Cairo is known as “the City of Diversity.”

As an avid traveler, I sometimes waste time online perusing various websites and reading up on various travel-related topics. I find capital cities to be the dullest part of any vacation, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to learn about the world from the perspectives of natives or from first-hand experience.

I’ve seen a hundred comments saying that spending a day in the nation’s capital is a waste of time.

It is generally accepted that except from the spectacular skyscrapers and the hectic city traffic, there is not much to see. That may be true in most places, but if you’re planning a trip to Cairo, Egypt, you should know that things will be very different.


Cairo, with its many different cultures, offers a huge variety of experiences that, unless you’re really stingy, you won’t have time to see in just two days.

Having spent the better part of a quarter of a century here, I can state without a doubt that life in this city is a never-ending series of exciting adventures into bygone eras. You can visit all type of religious building imaginable, from mosques and churches to synagogues and enthralling Egyptian markets, from royal palaces to museums. What’s more, you can’t beat the genuine Egyptian food.

To prove that it is possible to have a good time sight-seeing in Cairo, I have collected a list of interesting places to visit, especially if you are a photographer or are interested in experiencing the city’s real spirit.


The Citadel of the Mountain was built in the old city of Cairo by Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (572-579 AH / 1176-1183 AD) on top of the Al Mukattam hills, which provide a panoramic view of the entire city.

No matter how impressive Egypt appeared to be at the time, it needed the protection of a citadel more than anything else. Cities in the Levant, such as Aleppo and Damascus, had already done this, and Egypt needed to follow suit.

You can almost taste history as you walk the massive walls of this fortification. The fact that it was built on one of Cairo’s highest elevations attests to the strength of its design. In addition, on a steamy summer morning, the wind here is a godsend.

The citadel is home to several fascinating attractions that provide a wide range of possibilities, making it too much to see in a single day but yet worth exploring.

Some of Cairo’s most recognizable landmarks, such the Sulayman Pasha al-Khadim Masjid and the Masjid Muhammad Ali Pasha, date back to the Ottoman Empire. In addition, you can cross the Police Museum, the Royal Vehicle Museum, and the Military Museum off your list.

Every day from 9am-5pm, visitors can enter the citadel, however the cost will vary for those coming from outside the country.


It’s hard to imagine anyone leaving this magnificent mosque without a sense of impending grace, as everything about it is so great and expansive. The entire place is marbled, with gigantic supporting columns and gorgeously carpeted floors—an absolute dream for photographers.

There are hundreds of lanterns hung in perfectly aligned circles from the ceiling, which is ornamented with ornate decorations. A sunset in this opulent outdoor space, which is paneled entirely in white marble, is an experience you won’t forget.

Alabaster Mosque, one of the most notable structures in Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi Citadel, was constructed by Muhammad Ali Pasha. The mosque features a pair of minarets that are the tallest in all of Egypt.

In 1262 AH/1845 AD, Louis Phillippe of France presented a copper clock tower to the mosque’s open court area as a gift; in return, Muhammad Ali presented the obelisk that had stood in the Place de La Concorde in Paris, which belonged to Ramsses II.

Each day, from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, everyone is welcome to attend the mosque for free. However, in order to gain in, you must dress modestly. Women who enter mosques are required to cover their hair and bodies.


Muhammad Ali’s long and successful presidency of 43 years did much to strengthen the country and improve its citizens’ standard of living. A Sultan’s palace is an extension of his power and prestige, and it is customary for it to be a lavish fusion of several architectural styles.

Its grand reputation as a result of its impressive architecture has led to its establishment in Al-Manial. The Islamic composition is richly seasoned with the lively characteristics of Mamluk and Persian design, as well as the impact of Andalusian, Syrian, and Moroccan motifs.

The palace has a throne hall, a welcome hall, a hunting museum, and a clock tower—all of which make for an enjoyable day trip.

For me, taking in all of the different styles at once was a completely new and very overwhelming experience. I can state without equivocation that it was like being transported to a foreign universe and immersed in many cultures at once. This palace has an unparalleled air of opulence and grand splendor.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., however be aware that the last ticket is sold at 2:15 p.m. and that the price for non-U.S. citizens varies.


Khan Al-Khalili, located in Cairo’s historic district, is a popular tourist destination that seems to be busy at all hours. As one of seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Egypt, this section of Cairo is a must-see.

In the fourteenth century, Jaharkas El Khalili, the Master of Stables, constructed a caravanserai (commonly referred to as a “khan”) to house merchants. Subsequent sultans added their own khans to the area, completing the picture and establishing what would become the commercial epicenter of Cairo by the late fifteenth century.

Khan el-Khalili is like a maze full of magical and fantastical treasures; no matter which way you turn, there’s something new to discover. Everything from mosaic lanterns and loads of cheap trinkets to gold jewelry and silver pharaonic replica pendants can be found here.

You can’t get away from the noise and crowds, but that’s all part of the exciting sensation of being in a truly Cairo setting, and this is the greatest place to get a real taste of it.

The best market day has bright colors, lively music, the smell of coffee, and the sound of a hookah laughing.

This is the perfect opportunity to hone your negotiating abilities, and I would add, to be relentless in your pursuit of a lower price while you’re there. At the end of the day, you can count on getting a fair deal.


Cairo’s Religious Complex is home to all three of the world’s major monotheistic faiths in one convenient location. This is where it found its significance, together with the nearby Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque, The Hanging Church, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue.

The Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque is the largest and oldest mosque in Africa. It was the second mosque ever built in Egypt and its foundations can be traced back to the year 21 AH. At the time of its founding, it was mostly constructed from palm tree trunks, mud bricks, and gravel, materials that were later turned into marble columns and tiles.

It is best to visit the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque in the early morning hours, but the mosque is open all week long and at any time.

The Hanging Church got its monstrous reputation because it was constructed atop the Roman fortification in Babylon.

Patriarch Christozoulos established The Hanging Church as the papal seat in Alexandria, making it the seat of many previous patriarchs. There was also the tradition that the Holy Family hid there from Herod the King of Palestine.

Everybody can come check out The Hanging Church without having to pay anything.


Along with the Christian and Muslim communities, the Jewish community also had a local presence. The Ben Ezra Synagogue in Egypt is one of the first synagogues ever built.

It was significant because, according to a few legends, it was there that Prophet Moses prayed to God during the Plague of Egypt and the basket he was placed in was preserved. Abraham bin Ezra, the leader of the Jews at the time, was honored with the naming of the temple in his honor.

The Coptic Museum, Abi Sarjah Church, St. Margarus’s Monastery, and the Church of Saint Barbara are all part of the larger religious complex.

In this way, you only get a taste of Cairo, and if you really wanted to see everything, it would take a full book. To that end, I think Cairo is worthy of more than a quick weekend visit.


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