Luxurious Destinations
Africa
Destinations Within Africa

Africa Trip Itineraries

Off the beaten path Cairo: markets and monuments not even the locals know

Destination(s): Cairo

Cairo must be one of the most fascinating cities in the world: an exotic, chaotic assault on the senses, steeped in thousands of years of history.

Everybody knows about the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, and Khan al-Khalili, but there is so much more on offer. So much, in fact, that no single individual could know about all of the gems tucked away in Cairo’s winding maze of alleyways. This is especially true of Islamic Cairo, easily the most enthralling, and confusing, area in the whole of the city.

This guide will take you well off the beaten path (though it will pass through some more familiar areas), into markets where most locals will never venture, and past monuments long forgotten by the majority of people.

The best way to explore the hidden nooks and crannies of Cairo is to walk, walk, and walk some more. Getting lost is mandatory. Wander down alleyways, enter interesting-looking buildings, and talk to the locals. This guide will provide you with suggestions for getting off the beaten track, but ultimately, you must let serendipity be your guide.

Note it goes without saying that you will be venturing in to traditional areas, so conservative clothing is a must! Ideally, you will also need to find a map of Cairo. read more about Off the beaten path Cairo: markets and monuments not even the locals know

Abdeen Palace Museum

Abdeen Palace Museum

  • Moustafa Abdel Raziq Street
  • off Abdeen Square
  • tel:+20 2 391 0042
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11728
Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour

Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour

  • Fangari Hindi st, Manshiyat Nasser, Mogamma Zabaleen
  • tel:+2 012 182 7315
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Since 2005, the Solar CITIES project has been helping poor communities in Darb al-Ahmar and Manshiyat Nasser ("Garbage City") to build solar water heaters and biogas generators out of low cost, locally available materials. The project has received numerous grants, and has been recognised by National Geographic.

It is based on a participatory, bottom-up approach to development, which taps into the collective intelligence and expertise that is already embedded within the community.

On the Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour you will meet Hanna Fathy, a young man from the Zabaleen community of garbage collectors, who has been involved with the project since the beginning. He will guide you through the communities with which Solar CITIES works, where you can meet locals that have benefitted from the project, and witness first-hand the impact it is having.

The Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour is divided into two halves, reflecting the two communities the project works with.

The Darb al-Ahmar portion will begin at Bab Zwayla. You will be able to explore the Street of the Tentmakers, before walking through the streets of this fascinating area of Islamic Cairo, stopping to visit some of the houses that have solar water heaters and biogas generators installed. There will also be the chance to visit the Aga Khan Foundation, and see their rooftop garden. The tour will finish in al-Azhar Park – former rubbish tip and now one of Cairo's most inspiring green spaces – where you can grab some lunch. More specifically, Hussein El-Farag from Solar CITIES in Darb Al Ahmar, will give urban Eco-Tours of his family's historic Islamic neighborhood at the base of Al Azhar park. As Hanna Fathy's colleague on the other side of the City of the Dead, Hussein also shows the solar hot water and biogas systems that he and Hanna and Solar CITIES have built in his neighborhood, ending the tour with biogas heated tea on his roof in sight of the ancient mosque. Hussein's tour is the Islamic equivalent of the Coptic Christian Solar CITIES tour that Hanna gives outlined below.

The Manshiyat Nasser section of the Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour will explore Garbage City, where the Zabaleen live. The Zabaleen are a Christian community that are responsible for collecting and recycling, by hand, most of Cairo's rubbish. You will have the chance to learn more about this process, and visit families that are involved in this work. You will also visit Hanna's house, to see the solar water heater and biogas generator that he has installed. You can visit some of the other NGO's that are working with the community, such as the APE and Roh al-Shabab, and to visit the Coptic monastery, which offers spectacular views over the area.

The Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour is most suitable for people who have an interest in urban planning, development, or sustainable technology issues. A word of warning – you are visiting deprived areas of Cairo, and so may see things that you are not that comfortable with. Manshiyat Nasser, in particular, is a real eye-opener, with garbage literally everywhere. Having said that, seeing the inspirational work that Solar CITIES is doing is a real privilege, and could easily be the most memorable and meaningful part of your trip to Cairo.

Each tour will take around 4 hours, and costs 100 LE per person, or 150 LE if you do both tours. You can get a discount if you book as a group, but bear in mind Hanna can't take more than 5 people at once. To make sure he is available, you should book a week in advance.

