Memphis#11 in Best Things To Do in Cairo
First founded in A.D. 969, Cairo is considered a very young capital by Egyptian standards. Before the founding of Cairo, the ancient city of Memphis reigned supreme. Neighboring Saqqara along the Nile River, the ruins of Memphis (which was founded in 2925 B.C. by quasi-mythical ruler Menes) was the first imperial city on earth. All that remains of its former glory are the scattered ruins of stone temples, lingering statues and mud-brick necropolises. Some of the highlights here include a large limestone statue of Ramses II and a giant alabaster sphinx, both of which once guarded the entrance to the Temple of Ptah, Memphis' patron deity.
Recent visitors said that exploring the ancient capital was a must. However, the site is small since most of the ruins were ransacked before excavations began, so it's best to group a Memphis visit with a tour of Saqqara. Several tour companies, including Memphis Tours and Emo Tours Egypt, offer excursions to both locales for around $100.
Memphis sits approximately 17 miles south of central Cairo. There is no public transportation within walking distance, so plan on driving, hailing a taxi or taking a bus tour to the site. On-site parking is offered for 5 Egyptian pounds (less than $1) per vehicle. The attraction welcomes sightseers every day between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a fee of 40 Egyptian pounds (about $5). Students get in for a reduced rate. Additional facilities like restrooms and a gift shop are not available.
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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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