Saqqara#8 in Best Things To Do in Cairo
Sandwiched between Giza and Dahshur in southern Cairo and surrounded by palm trees, this archaeological site houses the Step Pyramid of Djoser, Egypt's oldest stone pyramid. The Step Pyramid dates back to the Third Dynasty (2649 to 2575 B.C.) and was constructed for the pharaoh Djoser by the now infamous architect Imhotep. Originally built as a tomb, the Step Pyramid has drawn tourists for millennia, as evidenced by the graffiti adorning its walls.
While the Step Pyramid is a definite must-see, Saqqara is home to several other worthwhile sites, including a number of tombs and a few crumbling pyramids. Recent visitors recommended wearing sneakers since the area is sandy. And if you want to enjoy comfortable temperatures while exploring the site, avoid visiting during the summer.
To reach Saqqara, you can take a taxi from central Cairo or book a bus tour that includes a visit to Saqqara. (Bus tour prices to Saqqara average around $100.) The site welcomes visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or until 3 p.m. during Ramadan). Admission to Saqqara – which includes entry to the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the on-site Imhotep Museum – costs 80 Egyptian pounds ($9) for adults and 40 Egyptian pounds (less than $5) for students. Restrooms are available by the parking lot, and vendors sell water and souvenirs near the site's entrance.
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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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