Finally, these tours are very flexible, and you can get in touch with Hanna to discuss your own particular requirements. read more about Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour

Attaba

Attaba

  • Attaba
  • Cairo

Attaba is really an area of Cairo rather than a market as such. It acts as a sort of transitional phase between Downtown and Islamic Cairo.

It's an insane collection of different streets and markets that all spread out from Midan al-Attaba. There are areas selling clothing, household goods, rip off watches and sunglasses, leather, paper and wood wholesale, religious pictures, food, electronics... you get the picture!

Attaba is the sort of area where if you can think of it, chances are you'll be able to buy it... as long as you can find it! It's a genuine assault on all the senses, and you just have to be prepared to dive in and get lost. But don't worry, no matter where you are you'll always be able to find a cab, and you'll never be too far away from somewhere selling refreshments either.

The best way to visit Attaba is to take the Metro. If you take the exit marked Azbakiya you can start your trip by visiting the used books market. It's also easy to walk from Downtown, or from Khan al-Khalili. read more about Attaba

Beit Al Souhaymi

Beit Al Souhaymi

  • Darb al-Asfar Street
  • Around Bab el Futuh
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Beit al-Souhaymi is part of the lovingly restored Darb al-Asfar district of Islamic Cairo, situated down an alleyway just past al-Aqmar Mosque. Beit al-Souhaymi is a typical example of the family mansions built in Cairo from the Mamluk period all the way to the 19th Century. It costs 30 LE to enter, but is well worth it. You emerge in to a pretty, tree lined open courtyard complete with singing birds, around which the rest of the house is based. In fact, the Beit al-Souhaymi complex actually merges with two other houses to the west. The whole area is a maze of stairs, passageways and hidden rooms, all of which have been restored, and many of which are wonderfully decorated. Spend some time poking around the nooks and crannies, and you will find rooms with colourful marble mosaic floors, vividly painted wooden ceilings, exquisite mashrabia lattice work (to allow the women to observe the goings on in the house without being seen), and ornate mother of pearl chests that have clearly been the inspiration behind many of the souvenirs sold in Khan al-Khalili. You could easily get lost for an hour or two exploring Beit al-Souhaymi; just make sure you finish your visit in the second, even greener, open courtyard, and take a rest before rejoining the hustle and bustle of the outside world! read more about Beit Al Souhaymi

al-Muski street

al-Muski street

  • al-Muski Street
  • Cairo

Al-Muski Street is a long street that leads west from Khan al-Khalili in Islamic Cairo all the way to Ataba Square on the edge of Downtown.

It's an interesting area to explore because for the most part it's a proper local Cairo market, selling an assortment of clothes and shoes, blankets, and household goods. There are sections that sell toys, spices, and even fireworks. Towards the eastern edge, nearer to the Khan, you start to encounter stalls selling the same tourist kitsch as Khan al-Khalili itself, though you can often negotiate better prices.

Al-Muski is one of the most famous bazaars in Cairo, and is always heaving with people. Most parts of the street are narrow and cramped, with stalls spilling out onto the pavement and the wares hung overhead almost touching in the middle.

You'll probably have to do a fair amount of pushing and shoving to keep heading in the direction you want to, and keep an eye out for bicycles, handcarts and the occasional motorbike that crash through the fray without pause for anyone else.

Most people explore al-Muski by starting from Khan al-Khalili and heading west. An alternative is to take the Metro to Ataba station, exit and check out Azbakiya Book Market, and find your way from there to al-Muski. You'll probably have to ask the way, and it's kind of hard to see the entrance from al-Geish street, but everyone knows where it is and will be happy to point you in the right direction!
read more about al-Muski street

Hakim Mosque (Al)

Hakim Mosque (Al)

  • Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Al-Hakim Mosque was built in the 11th Century by al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, one of Egypt's most insane, and sadistic rulers. He persecuted Christians, Jews, merchants and women, banned or destroyed everything that annoyed him (including all the city's dogs), and would stand on the heads of his enemies whilst one of his slaves sodomised them. He even had a group of women boiled alive in public. It's ironic, therefore, that the mosque which bears his name is so beautiful! Joining the northern walls, al-Hakim Mosque looks quite plain and solid from the outside, with square towers and an odd style of minaret. There is some delicate Arabic stone filigree work on the arches outside. Inside, however, is a huge open courtyard of blinding white/cream marble, with a deep red marble fountain with white veins running through it. It's simple, but actually quite moving. The main prayer hall still has some original wooden beams, but much of the rest of al-Hakim Mosque was restored in 1980 by a group of Shi'ite Muslims from Brunei. The main mihrab is of pale marble, with beautiful gold trim and calligraphy. You used to be able to climb on to the city walls from al-Hakim Mosque, but that has been officially banned. That does not mean, however, that you can't ask the caretakers: for a little baksheesh, they may find that they can discover the necessary keys after all. read more about Hakim Mosque (Al)

