Old Cairo or Old Cairo extends south of the modern part of the city and is undoubtedly the most charming neighborhood of the Egyptian capital. It is no coincidence that UNESCO included it in its list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Introduction

Even today it retains all the charm of the disorder and the narrow cobblestone streets as if no time has passed. Visiting Old Cairo will be a journey into the past, a medieval adventure full of life for you to enjoy calmly, without haste and in a relaxed and relaxed walk, with all the senses ready to capture every detail of this unique corner of the world.

The most important mosques, temples and Islamic monuments in the capital are located in Old Cairo. In fact, its foundation dates back to the year 969, when the royal enclosure of the Fatimid caliphs was built and it was established that the new city called Cairo would be the capital of Egypt, after the previous Fustat. The new capital quickly absorbed the old one as it grew exponentially and became a major center of Islamic learning in the world, with a library containing two million books.

What to see in Old Cairo


  • Jan el-Jalili Bazaar
    . The traditional bazaar of Old Cairo, whose origins can be traced back to 1382, when Amir Dyaharks el-Khalili ordered the construction of a large caravanserai, also known as a khan. This was the name given to the inns where the merchants stopped and which had rooms for the rest of the animals and to leave the cargoes. Jan el-Jalili was also a space where the merchants, who were there passing through, to move to the surrounding area, also took advantage to trade with each other. Gradually grew around this place a bazaar that became the great bazaar of Khan el-Khalili, with all the charm of the Cairo atmosphere and small streets in which you can get lost and live an unforgettable experience.
  • Midaq Alley. Located in one of the corners of Khan el-Khalili, it is the place where the novel The Alley of Miracles by Naguib Mahfuz, Nobel Prize for literature in 1988, is set. A street with the best of Old Cairo’s medieval charm. To get there, take Al-Muizz Street, follow Sanadiqiyah and in the first passage you find on your left you will be in Midaq. The movie based on the book was also filmed there.
  • Citadel of Saladin. One of the most precious jewels for tourists visiting Cairo, built between 1176 and 1183 and with a fundamental objective: to protect the city from the attacks of the Crusades. And today it is not only a fundamental point with privileged views but also a nucleus of palaces, museums and mosques that are a must on your trip.
  • Mosque of Ibn Tulun. Nearby, 800 meters from the Citadel of Saladin, is the oldest in Cairo and still retains its original decorative elements, surrounded by a huge external courtyard that serves to separate the temple from the noise of the city. Inside, there is another square courtyard 90 meters long, surrounded by porticoes located around a large central fountain. The Ibn Tulun Mosque became world famous because it is one of the locations where “007: The Spy Who Loved Me”, one of the films of the James Bond saga, starring Roger Moore, was filmed.
  • Alabaster Mosque or Mohammed Ali Mosque. Also located inside the Saladin Citadel. Known by that name due to the material with which it was built and that covers both the exterior and interior. Its real name is Muhammad Ali Mosque and it was designed on the basis of the New Mosque in Istanbul. It was therefore built according to the model of Ottoman mosques: a rectangular plan covered by a large central dome and surrounded by several semi-domes framed by two minarets.
  • Al-Muizz Street. One of the most beautiful streets in the world(see images in the gallery). It is about one kilometer long and is one of the oldest streets in Cairo. It has many medieval architectural treasures, palaces and mosques. Ideal for touring it from end to end.

  • The Coptic Quarter
    . You can not miss the Church of St. Sergius and the Hanging Church. Also called Abu Sirga, it is a fundamental point within the Coptic Quarter, the Christian enclave within Cairo. The church is dedicated to two martyrs who were persecuted by the Roman Empire in its rule over Egypt. The faithful of this church consider that the site where the building is located was, in ancient times, a temple that served as a refuge for the Holy Family in their flight from King Herod. Every 24th of Bachos (one of the months of the Coptic calendar, corresponding to June 1st) Egyptian Christians celebrate a mass in honor of the arrival of the Holy Family in Egypt.

How to get to Old Cairo

As the Khan el-Khalili market is the center of Old Cairo and is located in the heart of Cairo, it is not difficult to follow one of the public transportation routes to get there, but if you want to save yourself the hassle, order an Uber or a cab. The metro is one of the easiest means to communicate with this area, just get to Ataba station and you will be 10 minutes walk from Tahrir Square.

To go to the Coptic Quarter you can order an Uber or a cab, being only 15 minutes from Jan el-Jalili. To help you get there, the Arabic name for the area is Masr al-Qadima, and it is located south of the city, on the eastern bank of the Nile River. To go by metro, the stop is Mar Girgis, and it is the most comfortable, fast and economical way if you are going to visit on your own.

But if you stay a few days in Cairo, you will probably go several times to these two areas because there are key monuments, so you may go with an agency on a guided tour that usually include transfers to the hotel.

Visiting hours and prices

The best time to get lost in Old Cairo is in the afternoon, an hour or two before sunset and enjoy the neighborhood as night falls. This, if you are just going for a walk in the area. Afterwards, the schedules and prices of historical sites and monuments to visit will depend on each particular site.

Photos of Old Cairo

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