Have you ever wondered if there is more to see in Cairo than just the Pyramids and the Sphinx? The answer is a definite yes. Cairo is a city boasting layer upon layer of history and numerous fascinating places to visit – but the majority of tourists don’t even know these places exist!
At Mr & Mrs Egypt, our goal is to make every trip to Egypt uniquely perfect for each visitor’s interests. Whether you’re fascinated by the stories of Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses or you adore Agatha Christie’s novels set in our beautiful country, there is something for everyone here.
To get you excited for your visit, here are a few places in Cairo that most visitors don’t see but we highly recommend here at Mr & Mrs Egypt.
1. Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun
Right in the middle of Old Cairo sits the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun. This oasis of calm offers a reprieve and an escape from the chaos of the city.
There are many interesting insights about the mosque itself. But perhaps the most wonderful aspect of this mosque is its timeless feeling.
Built to feature natural light, the many carved wood and stucco decorations throughout the mosque gently bask in those rays. The stained-glass windows create colourful pools of light across the floor, drawing your gaze in admiration.
Beyond the beauty and tranquillity of this space, the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun is believed to be the oldest mosque in Cairo – and probably Africa – and is the largest in terms of land area.
Be sure to climb the stairs of the spiral minaret to admire the beautiful architecture of Ibn Tulun Mosque. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with marvellous views across Old Cairo.
2. Gayer Anderson Museum
Just a two-minute walk from the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, you will find a true hidden treasure in Cairo that most visitors don’t see.
Full of small Egyptian sculptures, jewellery, carpets, pottery and other curiosities collected by its eccentric owner, the Gayer Anderson Museum also offers Islamic domestic architecture that is believed to be some of the best in Cairo.
It also boasts well-preserved examples of mashrabiya, the traditional Islamic wooden latticework. To top it all off, you can enjoy the beautifully tiled courtyard.
The owner was Major John Gayer Anderson who lived in this Mamluk-era house in the early 20th Century, with the permission of the Egyptian Government. When he left due to ill health, he gave the contents of the house to the government, who turned it into a museum.
3. Om Kolthoum Museum
Did you know that Egypt had a singer who influenced the likes of Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Bono, and Youssou N’Dour?
This singer was Om Kolthoum, who sold 80 million records worldwide and was known to have a unique vocal style. She was a true national icon here in Egypt. When she died in 1975, around four million Egyptians lined the streets to mourn her death.
On Roda Island, you’ll find a little museum dedicated to this extraordinary woman and her place in Egyptian society. It is beautifully and sensitively curated, such that you get an impression of who she really was as a performer, a woman, and an Egyptian.
Also located on Roda Island, the Nilometer is a wonder of architecture with a practical purpose.
This ancient instrument was used to measure the waters of the Nile. It helped Egyptian farmers know whether to expect famine or flood and also helped the ruling powers decide how much tax should be applied to the season’s crops.
It was built in AD 861 and is a stunning example of art meeting functionality; its design and architecture are truly wonderful to behold.
No longer used to measure the Nile floodwaters, the Nilometer is left for us to marvel at its beauty and the ingenuity of its Islamic architects.
5. Cathedral of Saint Simon the Tanner
Built deep into the cliffside – and therefore also known as the Cave Church – the Cathedral of Saint Simon is an astonishing feat of engineering and construction.
It was built in 1975 and is the biggest Christian church in the Middle East, with an amphitheatre that seats around 2000 people.
Situated in what is known as Garbage City, it is of huge importance to the Coptic Christians who make up most of the population of this part of Cairo.
There are many beautiful carvings to see on the walls as well as a permanent nativity scene. You can view several other chapels that form part of the complex, in addition to the massive amphitheatre.
6. Aqsunqur Mosque
Also known as the Blue Mosque, the Aqsunqur Mosque is a haven of calm situated right in the middle of Islamic Cairo.
Built in 1347 by the Mamluks, the mosque was renovated 300 years later by the Ottomans, who restored its roof and arcades and added columns to support the mosque’s southern prayer hall.
There are some wonderful architectural and decorative features to enjoy, including delicately coloured tiles imported from Constantinople and Damascus that feature tree and flower motifs.
The marble minbar (pulpit) is decorated with different coloured stone inserts and is one of the few remaining marble minbars in a Cairo mosque. Unusually for Cairo, the Aqsunqur Mosque has a hypostyle hall, which is a combination of arches and columns.
While there are countless other extraordinary things to see and do in Cairo, we thought we’d get your trip planning started with this shortlist. When you’re ready to experience more of Egypt, get in touch so we can help you craft the ideal itinerary. We can’t wait to show you the wonders of Cairo – and so much more!