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

  • Off Hussein Square
  • (Across from El Azhar Mosque)
  • Cairo, 11211

Established in the 14th Century, and in constant use since then, Khan al-Khalili (or more simply, The Khan) is Egypt at its most intoxicating. Cairo has always been an important trade centre, and this tradition continues today in the bustling maze of alleys that forms Khan al-Khalili Bazaar.

The Khan itself is relatively small, and is largely devoted to tourists. There are souvenirs here for every taste and budget: spices, jewellery, inlaid mother-of-pearl boxes and backgammon sets, water pipes, scarves, lamps, delicate perfume bottles (and the perfume to go in them)… you can even get yourself a singing, dancing camel!

Be warned, though, the traders here are black belts at haggling – so be firm, but maintain your sense of humour and enjoy the experience for what it is: the raucous, beating heart of commerce the old-school way.

When the banter gets too much, relax in al-Fishawi Coffee Shop with a water pipe and a strong Turkish coffee. This café has been open 24 hours a day since 1773, and Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz is said to have visited every day up to his death in 2006.

At the east end of the Khan is al-Hussein Square, home to the beautiful al-Hussein Mosque. The western end is bound by Muizz li-Din Allah Street. You can head north to Bab al-Futuh, past Islamic monuments such as al-Aqmar Mosque and Beit al-Souhaymi, or south towards Bab Zwayla and the Street of the Tentmakers. Leading west from Khan al-Khalili towards Ataba is al-Muski Street, a crazy local market that is well worth exploring.

To get to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, take a taxi to al-Azhar Mosque and cross the road via the underpass. The more adventurous traveller can walk up to the bazaar from Ataba Metro station, along al-Muski.
read more about Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

Bab el-Futuh

Bab el-Futuh

  • El Muizz El Din Allah Street
  • Facing Al-Banhawi Galal Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

In 1087 AD the original mud brick walls of al-Qahira were rebuilt from stone, to protect the city from the menace of the Turks. This explains why Bab al-Futuh, one of the two remaining north gates, looks more like it belongs at the entrance of a castle than a city. Joining with the city walls and al-Hakim Mosque, Bab al-Futuh consists of two huge rounded castle-like turrets, bristling with ramparts and defensive arrow-slits, and decorated with a finely carved floral arch. Traditionally, the caravans returning from the annual pilgrimage to Mecca would always enter the city through Bab al-Futuh, welcomed by huge crowds of people that had been unable to make the journey themselves. Interestingly, Bab al-Futuh was actually built from masonry scavenged from ancient Egyptian Memphis, as the carvings on some stones that comprise the building testify. read more about Bab el-Futuh

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

  • El-Fishawi Alley
  • (Khan al-Khalili)
  • Cairo

Located in the heart of Khan al-Khalili, al-Fishawi is Egypt's most famous, and most exciting coffee shop. Al-Fishawi has been open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for hundreds of years, and used to be a favourite haunt of artists and writers such as Nobel prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz.

The so-called "cafe of mirrors" extends along the side of one of Khan al-Khalili's narrow alleyways, and has a gorgeous, carved wood (mashrabia) interior. These days, the sheer volume of people visiting al-Fishawi means rickety wooden tables and chairs spill out in to the alley itself, with the effervescent waiters fighting a constant battle to squeeze the extra bodies in somewhere. The atmosphere is chaotic, with a heady mix of tourists, locals, shop-keepers and trinket-sellers variously drinking, shouting, and pushing their way through the throng.

