists suggest that you wander around at your own pace and preferably away from the crowds, as there are a lot of people coming in and out. 
 
The Citadel is not only one of Cairo’s top attractions but also one of the most iconic images in the world. Come experience the beauty of the Saladin Citadel of Cairo!
 
 

 

The Gayer Anderson Museum in Cairo is a must-see on your exploration tour of Islamic Cairo. It consists of an amazing patchwork of Islamic styles and artefacts packed into two wonderful ancient residences: Beit el-Kiridiliya (1632) and Beit Amna Bent Salim (1540).

The museum was founded by a British major, John Gayer-Anderson was born in 1881 and died in 1945., an army doctor who restored and furnished the two residences between 1935 and 1942, filling them with antiquities, artwork, furniture, glassware, crystal, carpets, silks and embroidered Arab costumes.

Used as a location in the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me", the museum houses a puzzle of theme-decorated rooms: the Persian room has exquisite tiling, the Damascus room has lacquer and gold, whereas in other parts of the museum, you’ll find a central marble fountain, decorated ceiling beams and carpet-covered alcoves.

The Gayer Anderson museum is consider a totally different experience than all of these museums. Usually when one goes to a museum, the displays are in glass cases with the explanation under it. In the Gayer Anderson Museum, one just walks about gazing at the displays and feels like a part of the history of the place itself. Maybe this is because the house, including the ceilings, the walls, the corridors, and the doors are among the most interesting displays. Or maybe because the museum was once a house and people once lived here.

The house was made into a museum in 1937 when the Egyptian government decided to transform it into be a well-preserved example of early Ottoman domestic architecture. The museum is located in the back of one of the oldest mosques in Egypt, the Ibn Tulun Mosque, which was completed in 879 AD.

It contains a wonderful statue of Queen Nefertiti. It is placed in front of a Mashrabeya screen and when the sun light comes through its wooden holes, it truly looks magical, as if she might speak at any moment. In the middle of the room there is a statue of the cat goddess Bastet, and to the right of the door; there is a black mummy cover that seems a bit scary. There is also a huge bird egg inscribed with Qura'an verses.

The most interesting items of this museum inside the Gayer Anderson Museum are the plates of "Taset El Khada", which is a famous Egyptian legend. Such plates are usually made of brass or silver and have magical words and certain verses of the Qura'an written inside them. Someone who is ill would fill the plate with milk and water and leave it on the balcony overnight. It was believed that a part of the sky would come and mix with the milk and water. In the morning the sick person would drink this from the plate and be cured. The last interesting item in this room is a huge bird egg that has Qura'an written on it.