Walking tour of Islamic Cairo



Description:

This walking tour of Islamic Cairo is a great trip for anyone who enjoys wandering around a city, exploring its nooks and crannies. Islamic Cairo is a fascinating area of Cairo, with some of the most interesting Egyptian bazaars and mosques in the city. This trip is designed to take anything from half a day to a whole day, depending on how many Islamic monuments you want to enter, and how many alleyways you investigate! The walking tour of Islamic Cairo will take you through Egyptian bazaars such as Muski, the Street of the Tentmakers, and of course the most famous Egyptian bazaar, Khan al-Khalili. This walk through Islamic Cairo also passes by some of the most famous Egyptian mosques, such as al-Azhar, al-Hussein, and al-Hakim. Note that the route sketched out in this trip is only a suggestion – there are many other ways to explore Islamic Cairo. Also, it by no means covers all the Egyptian bazaars, mosques and monuments of Islamic Cairo: that would take weeks. The walking tour of Islamic Cairo will, however, give you some ideas about how to tackle this area of Cairo, and will hopefully provide inspiration for further trips. Note you will be on your feet all day, so should wear footwear you are comfortable walking in. You must remove your shoes to visit mosques, so some sort of “quick-release” sandal would be perfect. As parts of Islamic Cairo are very traditional, and you will be entering mosques, conservative clothing is important. Finally, make sure you have a bottle of water with you: although you will be able to buy it along the way, you can guarantee the one time you are gasping for a drink, there will be no kiosk in sight!

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Author: Nicholas Rowlands


Mausoleum of al-Ghouri

Location:

Al-Muezz el-Din Allah Street
Near El-Hussein Square
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


Day 1 - Cairo


Start by taking the metro to Ataba station. Ataba is a crazy area full of street markets, that acts as a sort of transition zone between Downtown Cairo and Islamic Cairo. Take the Azbakia exit from the metro and you will find yourself in the book market.

This consists of rows of white wooden stalls with brown shutters, crammed floor to ceiling with old and new books, magazines, vintage film posters, and photographs. It’s a treasure trove for eclectic culture vultures, where with a bit of digging, you can ferret out 80 year old National Geographic magazines, and original photos of King Farouk!

When you leave the market, keep going straight with the concrete multi-storey car-park on your right, and turn right on to the main road. This whole area is a Cairo bazaar at its most bizarre: stalls spill out into the road, crammed with everything from lingerie to luggage, and plastic flowers to perfume. Continue past the bus station, and turn left just before the overpass. Walk parallel to the overpass, cross the road, and enter the seething mass of humanity and clothing on Muski street (you might need to ask a local for directions).

Muski is a Cairo bazaar at its most chaotic, a riot of brightly coloured clothing, quilts and shoes, with vendors in full-throated competition to win the never-ending battle for supremacy over Cairo’s airwaves. Keep going straight, and you will soon hit another main road. Cross the road via the bridge to the left, and continue up Muski street.

You’ll notice that fireworks give way to household goods, more clothes, and finally spices. The market becomes ever more touristy, until you arrive at a crossroads. The road straight ahead leads to Midan al-Hussein; Khan al-Khalili, the most famous Cairo bazaar, is on your left. The road to the right leads down to Bab Zwayla, the medieval south gate. The road to the left (al-Muizz li-Din Allah) leads to Bab al-Futuh, the northern gate.

Spend some time exploring the wonders of Khan al-Khalili, not forgetting to stop at al-Fishawi coffee shop for a spot of refreshment and people watching. Depending on how hungry you are, you may want to grab a bite to eat at The Egyptian Pancake House or at Farahat.

Continue your walking tour of Islamic Cairo by heading north towards Bab al-Futuh along Muizz li-Din Allah street, famous for shisha pipes and Islamic monuments. This Cairo bazaar used to be the main thoroughfare of Islamic Cairo, and is one of the oldest streets in the city. The mosques, madrassas and mausoleums that line the street have been restored, and are open to visitors. Two nice sites to visit are the Sabil-Kuttab of Abdel Katkhuda, and Beit al-Suhaymi. The road forks at the sabil: to get to Beit al-Suhaymi, take the left hand fork, and take the first right past the next mosque (al-Aqmar Mosque). The street is clearly signed Haret ed-Darb el Asfar, and Beit al-Suhaymi is just down the alley on the left.

Once you have had your fill, head back to Muizz li-Din and continue up towards Bab al-Futuh, the north gate. Hakim mosque will be on your right, which is huge and blinding white inside.

If you haven’t yet eaten (or even if you have!) get some spicy Alexandrian sausage sandwiches from Zizo’s, just over the road from Bab al-Futuh. After this, head east along the main road for a hundred yards or so, until you see the other medieval north gate, Bab an-Nasr, on your right. Go through the gate and walk down al-Gamaliyya street.

