Must see attractions in Cairo

  • Top ChoiceSights in Giza

    Pyramids of Giza

    The last remaining wonder of the ancient world; for nearly 4000 years, the extraordinary shape, impeccable geometry and sheer bulk of the Giza Pyramids have invited the obvious questions: ‘How were we built, and why?’. Centuries of research have given us parts of the answer. Built as massive tombs on the orders of the pharaohs, they were constructed by teams of workers tens-of-thousands strong. Today they stand as an awe-inspiring tribute to the might, organisation and achievements of ancient Egypt.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Egyptian Museum

    One of the world’s most important collections of ancient artefacts, the Egyptian Museum takes pride of place in Downtown Cairo, on the north side of Midan Tahrir. Inside the great domed, oddly pinkish building, the glittering treasures of Tutankhamun and other great pharaohs lie alongside the grave goods, mummies, jewellery, eating bowls and toys of Egyptians whose names are lost to history. To walk around the museum is to embark on an adventure through time.

  • Sights in Giza

    Great Pyramid of Khufu

    The oldest pyramid in Giza and the largest in Egypt, Khufu’s Great Pyramid stood 146m high when it was completed around 2570 BC. After 46 windy centuries, its height has been reduced by 9m. There isn’t much to see inside the pyramid, but the experience of climbing through the ancient structure is unforgettable – though impossible if you suffer from the tiniest degree of claustrophobia. The elderly and unfit should not attempt the climb, as it is very steep.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Museum of Islamic Art

    This museum, on the edge of Islamic Cairo, holds one of the world’s finest collections of Islamic art and is Egypt's (and one of the entire Middle East's) most beautifully curated museums. What’s on display is only a sliver of the 80,000 objects the museum owns, but the selected items are stunning. The museum was heavily damaged in January 2014 in a car-bomb attack on nearby police headquarters but after extensive renovations was finally reopened in early 2017.

  • Sights in Giza

    Sphinx

    Known in Arabic as Abu Al Hol (Father of Terror), this sculpture of a man with the haunches of a lion was dubbed the Sphinx by the ancient Greeks because it resembled their mythical winged monster who set riddles and killed anyone unable to answer them. A geological survey has shown that it was most likely carved from the bedrock at the bottom of the causeway during Khafre’s reign, so it probably portrays his features.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Al Azhar Mosque

    Founded in AD 970 as the centrepiece of the newly created Fatimid city, Al Azhar is one of Cairo’s earlier mosques, and its sheikh is considered the highest theological authority for Egyptian Muslims. The building is a harmonious blend of architectural styles, the result of numerous enlargements over more than 1000 years. The tomb chamber, located through a doorway on the left just inside the entrance, has a beautiful mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca) and should not be missed.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Sharia Al Muizz Li Din Allah

    Sharia Al Muizz, as it’s usually called, named after the Fatimid caliph who conquered Cairo in AD 969, was Cairo's grand thoroughfare, once chock-a-block with storytellers, entertainers and food stalls. The part of Sharia Al Muizz just north of Khan Al Khalili’s gold district is known as Bein Al Qasreen, a reminder of the great palace complexes that flanked the street during the Fatimid era. Today the great Mamluk complexes provide one of Cairo’s most impressive assemblies of minarets, domes and striped-stone facades.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Coptic Museum

    This museum, founded in 1908, houses Coptic art from the earliest days of Christianity in Egypt right through to early Islam. It is a beautiful place, as much for the elaborate woodcarving in all the galleries as for the treasures they contain. These include sculpture that shows obvious continuity from the Ptolemaic period, rich textiles and whole walls of monastery frescoes. Allow at least a couple of hours to explore the 1200 or so pieces on display.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Khan Al Khalili

    The skinny lanes of Khan Al Khalili are basically a medieval-style mall. This agglomeration of shops – many arranged around small courtyards – stocks everything from soap powder to semiprecious stones, not to mention tacky toy camels and alabaster pyramids. Most shops and stalls open from around 9am to well after sundown (except Friday morning and Sunday), although plenty of the souvenir vendors are open as long as there are customers, even on Sunday.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan

    Massive yet elegant, this grand structure is regarded as the finest piece of early Mamluk architecture in Cairo. It was built between 1356 and 1363 by Sultan Hassan, a grandson of Sultan Qalaun; he took the throne at the age of 13, was deposed and reinstated no less than three times, then assassinated shortly before the mosque was completed. Beyond the striking recessed entrance, a dark passage leads into a peaceful square courtyard surrounded by four soaring iwans (vaulted halls).

