With a history and heritage going back to one of the pivotal civilisations in the world, the Egyptian Civilisation, Cairo is the hub of culture not just for Egypt but for the region as a whole. Cairo is the capital of Egypt and built on the banks of the river Nile in an area which has witnessed the rise and fall of many civilisations through the centuries. This has resulted in the integration of ancient, medieval, and modern traits into all aspects of life here. This makes Cairo Cultural & Theme Tours pivotal to experience while you are in Egypt.
The visitors are satisfied with a visit of the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, but there is so much more to this city. If it’s ancient ruins that draw you to Egypt’s capital, carve out some time for the archaeological sites of Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara. For a dose of Egypt’s religious past, explore Citadel of Saladin, the historic Islamic Cairo and Coptic Cairo a part of Old Cairo. Further insight into Egypt’s past can be gained at the Egyptian Museum of antiquities. When you’re in need of a break from Cairo’s historic locales, relax in Al Azhar Park or barter for goods at a Khan El-Khalili bazaar. And as dusk sets in over Cairo’s sandy terrain, witness the monuments glow in the orange light of the setting sun as you enjoy a felucca ride on the Nile.
Attractions & Things to Do in Cairo
- The Pyramids of Giza and the great Sphinx
Cairo’s most popular attraction, the Pyramids of Giza, draw thousands of visitors every year. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, these pyramids have stood the test of time, remaining intact for roughly 4,500 years.
The great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes which is the Valley Temple of Khafre and the Great Sphinx of Giza.
- The Egyptian Museum of antiquities
The Egyptian museum located in Downtown Cairo, on the north side of Tahrir Square. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts. It has 120,000 items including sarcophagi, jewellery and pottery, with a representative amount on display and the remainder in storerooms.
In November 2022, the museum is due to be superseded by the newer and larger Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza.
- The Grand Egyptian Museum of Giza (GEM)
The Grand Egyptian Museum is also known as the Giza Museum. When inaugurated in November 2022, the GEM will be the largest archaeological museum in the world. It will house artifacts of ancient Egypt, including the complete Tutankhamun collection, many pieces will be displayed for the first time. The opening date has been pushed back on multiple occasions, but the museum now says it will open in November 2022.
The GEM is sited on a plot of land of about 480,000 square metres approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the Giza pyramid complex and is part of a new master plan for the Giza Plateau called Giza 2030.
- The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization
National Museum of Egyptian Civilization NMEC is designed to trace the long history of Egypt from the prehistoric period until today. This is not an easy task, as the Egyptian history is incredibly rich.
The museum exhibits relevant artifacts from all the historical periods succeeded over Egypt, starting with the Early Pharaohs Dynastic Period to the Ptolemaic Period, continuing with Roman, Byzantine and Islamic Periods, until nowadays.
The collection include art pieces from Coptic churches, as well as from Abbasid, Fatimid and Mameluke mosques, displayed in a modern way and with clear descriptions in Arabic and English.
The national museum of Egyptian civilization (NMEC) holds 22 royal mummies accompanied by 17 royal coffins that dated back to the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties, 18 of the mummies are for kings, while the other 4 mummies are queens. Some of the transferred mummies are for the Kings Ramses II, Seti I, Seqenenre, Tuthmosis III, plus the great Queen Hatshepsut, and Queen Ahmose Nefertari, the wife of King Ahmose I, and Queen Meritamun, the wife of King Amenhotep I.
The mummies are exhibited underground in halls that give visitors the feeling of exploring the mortuary chambers of the tombs.
- Saqqara also spelled Sakkara
Saqqara also spelled Sakkara contains ancient burial grounds of Egyptian royalty, serving as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis.
Saqqara contains the oldest complete stone building complex known in history, the Step pyramid of Djoser, built during the Third Dynasty (2686 BC – 2613 BC). The Pyramid of Unas is a smallest old Kingdom pyramid, but significant due to the discovery of Pyramid Texts, spells for the king’s afterlife incised into the walls of its subterranean chambers
Another Fifteen Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire Pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times.