Al-Fishawi serves the standard range of sodas, juices and hot drinks, as well as various flavours of shisha (water pipe). It's a great place to take a break from shopping in Khan al-Khalili - though don't expect it to be relaxing! read more about Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

Bab al-Nasr

Bab al-Nasr

  • Off Bab al-Wazir Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

The second of Fatimid Cairo's northern gates, Bab al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) was built in 1087 AD when the old mud-brick city walls were upgraded to stone. Some of the stones used in the building were stolen from the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. Bab al-Nasr looks more like a castle gate than the entrance to a city, with huge blocky towers and defensive fortifications. The doorway is surmounted by a carved stone arch, decorated with calligraphy. The gate's inscription reads "There is no God but Allah; Mohammed is his prophet". Being Shia Muslims, the Fatimids also added the controversial inscription "And Ali is the deputy of God". There is actually a huge cemetery opposite Bab al-Nasr, though there are so many homes built over it that you can no longer really see the tombs. Bab al-Nasr leads on to al-Gamaliyya street, which can be followed all the way down to Khan al-Khalili. read more about Bab al-Nasr

Abou el Sid

Abou el Sid

  • 157, 26th of July Street, just down from Diwan book store
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2735 9640 / +20 (0)10 100 8500
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Abou el Sid, located on Zamalek, offers excellent, authentic Egyptian cuisine in very atmospheric surroundings. Décor is traditional Arabesque, heavy on the mashrabiyya wooden panelling, but the atmosphere is lively and down to earth. A word of warning though - the staff can be incredibly rude, and the service isn't always great.

Don't let this put you off though, because Abou el Sid is an excellent place to share a selection of mouth-watering mezzes, and offers a wide range of traditional Egyptian mains. Try the Rabbit with Molokheiya for a real taste of rural Egypt, their old-school fish Sayadeya, or opt for Egypt's national dish, Koshary (a mix of pasta, lentils, fried onions and tomato sauce). Abou el Sid also serves a range of alcohol, and Egyptian water pipes (shishas).

Abou el Sid gets very busy, so it's advisable to book in advance. If you can't get a table, L'Aubergine and La Bodega are near by, or you could try the Abou el Sid branches in Mohandiseen, Maadi or City Stars. read more about Abou el Sid

Al-Azhar Mosque

Al-Azhar Mosque

  • Al-Azhar Street
  • Opposite El-Hussein Square
  • tel:+20 (0)2 59 3893
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Al Azhar Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Egypt, if not the whole world. It was established in 972 AD, the first Fatimid monument built in Cairo. Its name means "the most blooming", after one of the prophet Mohammed's daughters.

Al Azhar Mosque has been renovated and extended over the years, and it reflects a number of architectural styles. The large main courtyard is a particular highlight: 275 by 112 feet, made of glistening white marble, and home to hundreds of ancient columns. The five minarets are particularly elegant, and can be seen from much of Cairo. It is possible to climb some of the towers, though they are often locked and you should remember to give the porter a little something for his trouble.

Al Azhar Mosque is also arguably the most significant in the whole of the Sunni Muslim world: it is home to the second oldest University in the world, established in 975 AD, which specialises in all forms of Islamic studies. The scholars of the university are very well respected, and are often called upon to issue fatwas, or religious rulings.

Al Azhar Mosque is situated in the heart of Islamic Cairo, opposite Midan al-Hussein and Khan al-Khalili bazaar. It is best visited by taxi, though you could also walk up from Ataba Metro station. read more about Al-Azhar Mosque

Al Hussein Mosque

Al Hussein Mosque

  • El-Hussein Square
  • tel:+20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Cairo

Al-Hussein Mosque is one of the most beautiful Cairo mosques. Situated in Midan al-Hussein, next to Khan al-Khalili, al-Hussein Mosque is named after the Prophet's grandson, who was killed by the Umayyads in Iraq in 680 AD during a battle over the succession of the Caliphate. It was this conflict that caused the schism in Islam that gave rise to the two main subdivisions of Sunni and Shia: with the Sunnis recognising the legitimacy of the Umayyad claim, and the Shi'ites maintaining that only a blood relative of Mohammed could be the Caliph. Hussein is revered as a martyr in the Shi'ite world, and although Egypt is predominantly Sunni Muslim, Hussein is still regarded as a saint here too. His head is buried inside al-Hussein Mosque. Technically, the mosque is closed to non-Muslims, though the caretakers will sometimes let you in if you appear respectful enough. Al-Hussein Mosque is elegant and restrained: a huge prayer hall with hundreds of light grey marble pillars, tasteful hanging lamps and chandeliers, and high vaulted ceilings. The mihrab is gorgeous: white, blue, grey and black marble arranged in to traditional geometric designs. The shrine to Hussein is a huge engraved silver affair surrounded by shining white marble, and offset by soft, almost otherworldly green lighting. You will often see pilgrims from all around the Muslim world at Hussein's shrine, walking slowly around it, chanting. read more about Al Hussein Mosque

Farahat

Farahat

  • 126 Al-Azhar Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2592 6595
  • Cairo

Farahat is an unassuming, spit and sawdust Egyptian grill tucked away in an alley near Khan al-Khalili. Whilst their kofta and kebab are good, the real reason to visit Farahat is for the pigeon.

