Cairo, the most populous city in Northern Africa, is most noted for the Pyramids of Giza, just a few miles outside the city. However, there is more to this large and crowded metropolis than the ancient wonders of the world. Here is a glimpse of what awaits the visitor to this intriguing and beguiling city.
1. Pyramids of Giza – One of the original "seven wonders of the world" and still wowing visitor almost 5,000 years after their construction, these tombs of the pharaohs, along with their guardian Sphinx, dominate the plain southwest of Cairo. There is a spectacular light show here nightly.
2. Egyptian Museum – This incredible collection of antiquities is considered one of the finest museums in the world. Most visitors only scratch the surface because they only spend a few hours and concentrate on the most famous items.
3. The Citadel – This fortified eastern end of the city was built by Saladin in 1176 because of the threat posed by the Crusaders from Western Europe. It contains the Mosque of Mohammed Ali and several other mosques. Some of the courtyard offer splendid views of Cairo and the surrounding area.
4. Khan al Khalili Bazaar – This huge collection of shops and stalls was built in the 14th century and residents still shop here although the influx of tourists is painfully noticeable. Wander the narrow, crowded alleyways and marvel at the variety of items on display.
5. Step Pyramid of Saqqara – Less than twenty miles south of Giza is the ancient necropolis of the city of Memphis. There are many pyramids here that pre-date the pyramids of Giza. Probably the most significant is the Step Pyramid, the tomb of the Pharaoh, Zoser, and Egypt’s earliest stone monument.
6. Heliopolis – This suburb of Cairo was once conceived as a garden city, a home for the wealthy government officials, built in the early 20th century. A few of the fanciful stone homes and palaces still exist and should be visited simply for their contrast to the inner city. Gems include the Baron’s Palace, the Basilica, and the Uruba Palace.
7. Hire a Felucca for a Sail on the Nile – A pleasant way to spend an afternoon is to rent a felucca and to enjoy the area from the perspective of the river.
8. Hanging Church – Although seemingly out of place in Islamic Cairo, there has been a considerable Christian community here for hundreds of years, This church, built in the 9th century and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was attached above the Water Gate of Roman Babylon
9. Al-Azhar Mosque – This important Islamic worship center was built prior to 1000 AD and is one of Cairo’s oldest mosques. It was once a university and claims to be the oldest one in the world, although students are now taught on a nearby campus.
10. Mosque of Ibn Tulun – This is the oldest mosque in Cairo. It is remarkable as the first building to use the pointed arch. Climb the minaret for spectacular views and to appreciate the graceful symmetry of the mosque itself.