Things to Do in Cairo - page 2
Constructed in 642 AD under orders of the commander of the Muslim army that conquered Egypt, the Mosque ofAmr ibn Al-As
was the first mosque to ever be built on Egyptian soil.
Situated north of the Roman Fortress of Babylon, it sits on the edge of Fustat, the country’s first capital, which was founded by Amr ibn Al-As.
The mosque is said to have been built on the site where the general pitched his tent, and the original structure was thought to consist of only palm trunks covered with leaves. It expanded to its current size in 827 AD, while the Fatimid period saw the mosque ornately decorated with marble, mosaics, silver coatings, and a moving pulpit. The building has been restored and expanded upon many times since, with parts of the entrance reconstructed as recently as the 1980s.
The mosque incorporates both Greek and Roman architectural styles. It features 200 marble columns, many taken from ancient sites, and three minarets.
Founded in 1908, Cairo’s Coptic Museum houses one of the world’s biggest collections of Egyptian Christian art. The displays trace the history of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—one of Christianity’s oldest denominations—and how it was shaped by pharaonic, Roman, and other influences from the second century on.
Ramses II was a the longest serving pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, reigning from 1279 BC to 1213 BC, a total of 66 years and 2 months. This made him a very powerful and significant man in history and it's not surprising he left behind so many huge statues of himself. The Ramses II Statue at Giza is the freestanding red granite statue reaching 36 ft (11 m) in height discovered by Giovanni Battista Caviglia in 1820 in Memphis, the ruined ancient capital city. It was broken into 6 pieces but in 1955 Egyptian President Nasser had it restored and installed in Cairo at Ramses Square. Pollution took its toll on the 3,200 year old sculpture however and in 2006 it was moved to Giza where it will be installed in the new Grand Egyptian Museum when that opens in 2020.
Other statues of Ramses II are found at Abu Simbel and Luxor. The British Museum also has one which was found at Thebes.
Please note The Ramses II Statue was moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum in 2018. The Grand Egyptian Museum is currently scheduled to open in late 2020.
Dedicated to one of the region’s most popular Christian saints, the current Church of St. George (Mar Girgis) was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the original was established as far back as the 10th century.
This Coptic Christian church has a distinctive style, having been built on top of a round Roman tower; it is the only circular church in Egypt. Its dark interior is an atmospheric place, thick with incense and with sunbeams filtering in through stained glass windows. There’s a flight of steps leading down into the old Roman tower, although this is closed off to the public.
The Monastery of St. George next door is also closed to visitors. The Coptic Moulid (saints’ festival) of Mar Girgis is held here each year in April.
Formally known as St. Simon the Tanner Monastery, Cairo’s vast Cave Church pays tribute to a miracle St. Simon (also written St. Samaan or St. Simeon) is believed to have performed. The city’s Coptic Orthodox Christian garbage collectors (Zabbaleen) dug the church out of the Mokattam mountain during the 1970s.
Set on Jacob’s Island on the River Nile in Cairo, the Pharaonic Village is an outdoor leisure park themed around ancient Egypt and its pharaohs. Visitors wanting a relaxing and educational break from Cairo’s commotion come here to enjoy the re-enactments of ancient Egyptian life, mini-museums, replica buildings, and fun activities.
Consisting of two 4-mile-long (6-kilometer-long) cemeteries dating to Mamluk times (1200s to 1500s), Cairo’s City of the Dead is still in use today. Traditionally, all families kept a mausoleum; these days, some families use them to live in as well as for burials. There are also shops, cafés, and even a post office within the cemeteries.
One of Cairo’s oldest mosques, the Al Hakim Mosque is located in the heart of the city’s old Islamic quarter. Completed in 1012 by the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim Bi Amrillah, it centers on an arcaded courtyard, two minarets, and a grand gateway—distinctive features that are key draws for visitors.
John Gayer-Anderson, a British major and army doctor, received special permission from the Egyptian authorities to reside in a pari of sixteenth century houses adjacent to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo. From 1935 to 1942, Gayer-Anderson restored the buildings and populated them with a collection of art and antiques from around Egypt, the Arabian peninsula and Central Asia.
Upon his death in 1945, Gayer-Anderson donated the space to Egypt, and it has since been transformed into the Gayer-Anderson Museum. A mosaic fountain set into a marble floor greets visitors in the museum’s reception area. Each of the maze of rooms has a theme — a silver tea set and lacquered furniture are on display in the Queen Anne Room, while the Persian Room features beautifully intricate tile work.
Travelers with an appreciation for pop culture trivia will recognize the Gayer-Anderson Museum as a filming location for the James Bond filmThe Spy Who Loved Me.
The ancient Babylon Fortress was originally built by the Romans in the area now known as Coptic (or Old) Cairo. The fortress was built in a strong and strategic position – a canal ran through this area connecting the Nile with the Red Sea.
The persecution of Coptic Egyptians led them to take refuge within Babylon Fortress, and a stroll along the length of the walls will reveal a fascinating combination of Roman and Coptic architecture. The Coptic Egyptians built a monastery as well as several churches in the fortress grounds and embedded within its walls, including the El-Muallaqa (Hanging Church) and the Church of St George.
The towers of the fortress stand at almost 10 meters tall and are more than 30 meters in diameter. The fortifications have been altered and expanded upon by a number of emperors throughout the centuries.
More Things to Do in Cairo
Close to the Bab Zuweila gate to Cairo’s old city, the 15th-century Mosque of Sultan Al-Mu'ayyad stands atop the remains of a prison that once housed the mosque’s creator, Sultan Al-Mu’ayyad. While the structure has been extensively reworked over the years, its brilliantly colored marble and ornate decorations still stand out, as do the elegant twin minarets.
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