Pigeons have been eaten in Egypt since Pharaonic times, and are still specially raised in coups across the country. The pigeons at Farahat are gorgeous: fat and juicy, flavoursome, and stuffed with cracked wheat. There's really no other way to eat them than to rip the bird apart and suck the flesh off the bones - but don't worry, everyone else is doing the same thing!

The food at Farahat comes served with rice, bread, and salads such as tahina, baba ghanoush, and mixed salad. You also get an oily soup served in a glass to begin with. Although there's a nominal charge for the salads, Farahat is pretty good value, with a pigeon costing 25 LE.

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant gets very busy, and since it's effectively just a few plastic chairs and table stuffed into an alley, you often have to wait to be seated. It's well worth it!

Farahat is a great place to take a break from exploring the markets and monuments of Islamic Cairo. Al-Azhar Mosque and the Wikalet al-Ghouri (home to the Sufi dancing show) are just across the street, and it's easy from here to head south towards Bab Zwayla, or north towards Bab al-Futuh. read more about Farahat

Zizo's

Zizo's

  • 1 Midan Bab al Futuh
  • tel:2025926530
  • Cairo

Zizo's, situated opposite one of the north gates (Bab al Futuh) of Islamic Cairo, is one of the city's best kept secrets.

Founded by colourful owner Abdel-Aziz Mustafa Hamzah (aka Zizo) in the 60's, Zizo's specialises in spicy sogoq (beef sausage) sandwiches, Alexandria style. The sandwiches are incredibly tasty, and dirt cheap, though be warned that they have quite a kick. Zizo's is also renowned for the quality of its offal, and the brains are particularly well regarded. For dessert, grab a halawa bil eshta sandwich (halawa is a sweet made of sesame paste and sugar, and eshta is cream) for the ultimate sugar rush!

Zizo himself still runs this tiny, spit and sawdust-type restaurant, as well as making the amazing pickles that accompany his food. He's a very friendly character, that loves to welcome and chat with his guests.

Zizo's is very near Khan el Khalili, so is the perfect place to refuel after a spot of shopping, perhaps before heading to the nearby cities of the dead. read more about Zizo's

Egyptian pancake house

Egyptian pancake house

  • Midan Hussein
  • tel:2024505871
  • Cairo

The Egyptian Pancake House is situated in on the edge Khan al-Khalili bazaar, and is a good place to eat in the area.

Egyptian pancakes (sometimes referred to as pizzas or pies) are actually known as feteers, and are sort of like a pizza topping stuffed inside a crepe. They are a perfect quick and tasty filler.

The Egyptian Pancake House offers various savoury and sweet feteers, and the best thing to do is to take a selection, and share. They aren't the best in Cairo, but they are authentic, and compared to a lot of the overpriced rubbish served up in the bazaar area, if you do need to eat, this is a good bet.

The spicy sausage feteer is particularly good, as is the honey, nuts and cream. Watch how the chef makes the pastry, slapping it on the counter and swinging it around his head to stretch the dough.

At the Egyptian Pancake House, you eat your feteers sitting at plastic tables and chairs balanced on the busy pavement, with a stream of vendors and the occasional tour bus parading past. This organised chaos, so typical of Cairo, is a big part of the fun! read more about Egyptian pancake house

Qarafa, City of the Dead

Qarafa, City of the Dead

  • East of Cairo, Foot of Moqattam Cliff
  • El Khalifa
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509
  • Cairo

