Salah El-Din Citadel#6 in Best Things To Do in Cairo
You'll need to devote a whole day to the Salah El-Din Citadel, which is quite possibly the most popular non-pyramid attraction in Cairo. This massive fortress located in Islamic Cairo was constructed in the late 1100s by Salah al-Din, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and an opponent of those involved in the Christian Crusades. Within its walls lies a trove of worthwhile attractions: The Mohamed Ali Mosque is the most visited site by far, but you should spend time exploring the other two mosques as well. The structure also houses several museums. Save some time for Gawhara Palace, which former Ottoman army commander Mohamed Ali built for his last wife.
While recent visitors praise the number of things to do here, most recommend taking some time to stop and enjoy the view. You can see much of Coptic Cairo and, on a clear day, the Pyramids of Giza from the fortress. Also, remember to cover up like you would when visiting other Islamic sites.
The Salah El-Din Citadel is located about 4 miles southeast of downtown Cairo in the southern part of Islamic Cairo. Parking in the area is hit or miss, so plan on taking a taxi or bus tour to the property. Several bus tours, including Love Egypt Tours and Memphis Tours, offer excursions to the area for roughly $100 per person. The site is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with reduced hours during Ramadan. Keep in mind that mosques in the citadel are closed on Fridays for the Islamic Sabbath. Admission to the Salah El-Din Citadel costs 60 Egyptian pounds (or $7) and includes entry to Gawhara Palace and all of the fortress' mosques and museums. Additional fees apply to use the property's restrooms and for drinks and snacks purchased on-site.
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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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