Old Cairo, Egypt is home to the capital’s ancient city. This neighbourhood is the location of fascinating Coptic Cairo, the ruins of Roman fortifications and centuries-old churches. Visitors with interest in history, religion and architecture won’t want to miss out on a tour of Old Cairo.
Stepping into Old Cairo is much like being transported back in time. The area is peppered with historical sites and Coptic churches. Visitors should head first to Babylon Fortress which dates to the time of Semiramis. Within the enclosure of the fortress, the Coptic Museum offers a unique insight into the world’s largest collection of Egyptian Christian artefacts. It’s also home to the world’s most important works of Coptic art and antiquities. The museum showcases a display of Egyptian, Byzantine, Roman, Greek and Ottoman traditions displayed through woodwork, metalwork, textiles and manuscripts. Towering above the gatehouse of Babylon Fortress is The Hanging Church. It's one of the oldest churches in the country, with foundations dating back to 3rd century AD. To explore further, venture to the Mosque of Amr that was built around 641-642 AD, as the original structure was the first of its kind in Egypt. The interior is open to visitors, and its ornate architraves where worshippers kneel to pray are particularly striking. The building offers great insight into Old Cairo and the many religions it played host to. The displays on offer will enthral culture lovers in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation. The history and exhibits date from prehistoric times to present day. Old Cairo has a variety of restaurants and traditional tearooms. International cuisine is available, or travellers can opt to sample authentic Egyptian fare.
Old Cairo is easy to get around on foot, the main religious sites and attractions within a short walk of each other. The subway stations of El-Zahraa or El-Malek El-Saleh are located on the periphery of Old Cairo, allowing access from Garden City and other locations in the capital. Taxis are readily available, although prices may vary. Buses operate throughout Cairo, although it’s always good to have an Arabic guidebook to hand as they can be difficult to use.
Old Cairo dates as far back as 969 CE. It encompasses Coptic Cairo, where the inhabitants spoke their own Coptic language. The Copts were the largest Christian denomination in the country, today the old churches and museums tell the stories of their intriguing history. This small enclave of Old Cairo allows visitors to imagine what life would be like in the ancient city.