It is impossible to consider a trip to Cairo without thinking about the city’s architecture which dates back five thousand years. Cairo’s moniker, The City of a Thousand Minarets is apt, for the city’s skyline is littered with exquisite minarets which sound the call to prayer five times a day. Most of the mosques and minarets can be found in Central Cairo, where you will instantly be transported back in time. Remember to dress appropriately when visiting mosques; shoulders and legs should be covered and you ought to wear appropriate shoes, which are easy to remove.
With so many mosques to choose from, planning your itinerary can be challenging. If you want to pick just two mosques we suggest you start with Ibn Tulun Mosque, which is believed to be the oldest mosque in Cairo still standing in its original form. Dating back to 879 AD, Ibn Tulun Mosque is the third largest in the word, featuring a vast courtyard surrounded by enclosed wings on three sides. Some believe that the mosque was built at the site where Noah’s Ark landed following the Great Flood – legend says that the floral carvings running along the arches were originally imprinted on the ark itself. If you have the energy for it, climb to the top of the minaret, where you will be rewarded with incredible views of Cairo.
Beneath the Citadel, you will find the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrassa. The imposing and elegant structure was built in the late 1300s and is one of the largest mosques in Cairo. The entrance to the mosque is vibrantly decorated in red, white and blue, giving it a castle-like feel. You will emerge from the entrance into an exquisite courtyard, whose geometric tiling and immense central fountain will leave you filled with a sense of space, peace and awe. Each piece of artwork teaches a version of Sunni Islamic law, the fine calligraphy and intricate architecture exuding an other-worldly, ancient beauty.
There is so much to see and do in Cairo, it is impossible to fit it all in, but a trip to the Egyptian National Museum will help you to understand Cairo’s extensive history and give you a wonderful insight into the arts and culture of the region. Of course, if you take a trip to Cairo, a trip to the Pyramids of Giza is a must. The only of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still standing, the Pyramids are a truly spectacular site to behold. Built on the banks of the River Nile, the three pyramids were built to entomb three kings – Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. The rich history and incredible scale of the 4,500 structures will leave you with unforgettable memories.