Qarafa, or the City of the Dead, is situated in the east of Islamic Cairo, stretching from the foot of the Citadel to the Muqattam Hills. The City of the Dead is actually two cemeteries, dating back to Mamluk times: a southern cemetery, and a northern cemetery. Traditionally, every family in Cairo would maintain some sort of mausoleum, somewhere in Cairo, where family members were buried. To this day, the cemeteries are still in use. As well as for the dead, the cemeteries provide homes for the living. Families live within the mausoleums. Some have been there for generations, and look after the tombs for their owners. Others are more recent, tolerated squatters, many of whom were displaced from the canal zone during the 1967 war. No-one knows for sure how many people live in the City of the Dead, though it's probably in the region of half a million. It is possible to visit the cemeteries. The southern cemetery is only sparsely inhabited, though it is an eerily atmospheric place to wander around. Some of the tombs are hundreds of years old; others are more recent. Some years back, the area had a reputation as the home of thieves and drug dealers, and you should certainly avoid the southern cemetery at night. The northern cemetery of the City of the Dead is where most of the people live. It feels more like a peaceful, though poor residential area. There are even a handful of shops and cafes, and many of the inhabitants live quite normal lives. The northern cemetery is home to some of Cairo's most beautiful Mamluk monuments, such as the Mausoleums of Sultan Qaitbey and Sultan Barquq. It's best to visit the area with the help of a guide, though it is possible to do on your own. Don't stray too far from the main paths, and it's best not to linger long past sunset. read more about Qarafa, City of the Dead

Wikalet al-Ghouri

Wikalet al-Ghouri

  • Muhammad 'Abduh Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Cairo, 11211

The Wikalet al-Ghouri, in Islamic Cairo, was built in the 16th Century by Qansuh al-Ghouri, the penultimate Mamluk sultan. A Wikala was a warehouse and merchants hostel, and the Wikalet al-Ghouri has been carefully restored. You have to pay 15 LE to enter.

It is very complete, with a huge open courtyard and a maze of stairs and passageways leading around the different floors. There is a marble fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Many of the old rooms have been turned into miniature crafts centres, and it's possible to see workers producing leather ware, jewellery, paintings and so on. The combination of dark mashrabia windows on each room, and the striped marble building materials, is very effective; and although the Wikala al-Ghouri is very simple, it is deceptively beautiful.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evening there is a free Sufi dancing show held in the courtyard. The show begins at 8.30 pm, though if possible you should arrive when the doors open at 6.30 pm, to make sure you get in.

The show is incredible: the dancers spin in place, whipping their brightly coloured skirts into a mesmerising kaleidoscope of patterns. At the end of the dance, they simply walk off without a wobble, as if they haven't just been spinning around in a circle for ages. It's dizzying just watching them!

Wikalet al-Ghouri is just behind al-Azhar Mosque, pretty much opposite Khan al-Khalili and a short walk away from the Street of the Tentmakers.
read more about Wikalet al-Ghouri

Mausoleum of Sultan Qaitbay

Mausoleum of Sultan Qaitbay

  • East of Cairo, Foot of Moqattam Cliff
  • El Khalifa, City of the Dead
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509
  • Visit website
  • Cairo
Mosque-Madrassa of al Ghouri

Mosque-Madrassa of al Ghouri

  • In front of al Ghouri Mausoleum
  • Islamic Cairo
  • Cairo, 11728

Qansuh al-Ghouri was the penultimate Mamluk sultan of Egypt, and ruled for the first 16 years of the 16th Century. The area where the southern half of Muizz li-Din-Allah street meets al-Azhar street contains a number of monuments built by him, including the Wikala al-Ghouri, the Mausoleum al-Ghouri, and the Mosque-Madrassa al-Ghouri. The impressive Mosque-Madrassa al-Ghouri has been beautifully restored, its outside decorated with horizontal bands of dun and cream marble, Arabic stonework calligraphy and geometric patterns. The entrance to the Mosque-Madrassa al-Ghouri is an incredibly ornate niche doorway of black and white marble, that looks almost like a strange, fractal mountain range. The mosque itself is not that big, but feels light and spacious nonetheless, and has beautiful marble floors, ornately carved stone walls, and the black, white and dun coloured marble banding so typical of Mamluk architecture. The Mosque-Madrassa al-Ghouri also boasts some splendid stained glass arch windows, a gold coloured carved wood ceiling, and even a large, gothic-looking iron chandelier. As with most mosques, for a little bit of baksheesh you are able to climb the minaret. A thoroughly recommended mosque! read more about Mosque-Madrassa of al Ghouri

Al Azhar Park

Al Azhar Park

  • Salah Salem Street
  • Al Darassa
  • tel:+20 2 510 3868 / +20 2 510 7378
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11562

Covering an area of about 30 hectares, al-Azhar Park is the largest expanse of green in Cairo. Established by the Aga Khan Trust For Culture in 1984, it was built over the top of a huge pile of rubble that had been turned in to a rubbish tip. Don't let this put you off: al-Azhar Park is a peaceful oasis on the edge of the chaos that is Islamic Cairo.