  • Sights in Giza

    Pyramid of Khafre

    Khafre, the second pyramid, seems larger than that of Khafre's father, Khufu. At just 136m high, it’s not, but it stands on higher ground and its peak is still capped with the original polished limestone casing. Originally all three pyramids were totally encased in this smooth white stone, which would have made them gleam in the sun. Over the centuries, this casing has been stripped for use in palaces and mosques, exposing the softer inner-core stones to the elements.

  • Sights in Giza

    Pyramid of Menkaure

    At 62m (originally 66.5m), this pyramid is the smallest of the trio, only about one-tenth the bulk of the Great Pyramid. The pharaoh Menkaure died before the structure was finished – around the bottom are several courses of granite facing that were never properly smoothed. Inside, you descend into three distinct levels – the largest surprisingly vast – and you can peer into the main tomb.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Madrassa & Mausoleum of Qalaun

    Built in just 13 months, the 1279 Madrassa and Mausoleum of Qalaun is both the earliest and the most splendid of the vast religious complexes on this street. The mausoleum, on the right, is a particularly intricate assemblage of inlaid stone and stucco, patterned with stars and floral motifs and lit by stained-glass windows. The complex also includes a maristan (hospital), which Qalaun ordered to be built after he visited one in Damascus, where he was cured of colic.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Tentmakers Market

    The ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ is one of the remaining medieval speciality quarters – it takes its name from the artisans who produce the bright fabrics used for the ceremonial tents at wakes, weddings and feasts. They also hand-make intricate appliqué wall hangings, cushion covers and bedspreads, and print original patterns for tablecloths. The highest concentration of artisans along the road is directly south after Bab Zuweila, in the covered tentmakers market.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Al Azhar Park

    With funds from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, what had been a mountain of garbage, amassed over centuries, was in 2005, almost miraculously, transformed into the city’s first (and only) park of significant size. Cairenes stroll through a profusion of gardens, emerald grass and fountains, or sit beside the lake or on the terraces of one of the restaurants, admiring the superb views over Cairo. It’s most fun on weekends, when families day-trip with picnics.

  • Sights in Cairo

    Citadel

    Sprawling over a limestone spur on the city's eastern edge, the Citadel, started by Saladin in 1176 as a fortification against the Crusaders, was home to Egypt’s rulers for 700 years. Their legacy is a collection of three very different mosques, several palaces (housing some either underwhelming, or nearly-always closed museums) and a couple of terraces with superb Cairo views – on a clear day you'll see Giza's Pyramids poking up in the far distance.

  • Sights in Cairo

    Northern Cemetery

    The Northern Cemetery is the more interesting half of a vast necropolis known popularly as the City of the Dead. The titillating name refers to the fact that the cemeteries are not only resting places for Cairo's dead, but for the living too. Visitors expecting morbid squalor may be disappointed; the area, complete with power lines, a post office and multistorey buildings, is more 'town' than 'shanty'.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Manial Palace

    After a years'-long restoration period, this palace complex, built by the uncle of King Farouk, Prince Mohammed Ali, in the early 20th century, has once again thrown open its doors to the public as a quirky museum. Its interiors and architecture are a fascinating merging of Ottoman, Moorish, Persian and European rococo styles, while the gardens (still closed to the public at the time of research) are planted with rare tropical plants collected by the prince.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cairo

    Cairo Tower

    This 187m-high tower is the city’s most famous landmark after the Pyramids. Built in 1961, the structure, which resembles a stylised lotus plant with its latticework casing, was a thumb to the nose at the Americans, who had given Nasser the money used for its construction to buy US arms. The 360-degree views across the city from the top are clearest in the late morning, after the haze burns off, or late afternoon when you can often spy the Pyramids.

  • Sights in Cairo

    Beit El Suhaymi

    With its fully restored paving stones and elaborate mashrabiyya (wooden lattice screens), Darb Al Asfar alley conjures up the Middle Ages – if the Middle Ages were clean. The first few buildings you pass are part of Beit El Suhaymi, a family mansion and caravanserai built in the 17th and 18th centuries. After jogging through a narrow hall, you arrive at a peaceful courtyard surrounded by grand reception halls, bedrooms, storerooms and baths.