Old Cairo Overview
The Egyptian capital of Cairo, the largest city on the African continent and in the Islamic world, long known as the "Gateway to the East" and a mediator between Christianity and Islam The area is known to the Egyptians as Masr al-Qadima and stretches down to the sub-area often called Coptic Cairo.
Again, appropriate dress covering the body including shoulders and legs is required for entering both Coptic and Islamic monuments.
Old Cairo is so named because it is the oldest part of Cairo, and in fact, predates what is now Cairo. Some Egyptologists believe that there was a settlement here as far back as the 6th century BC. Later, the Romans built a fortress here which we call Babylon.
Some of these Roman walls still exist. Later, it became a Christian stronghold, with as many as 20 churches built within an area of one square mile. There are only five remaining, but these are certainly a must see when visiting Cairo, along with the earliest Mosque ever built in Egypt.
In addition, after the fall of Jerusalem in about 70 AD, the area also saw an influx of that religion into the area, where the oldest synagogue is also located. Most of Pharaonic Egypt is a relic of one of the World’s first and grandest religions, including the great Pyramids outside Cairo.
Yet if the modern world can be said to have four major religions consisting of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, then three of those are represented by some of their most ancient relics in this section of Old Cairo.
Just southwest of Coptic Museum is the Hanging Church built into the walls of the Water Gate of the Roman fortress. It is possibly the oldest Christian church in Egypt. This entrance leads into the Monastery and Church of St. George . This is not an old church, dating only from 1909, but there has been a church in Coptic Cairo dedicated to the Martyr since the 10th century.
Turn left outside the door to St. George and the path leads to the Church of St. Sergius (Abu Serga), which legend has it is built atop one of the sites where the Holy Family rested on their flight from Herod. Continuing on this path brings one first to the Ben Ezra Synagogue , which is Egypt's oldest and dates to the 9th Century.
Past that is St. Barbara , named for the young girl who was martyred for trying to convert her father to Christianity. There is also a gate that leads to the Greek Orthodox cemetery, which surrounds the complex to the east. Mosque of Amr Ibn al-As Though little remains of the original structure, this Mosque is the oldest in Egypt, its ancestor having been built in 642 AD.
Old Cairo visit would give you a different insight of Cairo and Egypt. It is the home to Islamic and Coptic heritage that tell the story of Egyptians life during the Coptic and Islamic periods.
Mosques, churches and synagogues are the common sightseeing in the area offering a unique religious community that you would not probably witness in else where along with the traditional Arab Souq of Khan El Khalili you would get most of Egypt historic and cultural picture completed.
Wekalet El Ghouri offers a tannoura dance show, Al Moez street is a nice walking tour at night, Al Fishawy cafe would also give you an opportunity to get mixed with locals and experience a close insight f how tolerant they are and foreigners welcoming.
Old Cairo is the visit that would change the way you knew Egypt in history books or TV shows, it is a full of life moving portrait of Egypt day life with tolerant past, Old Cairo is the visit of Egypt that you should not Miss !
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Frequently Asked Questions
Egypt is safe country to visit with notable low crime rate, tourist attractions are well secured and there is no common negative attitude towards foreigners, with some sensible precautions and preparations you will feel at home and as safe as you'll ever be.
There is no special dress code when visiting Egypt tourist sites, modest dress is recommended in less tourist sites and there is no special concern for women traveling alone.
Egyptian Arabic is the most commonly spoken language in Egypt, it is also the national language in the country but Egyptians speak and understand English as they study it in school. Fewer Egyptians can speak other languages like French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Egyptians working in tourism sector are accustomed to speak enough English and other languages to fulfill the needs of most travelers.
Egypt is very connected to the world, it has many direct flights with Africa, Asia, European Union and United States. Visit Cairo Airport website for a full list of Airlines that fly to Egypt.
Duty free allowances on arrival to Egypt are 1L alcohol, 1L perfume, and either 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 200g tobacco. Duty free shops are available in Egypt airports and major tourist cities (Cairo, Luxor, Hurghada, El Gouna and Sharm El Sheikh).
Giza Pyramids and most monuments and Museums in Egypt open between 8 Am to 5 Pm. During Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar, be aware that these hours will change significantly.
Shops and stores in Egypt are usually opened from 10 Am to 10 Pm however in major cities it opens much later and some are open 24 hours.
Visitors are welcome in most mosques throughout the year. Modest dress is recommended, women should cover their hair, arms and legs. Both Women and men will remove their shoes before entering.
Taking pictures for people and streets is fine after people permission While Taking pictures for official type or army structures is not permitted. In most historical sites and museums in Egypt it is allowed to use camera, some of them may charge you for camera but at the Egyptian Museum and some similar historical sites it is prohibited and you will be asked to leave camera at reception before entering.
Egypt enjoys big hotel variety from world class luxury to simple hostel accommodations; Check in time in most hotels in Egypt is around midday, 12 or 1 PM.
There in no health concerns or vaccinations required to visit Egypt but we recommend to check with your own doctor, he knows you and your medical history best.
The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound (LE), it is about ,06 to USD. Money exchange is widely available, Credit cards are largely used in Egypt major cities and tourist spots.
We do not recommend the public buses in big cities. Taxi and limousine service are fine every where but price is negotiable. Trains go to all big cities in Egypt except Sinai and the Red Sea. Flights from / to tourist cities are always available.
Tipping in Egypt is an appreciated habitual attitude but is Not obligatory. Generally 5 to 10 EGP for small favors is fine for carrying luggage, parking a car or to guys who clean bathrooms. 10 % is fine in restaurant and spa. Tipping your tour guide and vehicle driver should be considered if you're provided with good to great service, feel free to give what you think your experience was worth.