Paths meander through idyllic gardens, and you are never far from one of the many water features. It's a great place to relax, and many people take a picnic. If you'd rather be waited upon, there are four restaurant/cafes located in the grounds. Because al-Azhar Park is on a hill, you get amazing views all over Cairo. On a clear day you can even see the Pyramids!

As with much of Cairo, the best bit is people-watching: old men reminiscing on benches, children playing leapfrog, and daring young lovers holding hands as they stroll through their own little world. If history is your thing, then check out the 800 year-old Ayyubid wall that has been partially restored. If music is more your scene, then ask at the information desk about up-and-coming concerts; many of them are free!

Al-Azhar Park is a perfect place to chill out after you've tackled some of the nearby sights of Islamic Cairo, such as Khan al-Khalili or the Citadel. You can get here by taxi, or even walk up from Khan al-Khalili. read more about Al Azhar Park

Bab Zwayla

Bab Zwayla

  • Sharia al-Muizz el-Din Allah Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Bab Zwayla is the only surviving southern gate of the medieval Fatimid city of al-Qahira. Built in the 10th Century, Bab Zwayla is as beautiful as it is imposing: a solid arch framed by chunky round turrets, with graceful minarets piercing the sky. It looks more like the entrance to a castle than to a city! The city wall to the west of the gate is still intact, and you can clearly see the zigzagging battlements with their finely carved decorations. During the Mamluk period, the area in front of Bab Zwayla was used for public gatherings, and dancers and snake charmers performed here. It was especially popular for the macabre entertainment of executions. For a small fee you can enter the western Bab Zwayla gate tower, and climb on to the roof and the city walls. You can even climb most of the way up one of the minarets, and get spectacular views out over Islamic Cairo and the Citadel. Just south of Bab Zwayla, is the Street of the Tentmakers. read more about Bab Zwayla

Museum of Islamic Art

Museum of Islamic Art

  • Port Said Street
  • Port Saied Street
  • tel:+20 2 390 9930
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11211

The Museum of Islamic Art was first approved by Khedive Ismail in the mid 19th Century, though nothing happened until 1881 when a small collection was established in the then-ruined al-Hakim Mosque. Over the years the collection slowly grew, until in 1902 an entirely new museum was built on the outskirts of Islamic Cairo.

The Museum of Islamic Art is hosted in a beautiful neo-Mamluk building, which also contains the National Library. It is considered to be one of the most important museums of Islamic Art in the world, with thousands of artefacts on display, covering all Islamic eras. As well as exquisite ceramics, woodwork, metalwork and calligraphy, the Museum of Islamic Art contains some stunning examples of Iranian and Turkish carpets. Make sure to check out the delicately carved boxes for holding the Quran, and spare a few minutes to relax next to the fountain in the central courtyard.

The Museum of Islamic Art is situated in Bab el Khalq square, and is a short walk from both Mohammed Naguib and Ataba Metro stations. Abdeen Palace is also a few minutes walk away. read more about Museum of Islamic Art

Taboula

Taboula

  • 1 Latin American Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2792 5261
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Taboula is a fancy Lebanese restaurant tucked away down a leafy side street in Garden City. Although quite large, the tables are packed together, and the restaurant can feel quite stuffy. It is nicely decorated though, and feels quite classy.

Taboula specialises in Lebanese food, which means lots of tasty mezze and grills. The food can be a bit hit and miss: some of the mezze in particular are delicious, whereas others are merely average. The classics, such as hummus and tabouleh, are very good, but the mussels leave a lot to be desired. The Fattah dishes are particularly good. Alcohol and shisha pipes are both served at Taboula, and it is a pleasant enough space to enjoy a lingering meal, but the staff are not always that friendly.

There is a take-away and delivery service as well.

If you fancy a more cheap and cheerful Middle Eastern dining experience, check out nearby Abou Shakra.
read more about Taboula

Abou Shakra

Abou Shakra

  • 69 Kasr El Einy Street
  • tel:20 (0)2 2531 6111, +20 (0)2 3531 6222
  • Visit website
  • Cairo
Makan

Makan

  • 1 Saad Zaghloul St.
  • El Dawaween
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2792 0878
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11461