Coptic Cairo (Old City)
- Type: Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area
- Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
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This neighborhood in southern Cairo is the oldest part of the city, with twisting alleyways and ancient churches that are several centuries older than the ornate mosques of Islamic Cairo. According to legend, it was St. Mark who introduced Christianity to Egypt, and it was here that Africa's first Christian Church—the Coptic Church of Egypt—thrived. To learn more about Coptic Cairo's rich history, pay a visit to the Coptic Museum, where you'll find thousands of examples of Christian art and relics. Next to the Coptic Museum, you'll discover the 9th-century Hanging Church sitting atop the remains of what was once a Roman fortress built by Emperor Trajan in the first century.
Although Coptic Cairo remains a predominantly Christian area, you will also spot several notable sites from other religions. For example, the Ben Ezra Synagogue (located next to the Coptic Museum) is the alleged site where the pharaoh's daughter found Moses floating in his basket. Islamic heritage is also represented here with the Mosque of Amr Ibn al-'Aas, which was constructed in 642 and is the oldest mosque in Africa.
To reach Coptic Cairo, take the Metro to the Mari Girgis stop, located just a few blocks from the Coptic Museum. The best way to explore this area is wandering the streets on foot. As one TripAdvisor user writes: "What I loved was the back alleys behind the churches where you can see the nuns housing […] you have to walk around and enjoy yourself." To learn more, visit our guide on Getting Around Cairo. Most of the religious sites are open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except during prayer services), and admission is free, although it's customary to leave a small donation. To find out more about Coptic Cairo, visit the Egyptian Tourism Authority's website.