You are now heading south, parallel to Muizz li-Din, but the street feels totally different. It is dusty, cramped, dirty, and the handful of Islamic monuments have fallen into a state of disrepair. It is, however, quite atmospheric, with metal workers, barbers, sunken general stores, and lively food stalls. You need to watch your footing in this market, and be ready to dodge the procession of trucks, bicycles and handcarts that engage in vicious running battles along the street. (Note, there are plans to restore this area, too.)

Keep going straight, even when the street narrows and becomes covered for a few yards (there is a striped mosque on the right hand side). Eventually you will come to a concrete wall, and must choose either left or right.

Head left, and all of a sudden you find yourself back in more familiar, touristy surrounds: a crafts market in a square, and a narrow alley that leads past al-Hussein Mosque and ends back in Midan al-Hussein.

It’s now time to head south: go back down to the crossroads of Muski street and Muizz li-Din-Allah, and this time turn left towards Bab Zwayla. Once you have negotiated the straggling remnants of the tourist bazaar, you will come to a main road. Cross it via the footbridge to the left, and continue straight down Muizz li-Din-Allah. (You could detour left briefly and visit Wikalet al-Ghouri, where the Sufi dancing show is held.) The Mausoleum of al-Ghouri is on your left, and the Mosque (well worth a quick visit) on your right.

You are back in another busy, local Egyptian market, similar to al-Muski. However, along with the household goods and brightly coloured clothing, sacks of raw cotton now spill out on to the street. A few hundred metres down the street you will reach the gorgeous Sabil of Mohammed Ali, which marks a great place to pause before continuing on to Bab Zwayla. You might want to take a quick break here, too, and visit the Sabil-Kuttab of Nafisa al-Beida, and the Mosque of al-Mu’ayyad.

Past Bab Zwayla, and you hit one of the oldest Cairo bazaars, the Street of the Tentmakers. Shortly after, you will find yourself in a vibrant food market. Wooden stalls piled high with fruits and vegetables line the road, and the air is heavy with the scent of spices, fish and cooking.

Be warned, though, this local bazaar is not for the faint-hearted: buckets of offal are strewn around with gay abandon, and crimson organs drip blood on to the dirt floor. The market also sells live animals: surprisingly placid rabbits, geese and chickens are tethered to wooden crates, awaiting a potential buyer. You may be fortunate (or, depending on your point of view, unlucky) enough to witness an animal being selected, killed, skinned and gutted, and then sold by the kilo as a hunk of meat.

If this is not your cup of tea, don’t despair: your walking tour of Islamic Cairo will finish at the end of this bazaar, where it meets the main road. From here, you can either turn right and walk a few km to Mohammed Ali street, or simply flag down a taxi. Just make sure you find something relaxing to do tonight: you’ve experienced a good wedge of life and culture in Islamic Cairo, and you definitely deserve a rest!


1

Azbakiya Market

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Location:

Azbikaya Gardens, Ataba Metro station
Cairo,


2

Attaba

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Location:

Attaba
Cairo,


3

al-Muski street

Location:

al-Muski Street
Cairo,


4

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

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expert pick

Location:

Off Hussein Square
(Across from El Azhar Mosque)
11211 Cairo, Egypt


5

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

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expert pick

Location:

El-Fishawi Alley
(Khan al-Khalili)
Cairo, Egypt


6

Egyptian pancake house

expert pick

Location:

Midan Hussein
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 2024505871


7

Farahat

expert pick

Location:

126 Al-Azhar Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2592 6595


8

Sabil-Kuttab of Abd El-Rahman Katkhuda

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Location:

Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah Street
Suq al-Nahhasin
11728 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


9

Aqmar Mosque (Al)

Location:

Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


11

Beit Al Souhaymi

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expert pick

Location:

Darb al-Asfar Street
Around Bab el Futuh
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 285 4509


12

Hakim Mosque (Al)

Location:

Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


13

Bab el-Futuh

Location:

El Muizz El Din Allah Street
Facing Al-Banhawi Galal Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


14

Zizo's

expert pick

Location:

1 Midan Bab al Futuh
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 2025926530


15

Bab al-Nasr

Location:

Off Bab al-Wazir Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


16

Al Hussein Mosque

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Location:

El-Hussein Square
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


17

Wikalet al-Ghouri

Location:

Muhammad 'Abduh Street
11211 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 2285 4363 (Tourist Information)


18

Al-Azhar Mosque

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expert pick

Location:

Al-Azhar Street
Opposite El-Hussein Square
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 59 3893
fax: +20 (0)2 59 3893


19

Mosque-Madrassa of al Ghouri

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Location:

In front of al Ghouri Mausoleum
Islamic Cairo
11728 Cairo, Egypt


20

Bab Zwayla

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Location:

Sharia al-Muizz el-Din Allah Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


21

Al-Mu'ayyad Mosque

Location:

Al-Muizz el-Din Allah Street
Next to Bab Zwayla
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


22

Street of the Tentmakers

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expert pick

Location:

Souq Al-Khiamiyya
Bab Zwayla
Cairo, Egypt


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