Dahshur is a royal necropolis located about 40 kilometres (25 mi) south of Cairo. It is known chiefly for several pyramids, two of which are among the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt.
The first of the Dahshur pyramids was the Bent Pyramid (2613–2589 BC), built under the rule of King Sneferu. The Bent Pyramid was the first attempt at building a smooth sided pyramid, but proved to be an unsuccessful build due to the miscalculations made on the structural weight that was being placed onto the soft ground.
The second pyramid of Dahshur, the Red Pyramid. Once completed, the pyramid was considered to be a success, as it was a fully constructed, smooth sided, and a free standing pyramid rising to a height of 341 feet (104 meters), with an angle of 43 degrees. The Red Pyramid’s name reigns from the material that was used to construct the pyramid, red limestone. This pyramid is believed to be the resting place of King Sneferu (2613 to 2589 BC).
Memphis or Menefer was the capital of ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom (2686 BC – 2181 BC) and remained an important city throughout ancient Egyptian history. Memphis occupied a strategic position at the mouth of the Nile Delta, and was home to bustling activity. During its golden age, Memphis thrived as a regional centre for commerce, trade, and religion.
Today, the ruins of the former capital offer fragmented evidence of its past. The site is open to the public as an open-air museum. Among the most important monuments is the colossal statue of Ramses II and the great Alabaster Sphinx and some other monuments.
- Coptic Cairo
Coptic Cairo (Misr Al Qadima) is oldest part of Cairo, and predates what is now modern Cairo. It is believed that there was a settlement here as early as the 6th century BC. Later, the Romans built a fortress here which we know today as “Babylon fortress” Some of the Roman walls exist today.
Under the rule of Arcadius (395-408), a number of churches were built in Old Cairo. During the early Islamic era, as most the churches were built in the 7th century.
The Coptic Christian community featuring some churches include:
Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) is considered to be Cairo’s oldest church, dating from the 4th century AD. The church is of significant historical importance being built on the spot where the holy family rested at the end of their journey into Egypt.
The Hanging Church is the most famous Coptic Christian church in Cairo, as well as the first built in Basilcan style. It was probably built during the patriarchate of Isaac (690-92), though an earlier church building may have existed elsewhere dating as earlier as the 3rd or 4th century.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Egypt. It was once the center of many celebrations, congregations and prayers, but is no longer in use today
- Church of St Simon the Tanner
The Church of St Simeon the Tanner, also known as Saint Simon the Shoemaker is carved into a cave on a ridge of Muqattam Hill. Thought to be the biggest church in the Middle East, it seats 17,000 worshippers. But this church is not old, it was built in the 1970s, in a cave thought to have once been home to early Christian hermits, and named after St Simeon, the 10th-century ascetic who prayed to make Muqattam move at the behest of Fatimid caliph Al Muizz Li Din Allah (931 – 975 AD).
- Citadel of Saladin
The Citadel of Cairo is massive fortress located in Islamic Cairo. The Citadel was constructed in the late 1100s by Salah al-Din, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty to protect it from Crusader attacks. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries.
What to see inside the Saladin Citadel?
The Mohamed Ali Mosque or Alabaster Mosque was built between 1830 and 1848. It is the most visited site by far. This mosque, along with the citadel, is one of the landmarks and tourist attractions of Cairo and is one of the first features to be seen when approaching the city from any direction.
The Gawhara Palace was built to be the personal residence of Mohammed Ali. It is currently one of the best displays of Ottoman architecture that can be seen in Cairo.
The National Military Museum was erected in 1827 served as the residence of the royal family in Egypt until 1874. It was a military hospital in the British occupation of World War II and returned to Egyptian control in 1946. The palatial decor is impressive, be sure to check it out.
Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque is the only Mamluk building still in existence at the Citadel in Cairo. It was built by the Mamluk sultan Al-Nasr Muhammad in 1318 as the royal mosque of the Citadel, where the sultans of Cairo performed their Friday prayers.
- Al Moez Street and Khan el-Khalili bazaar
Al Moez Street is a definite must-see to get a true feel for the history of Cairo as a city, and to see some frankly mind-blowing medieval Islamic architecture and art. Al-Muizz Street runs from the city gate of Bab al-Futuh in the north to the gate of Bab Zuweila in the south, both entrances in the stone walls built by the vizier Badr al-Jamali in the 11th century. The Khan al-Khalili commercial street stretched further east towards the Mosque of al-Hussein and the Mosque of al-Azhar.
- Wikala of Al Ghouri
Built in 1504 AD by the Mamluk sultan Al Ghouri, this wikala was originally designed as an inn for traders following the caravan routes from the east and the west. The impressive stone facade has been beautifully restored. The upper rooms are artists’ ateliers while the former stables were turned into craft shops. The courtyard here in the evening is the theatre for the Sufi dance performances by Al Tannoura Egyptian Heritage Dance Troupe.
- Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan
Sultan Hassan mosque is considered the finest piece of early Mamluk architecture in Cairo. Sultan Hassan, the Mamluk ruler, built this mosque between 1356 and 1363. The location of the Sultan Hassan mosque was so important because of its close location to the citadel of Salah El Din.
Sultan Hassan’s mosque is also famous for its stylistic consistency compared to any other monumental mosque in Cairo, a true prototype of architectural style at the time of its construction. The interior is wonderfully decorated and the effect of its enormous central courtyard is strongly suggestive with its grandiose verticality.
- The Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest in the world dedicated to Islamic art and artifacts. The museum was founded in 1881. Eventually the building was established and inaugurated in 1903 AD, during the region of Khedive Abbas Helmy ll. The building’s facade was made in the Mamluk style and is adjacent to the National Library of Egypt.
The Museum of the Islamic Art houses hundreds of thousands of antique Islamic artifacts of various types from different periods of Islamic history, and its collection is known for its diversity and uniqueness that made it a premier destination for researchers, historians and visitors interested in exploring Islamic arts and civilization. The collection includes metallic, glass and porcelain utensils, as well as jewelry, weapons, wood and ivory objects, textiles, carpets.
- Al-Azhar Park
Al Azhar Park, located by the Old City of Cairo, offers a 30-hectare expanse of greenery on what was dust and rubble for over two centuries. Offering a contemporary design inspired by historic Islamic gardens, the spine is a formal axis with a water channel leading in the direction of a small lake, with accompanying alleyways, and pointing towards the Citadel. Gardens and pavilions enhance the arrival point on the edge of the lake. Al Azhar Park attracts over 2 million visitors annually and provides a much needed green space in one of the densest cities in the world. Al Azhar Park now features an array of fountains, manicured gardens, recreation areas and restaurants.
The creation of the 30 hectare (74 acre) Al-Azhar Park on Al-Darassa, by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, came when his highness the Aga Khan decided to donate a park to the citizens of Cairo in 1984, out of the Islamic belief that we are all trustees of God’s creation and therefore must seek to leave the world a better place than it was before us.
- Cairo Tower
The Cairo Tower is 187 meters free-standing concrete tower in Cairo, built from 1956 to 1961. You’ll also find a restaurant at the top of the tower. Occasionally, the restaurant revolves around the tower’s main axis. The tower was designed by the Egyptian architect, Naoum Chebib. It is inspired by the Ancient Egyptian Architecture. Its partially open lattice-work design is intended to evoke a pharaonic lotus plant, an iconic symbol of Ancient Egypt.
