Great Sphinx#4 in Best Things To Do in Cairo
One of Cairo's must-see attractions is the Great Sphinx, the world's oldest monumental sculpture. Situated by the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx impresses with its size – it measures 66 feet high and 234 feet long – and unique appearance. The monument depicts a part pharaoh, part lion being, but archeologists are not sure who the figure is modeled after or when it was built. Two temples, one from the Old Kingdom and another from the New Kingdom, sit next to the sphinx.
Past travelers said the best way to see the Great Sphinx is to sign up for a bus tour. Some prearranged tours – including those offered by Memphis Tours and Love Egypt Tours – will give you special access to select areas of the site, plus admissions fees are included in tour rates. You'll also gain more insight about the monument than you would without a guide. If you'd rather have a quintessential Egyptian experience, pay extra to explore the area by camel.
The Great Sphinx sits on the Giza Plateau (about 12 miles southwest of downtown Cairo), where you'll find the Pyramids of Giza and several tombs. Other archeological sites like Saqqara and Memphis are located less than 15 miles away. The easiest way to get to the monument is by car, taxi or bus tour. There is no fee for parking in the lot by the Giza Plateau entrance, but a parking ticket, which costs 5 Egyptian pounds (less than $1) per car, is required to park inside the site by the pyramids. You'll also need a Giza Plateau ticket. Adult tickets are 80 Egyptian pounds ($9) per person, while student tickets cost 40 Egyptian pounds (less than $5) each. All tickets include entrance into the Great Sphinx's temples, as well as access to the adjacent pyramids. Bring extra cash if you plan on purchasing items at the gift shop or using the restrooms by the free parking lot.
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#1 Coptic Cairo (Old City)
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.
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