There are a number of museums and buildings in Cairo with the specific purpose of providing information about Cairo's history and culture. There are also many unique and beautiful architectural features to be found within the harsh desert landscape. Whether you want to visit a museum, a park, or a fancy restaurant, be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen and your walking shoes, because taking in the sights by foot is by far the best way to go.
1.Abdeen Palace Museum
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Abdeen Palace was built in 1863 by Khedive Isma'il Pasha. It was meant to symbolize Egypt's strength and acted as the royal residence until 1952, when the monarchy ended. It's still used today by the president for official events, but a portion of the palace was made into a museum by King Ahmed Fouad I in 1936. It was originally built to house the king's collection, and more items have been added to it by other rulers over the years. It is now divided into five sections: the Museum of Arms, the Presidential Gifts Museum, the Documents Museum, the Decorations and Medals Hall, and the Royal Silverware Museum.
El-Gomhoreya Square, Rahbet Abdin, Abdeen, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 23916909
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Located 1.2 miles north of Saqqara, Abusir has several solar temples located throughout the site, although those of Userkaf and Niuserre are the only two to have been located. The site was easily accessible by boat via Abusir Lake and was used by the Memphite nobility until the end of the pharaonic era. There are two royal pyramids on site as well as other smaller pyramids. Paid tours of the sites are available.
Outside of Cairo, Cairo 11511, Egypt
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Al-Fustat, also known as "Old Cairo," was the first capital of Islamic Egypt. The name may have been derived from the Roman military occupation, because it means "tent." Built in 642 by Amr ibn Al'as, it is considered to have been a major harbor for foreign maritime trade. It is located on the Nile between Upper and Lower Egypt. The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the oldest mosque in Egypt, can be found there.
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Al-Azhar Park offers a variety of cafes and restaurants as well as gorgeous views of Cairo. Visitors will feel like they've stepped back in time, but with the comforts of modern facilities. The Lakeside Café offers oriental and Lebanese food and overlooks a manmade lake, while the Mohamed Ali Mosque can be seen from the restaurant. Ayyubid Café offers fresh salads, sandwiches, and pastries and also has open air views of the park. The Citadel View Alain Le Notre offers views of Old Cairo, while the Citadel View Studio Misr offers a buffet and an ala carte menu. All restaurants can be found within Al-Azhar Park.
Salah Salem, Al Darb Al Ahmar, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 25103868
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The Aqmar Mosque is one of the oldest buildings in Islamic Cairo. Located on Al-Muizz Street, the mosque is on the smaller side and was built by the Fatimids, who originated from present day Tunisia. The mosque has several architectural features that are unique, being one of the first mosques to use an offset façade that remained square to the street front. The rest of the building sits at an angle, aligning with the Qibla, which is the direction of prayer toward Mecca.
Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatmi, El-Gamaleya, Qism El-Gamaleya, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 100 800 9475
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Badr al-Gamali built Bab Al Futuh in 1087 to replace an earlier gate that sat to the south and was originally included in the enclosure wall of Gawhar. Originally called Bab al-Iqbal, which means Gate of Prosperity, the towers of the gate are decorated with an arched panel that sits on the front and the sides. Beyond the doorway is a passage that leads to a porch, which is covered with a shallow dome on pendentives. There is a long vaulted room inside each tower. The Mosque al-Mazhariyyah sits on the north side, which is the site of a madrasah that was built in 1298.
Bab Al Foutoh, El-Gamaleya, Qism El-Gamaleya, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
7.Bab El Nasr
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Bab El Nasr sits at the northeast corner of Fatimid Cairo. It consists of two square towers and an arched gateway that is set back. There is a covered roadway between the two towers. The structure in its entirety measures 24.22 meters in width and 20.89 meters in height, with a depth of 20.47 meters. People can visit this amazing piece of Egyptian architecture to view the beautiful columns, interesting stone pieces, and the shields, half of which are circular while the other half are round on top and pointed on the bottom.
Bab El-Nasr, El-Gamaleya, Qism El-Gamaleya, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
8.Al Darb al-Ahmar District Trades and Markets
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Al Darb al-Ahmar, meaning the Red Road, is filled with historic atmosphere. The area has been virtually unchanged over the centuries and is a maze of narrow alleyways that twist around and are lined with mosques and monuments. The market is a flurry of non-stop activity with a constant traffic flow every day of the week except for Sundays, when everything is closed. Samples of work are displayed up and down the street and craftsman can be found working away inside their shops.
Al Motaz Ldin Allah, El-Darb El-Ahmar, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
9.Salah al-Din Citadel
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Dating back to the 12th century, Salah al-Din is Egypt's main military museum and castle. Sited on top of a hill, it was originally built originally to join Cairo with Fustat and now holds a number of museums and sights. Visitors can purchase the usual touristy souvenirs near the entrance, but what you'll really want to see is the view of the pyramids, visible once you climb to the top. There is a weapons museum on site that has weapons dating back to the Ottoman era. There is plenty to look at and see during your visit to this monumental place.
