Walking Tour of Islamic Cairo
Your walking tour of Cairo begins at the former walled Citadel built by Saladin ad-Din in the late 12th century. It acted as the seat of government until the 19th century. The area sits on the promontory of the Mokattam Hills, dominating the surrounding skyline. Your next stop is the superb Mosque of Mohammed Ali. It was built to imitate the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, with two high minarets and numerous domes. Do look out for the clock in the entrance which was a gift by King Louis-Philippe of France in exchange for the obelisk erected on the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Continue to the Sultan Hassan Mosque where you can climb one of the Minarets for one of the best views of the city. Next, visit the Ibn Tulun Mosque before visiting the nearby Gayer Anderson Museum. It’s now time for lunch, and we will drive you to somewhere local to get a taste of authentic Egyptian cuisine.
You are then driven to the starting point of your afternoon walking tour of Cairo, beginning with a walk along Muizz Street. This is one of Cairo’s oldest streets and an assortment of goods are sold, such as spices, antiques and perfume. Your first stop is at the Qalaun Complex, containing a mosque-medersa, a mausoleum and a mauristan. It which was built in 1284 by Sultan El Mansur Qalaun and the Syrian architecture is exquisite. The Sultan asked for a hospital to be built here after he was cured of colic at a similar institution in Damascus. The famous writer Ibn Battuta visited Cairo in 1325 and remarked it had ‘an innumerable quantity of appliances and medicaments.’ Outside Quran reciters were heard day and night chanting requiems for the dead within the complex.
You continue along Muizz Street until you reach the Quran School of Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda. Built in 1744, it is a wonderful example of Ottoman and Mamluk architecture. The structure is more impressive to look at from the outside, so we will press on walking rather than visiting the interior.
The next port of call is the Al-Hakim Mosque. Construction began in 990 and completed in about 1013 and is the second-largest Fatimid mosque in Cairo. You can enter (except on Saturdays), and can climb one of the minarets for a stunning view over Islamic Cairo. You then reach the northern gates of the Citadel, Bab al-Futuh before rounding the corner and re-entering Islamic Cairo through the Bab al-Futuh gate.
The walk then takes you along El-Gamaleya Street and Khan Gaafar Street, giving you another opportunity to take a glimpse at local life in Egypt. Make sure you avoid the donkeys pulling carts down the street and savour the smell of street food stalls and freshly baked bread. At the end of Khan Gaafar Street, you turn into Al Mashhad Al Husseini Street which brings you to the Khan el-Khalili market. This is one of the most touristy areas in Cairo, but it is a great place to stop for an afternoon coffee. We suggest stopping for coffee close to the Al-Hussein Mosque which is closed for tourists but you can do a little people watching.
The next stop is the Al-Azhar Mosque. Commissioned in 970, it is one of the most impressive mosques in Cairo – you might be ‘mosqued out’ by this point, but it is worth 10 minutes seeing inside. For those who are lovers of books, Mohammed Abdou Street has a collection of excellent bookshops. Dip into Wasila Historical House, now used as an art and poetry centre. Next is a walk down the less-visited Al Motaz Ldin Allah Street before you reach Bab Zuwayla, the southern gate. You can dip into the colourful tentmaker’s street for your final market experience of the day. The best time to be here is at sunset when you can climb on of the minarets for amazing views over the Cairo skyline.