- The Virgin Mary Tree
El-Matareya or al Mataria is now a heavily populated suburb in Cairo accessed by a modern fly-over, but 2000 years ago it was a fertile, simple village where many of these balsamic trees were grown and many date palms too. The village of El-Matareya was popular among pilgrims from the Holy Land and at the time it was considered one of the holy sites and a blessed place like paradise. Of all the sites visited by pilgrims after Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the fourth century, this tree was regarded as the most holy. It’s called the “Virgin’s Tree”. There are many sacred trees in Egypt, trees that have offered shelter for the Holy Family during their stay here, but the one in Mataria holds the highest regard of all.
- Cairo’s Nilometer (Al-Roda Nilometer)
A Nilometer was a structure for measuring the Nile River’s clarity and water level during the annual flood season. There were three main types of Nilometers, calibrated in Egyptian cubits: (1) a vertical column, (2) a corridor stairway of steps leading down to the Nile, or (3) a deep well with culvert. If the water level was low, there would be less food. If it was too high, it would be destructive. There was a specific mark that indicated how high the flood should be if the fields were to get good soil.
Nilometers were used for measuring water levels as early as 5,000 years ago. The nilometer on Rhoda Island dates back to 861, when it was built where an older nilometer had been, based on a design by Afraganus, a famous astronomer. The massive measuring stick had markings on it to indicate where the water level was at any given time, information the priests would use to determine what conditions the future held: drought, which would mean famine; desirable, which would mean just enough overflow to leave good soil for farming; or flood, which could be catastrophic.
- Manial Palace and Museum
The Manial Palace was built by Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik (1875—1955), Its interiors and architecture are a fascinating merging of Ottoman, Moorish, Persian and European rococo styles. It housed his extensive art, furniture, clothing, silver, objects d’art collections, and medieval manuscripts dating back to the Middle Ages. The ceramic tile work of the entryway and the mosque were created by the Armenian ceramist David Ohannessian, originally from Kutahya
The palace was established between 1900-1929 AD and consists of an outer wall that surrounds the entrance to the palace. Inside the walls is the reception area, the clock tower, the Sabil, the mosque, the hunting museum, living quarters, the throne hall, the private museum, and the golden hall, in addition to the wonderful garden surrounding the palace
- Explore the Architecture of Downtown Cairo
Downtown Cairo is still home to architectural gems from Egypt’s ‘belle epoque’ and streets designed with pedestrians in mind, though the area has become a lot more crowded, especially among the city’s younger citizens. Khedive Ismail (1863 – 1879 AD) commissioned top French and European architects to build a modern city centre. Today, many of downtown’s buildings look European, but contain oriental influences that set them apart from Western counterparts.
Our Egypt Cultural Tour Packages are designed to reveal all the mysteries and stories beyond The Old History of Egypt and the modern Life of Egyptians. This is intended to let you see by your own eyes how the events of Egypt’s history affect the Egyptian People today. We will help you to merge with Egypt Culture, understand our way of life and how we love and respect our Grandparents Pharaohs, this will be embodied in front of your eyes in the form of monuments dating back to thousands of years ago guarded by Egypt farmers. You will be living the eras as you ride the time gab.
Coming in to Cairo Tours, the magical site and sights of rides and entertaining attractions that are embedded in Cairo theme parks and amusement centres will design your vacation with fun – filled moments. Some of which includes Al Fustat Garden‚ Walk of Cairo (WOC), Cairo Festival City Mall , Mall of Arabia Cairo, Sindbad‚ Faby Land‚ etc.
Known for its rich history and heritage, Egypt’s Cairo is definitely one of the most cultural world destinations you should check off your bucket list. There are plenty of Places To Visit In Cairo and Things To Do In Cairo that’ll give you a better understanding of the Egyptian Culture. But if you’re not privileged with plenty of time off and you’d like to know what to do in a nutshell, here are six The Best Cultural Activities in Cairo.
We at Nile Holiday have designed a collection of tour itineraries to include all the historical sites uncovering all secrets that Pharaohs left behind. Get in touch with us today for Cairo Cultural & Theme Tours!