Al Abageyah, Qesm Al Khalifah, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 31583632
10.Cairo Opera House
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Designed by two Italian architects, Avoscani and Rossi, the Khedive Opera House was constructed during a 6-month period in 1869. It was designed to promote the art of acting, and specialists in theater construction were brought to Egypt to complete the work. The original structure burned to the ground in October 1971, and the inauguration of the new Cairo Opera House was in 1988. Today, ballet, operatic, and symphonic works can be seen there. Seminars and cultural conferences are also held there regularly.
Opera Land? EL GEZIRAH? Zamalek, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
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Standing 187 meters high, Cairo Tower sits on the Nile and is the tallest building in Egypt. The building, designed based on a lotus flower by Egyptian architect Naoum Shebib, took 5 years to complete (between 1956 and 1961). There is a capsule at the top of the building that has a revolving restaurant, a cafeteria, and an outside viewing area. Visitors can see the Pyramids of Giza, the museum, the Citadel, and all of Cairo from the tower's viewing area.
Zamalek, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 27365112
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The Coptic Museum was built in 1908 on a plot that was intended for a church. Inaugurated in 1910, and again in 1984 after a restoration, its collections have continued to grow throughout the years. It became a state museum in 1931. The Christian Antiquities exhibit was transferred to the Coptic Museum by the Service of Antiquities in 1939, and all Christian site findings have automatically gone there since then. Visitors will find 2nd through 5th century funerary stelae from Kom Abou Billou as well as Coptic art, such as birds and crosses. The museum is located within the Babylon Fortress and is part of the old city walls that were built by Emperor Trajan in 98 A.D.
3 Mari Gerges, Kom Ghorab, Misr Al Qadimah, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 23628766
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The Egyptian Museum in Cairo contains the world's biggest collection of pharaonic antiquities. The original collection was kept in Boulaq and was established in the late 19th century. In 1891, the collection was moved to the palace of Isma'il Pasha in Giza and it eventually went to its current location at Tahrir Square in 1902. There are 107 halls in the museum, each displaying artifacts that date back to prehistoric and Roman periods. With approximately 160,000 objects in the museum, there is an additional charge to see the mummies.
Meret Basha, Ismailia, Qasr an Nile, Cairo Governorate 11516, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 25794596
14.El Mosky Area
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Founded by Prince Ezz El Din Mosk, the El Mosky District starts at El Attaba Square and runs parallel with Al Azhar Street, stopping at the Al Azhar Mosque and El Hussein Mosque. Hamam El Talat Street, a famous street in Cairo, runs through the market. Visitors trekking through here will find just about everything they can imagine as the market sells all kinds of products and textiles. You will find everything from kitchen utensils and electric instruments to herbs and perfumes. When you find yourself hungry after a long day of walking, you can stop for some of the traditional dishes sold throughout the district.
Kobri Al Azhar, Cairo, Egyp
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The Gayer-Anderson Museum is known for having a little something of everything. The house was built in 1632 and was passed down through various owners until 1928, when it was saved from demolition. It was restored in 1935, and in 1937 Major Robert Greenville Gayer-Anderson moved in. He was a retired major of the British Army Medical Corps and had been an avid collector. He restored the building's interior and exterior and added an extensive collection of art and furniture. When he died in 1945, everything was left to the Egyptian Government and it has been preserved as an Egyptian tourist attraction since then. Visitors may recognize parts of the house from James Bond's The Spy Who Loved Me. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun sits next door to the museum and was also the location of a Bond movie.
Ahmed Ibn Tolon, Tolon, As Sayedah Zeinab, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 23647822
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Separate from the rest of Cairo with three bridges leading into it, Gezira Island (better known as Zamalek) is in central Cairo and is surrounded by the Nile River. Visitors to the area can see the Cairo Tower, the Egyptian Opera House, the El Sawy Culture Wheel, and the Gezira Sporting Club, which is the oldest club in Egypt. Sporting clubs in Cairo offer sports, such as basketball, golf, tennis, and swimming. They also have large playgrounds and beautiful grounds for walking through. Guests can visit the grounds when they are accompanied by a member and with the purchase of a day pass. There are many fine shops and street venders found throughout Gezira Island. People are friendly and the area is beautiful.
Zamalek (Gezira Island), Cairo, Egypt
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17.Giza Pyramid Complex
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The Giza Pyramid Complex is an archaeological site on the outskirts of Cairo. There are three pyramid complexes (the Great Pyramids), the Great Sphinx sculpture, cemeteries, a workers' village, and an industrial complex at the site. The location is approximately 5 miles west of the Nile River in the Libyan Desert. The Great Pyramid of Giza is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and were built to house the remains of the deceased pharaoh.
Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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Khan el-Khalili is a souk that sits on what was originally the turbat az-za'faraan (the Saffron Tomb), the burial site of the Fatimid caliphs. Because of its location, Khan el-Khalili has a lengthy and interesting history of economic growth and foreign trade that included the sale of slaves. The layout of the district was modified by Sultan al-Ghuri in the early 1500s. The Turkish community established itself here during the Ottoman period.
Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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19.Museum of Islamic Art
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The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) has been under renovation for the past 8 years and is expected to reopen soon with approximately 1,700 objects on display. It's been at its current location since 1903, but originally it was at the Fatimid Mosque of al-Hakim. The building was designed and built to display Islamic art. During your visit, you will be able to see exhibits on funerary art, calligraphy, geometry, medicine calligraphy, astronomy, and other interesting artifacts.
Khlaq 11638, Port Said, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 23901520
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20.Pyramid of Djoser
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This pyramid was built for Djoser, a 3rd Dynasty pharaoh, about 4,700 years ago. Imhotep, who was Djoser's vizier, designed the pyramid, and the shape of the structure is noticeably different from the more famous Great Pyramid of Giza. Djoser's pyramid has six steps, so it is also referred to as the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.
Saqarah, Al Badrashin, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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Located in the Western Desert, Souq al-Gamaal is Egypt's largest camel market. Tourists from all over the world visit the famous market and people from all walks of life go there to find healthy meat. This has especially been true since the spread of diseases such as bird flu. This is the largest gathering of camels, a species are often referred to as "the ship of the desert." In earlier times, those herding their camels across the desert to Souq al-Gamaal claimed they were guided by the stars at night and the oases and trees during the day.
35 km northwest of Cairo, Egypt
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Tahrir Square, also known as Liberation Square, is a large public square in Cairo. Also located within the district is the Egyptian Museum, the American University in Cairo, the Arab League, and the Ramses Hilton Hotel. There are also government offices and the metro. Tahrir Square is a bustling area, but there are pedestrian tunnels that are linked to the metro station at various points in and out of the square. This makes it easy for pedestrians to get around without having to negotiate the crazy traffic.
El-Tahrir Square, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
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23.The Agricultural Museum
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Agriculture has helped shape and change the lives of Egyptians since ancient times. The Agricultural Museum, built by the Egyptian government during the 1940s, displays objects and information about the farming practices of Egypt. The two main purposes of the museum were to record agricultural history over a long period of time and to provide agricultural and economical knowledge to the general public. Walking through the museum, you'll find gardens, a section dedicated to bread, and even an area with exhibits on hunting.
6 Ad Doqi, Giza Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +20 2 33372933
24.The Fortress of Babylon
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The Fortress of Babylon, also referred to as Qasr el Shamee, which means "the candles palace," can be found next to the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo. Probably dating back almost 2,000 years, the fortress was built by the Romans to defend the area. Within the enclosure of the fortress lie six Coptic churches, a convent, and the Coptic Museum.
Mari Gerges, Kom Ghorab, Misr Al Qadimah, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
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25.The Solar Boat Museum
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The Solar Boat Museum, built by Kamal El-Mallakh, lies just south of the Great Pyramid. The museum's purpose was to house the solar boat of King Cheops, discovered by Kamal El-Mallakh in 1954. It is a humidity-controlled pavilion that contains the 141-foot-long boat. Reconstructing the solar boat took 14 years, and there is still some debate as to what the boat was used for.
Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
25 Best Things to Do in Cairo, Egypt
- Abdeen Palace Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- Abusir, Photo: Courtesy of Alessandra - Fotolia.com
- Al-Fustat, Photo: Courtesy of keladawy - Fotolia.com
- Al-Azhar Park, Photo: Courtesy of efesenko - Fotolia.com
- Aqmar Mosque, Photo: Courtesy of NoraDoa - Fotolia.com
- Bab Al-Futuh, Photo: Courtesy of TravelPhotography - Fotolia.com
- Bab El Nasr, Photo: Courtesy of Mikhail Nekrasov - Fotolia.com
- Al Darb al-Ahmar District Trades and Markets, Photo: Courtesy of Amr Hassanein - Fotolia.com
- Salah al-Din Citadel, Photo: Courtesy of dadoo25071991 - Fotolia.com
- Cairo Opera House, Photo: Courtesy of Viktor Zhugin - Fotolia.com
- Cairo Tower, Photo: Courtesy of Givaga - Fotolia.com
- Coptic Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Shariff Che'Lah - Fotolia.com
- Egyptian Museum, Photo: Courtesy of nosyrevy - Fotolia.com
- El Mosky Area, Photo: Courtesy of Ragi & Amanda - Fotolia.com
- Gayer-Anderson Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Francisco Javier Gil - Fotolia.com
- Gezira Island, Photo: Courtesy of MidoSemsem - Fotolia.com
- Giza Pyramid Complex, Photo: Courtesy of paul prescott - Fotolia.com
- Khan el-Khalili, Photo: Courtesy of Orhan Çam - Fotolia.com
- Museum of Islamic Art, Photo: Courtesy of praphab144 - Fotolia.com
- Pyramid of Djoser, Photo: Courtesy of WitR - Fotolia.com
- Souq al-Gamaal, Photo: Courtesy of flyingrussian - Fotolia.com
- Tahrir Square, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- The Agricultural Museum, Photo: Courtesy of breakermaximus - Fotolia.com
- The Fortress of Babylon, Photo: Courtesy of Pascal06 - Fotolia.com
- The Solar Boat Museum, Photo: Courtesy of kasbah - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of WitR - Fotolia.com