Coptic Cairo (Old City)#2 in Best Things To Do in Cairo
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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, check out neighborhood attractions like the Coptic Museum and the ninth-century Hanging Church, which are housed within an ancient Babylonian fortress. You'll also find significant Jewish and Islamic locales here, including the Mosque of Amr Ibn al-Aas – the oldest mosque in Africa – and Ben Ezra Synagogue – the alleged site where the pharaoh's daugher found Moses floating in his basket.
Past visitors said visiting Coptic Cairo is a must, even if you're not religious. History lovers will appreciate the area's abundance of historic sights, while architecture buffs will enjoy gazing at the neighborhood's beautiful mosaics and woodwork. Plus, Coptic Cairo's narrow alleys are lined with street vendors selling a variety of goods.
The easiest way to get to Coptic Cairo is to take the Cairo Metro to Mar Girgis station, which sits across the street from the Coptic Museum. Select bus tour operators, such as Egypt Tailor Made Tours and Love Egypt Tours, include a stop at Coptic Cairo, and limited street parking is available. The area is free to visit, but bring money if you plan on buying items from the street vendors or entering the Coptic Museum. The Coptic Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., while most religious sites are open in the mornings for mass and during select afternoons for tours.
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#1 Islamic Cairo
This sprawling neighborhood in eastern Cairo encompasses a labyrinth of twisting alleyways and a spattering of awe-inspiring architecture. The atmosphere here will take some getting used to: The streets are crowded, noisy and littered with animal droppings. But if you take the time to adjust to Islamic Cairo's chaotic environment, you won't regret making the trek.
You'll find a number of top attractions here, including Khan el-Khalili's bazaar and the Salah El-Din Citadel. According to past visitors, no matter where you wander in the area, you'll stumble upon archeological treasures and architectural gems. To see Islamic Cairo's sights, get out and walk or tag along on an organized bus tour. Bus tours – like those offered by Memphis Tours and Egypt Tailor Made Tours – include local guides, so if you want to learn more about the neighborhood's history, this is the best way to get around.
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