Cairo City: History & Historical Sites and things to do in Cairo The Capital Of Egypt

Posted On : 10/05/2024 Kate Clark 50
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Cairo, the vibrant capital of Egypt, stands as a mesmerizing blend of ancient traditions and modern advancements, where the pulse of history palpably intertwines with the rhythm of contemporary life. As the largest city in the Arab world, nestled along the life-giving waters of the Nile, Cairo invites you on an unparalleled journey to explore its rich tapestry of cultural heritage. It's a city where the remnants of pharaohs stand in the shadow of a bustling metropolis, offering an array of top things to do in Cairo that cater to every interest and fascination.


Embarking on this exploration, you'll uncover the endless possibilities that Cairo presents, from delving into the ancient corners of Coptic and Islamic Cairo to savoring the culinary delights of downtown street food. Whether you're navigating the vibrant bazaars, experiencing the tranquility of a Nile Felucca ride, or uncovering the historic sites that tell tales of civilizations past, the top things to do in Egypt find a remarkable showcase in Cairo. This article is designed to be your gateway to discovering all that Cairo has to offer, ensuring your visit is as enriching as it is unforgettable.


History of cairo city


Cairo, known as 'al-Qāhirah' meaning "The Victorious," is not only the capital of Egypt but also the largest city in Africa. Its history is a fascinating journey through time, encapsulating the rise and fall of different dynasties, each leaving a distinct mark on the city's cultural and architectural heritage.


Foundations and Early Growth

  1. Ancient Roots and Roman Influence: Long before it became known as Cairo, the area was part of ancient settlements, with the Romans establishing the fortress of Babylon in the 4th century.
  2. Birth of Fustat: The city of Fustat was founded by Muslim conquerors in the 7th century, serving as a precursor to modern Cairo.


The Fatimid Dynasty

  • Establishment of Cairo: In 969, the Fatimid dynasty founded the city of Cairo, envisioning it as a grand capital of their caliphate. It quickly became a center of learning and culture.
  • Architectural Legacy: The city's layout today still reflects the Fatimid plan with significant gates like Bab Zuwayla and Bab al-Nasr framing the old city.


Ayyubid and Mamluk Contributions

  • Cairo Citadel: The Ayyubid dynasty, in the 12th century, constructed the Cairo Citadel, establishing it as the seat of Egyptian government.
  • Mamluk Flourishing: From 1250 to 1517, the Mamluk dynasty emphasized building, enriching Cairo with a wealth of structures that contribute to its reputation as the city of a thousand minarets.


Ottoman Influence and Modernization

  • Ottoman Rule: Post the Ottoman conquest in 1517, Cairo remained a vital cultural and economic hub. The city's importance continued under Ottoman administration, further influencing its architectural and cultural landscape.
  • 19th Century Modernization: Under Muhammad Ali Pasha's rule in the 19th century, Cairo saw significant modernization, which continued to shape the city into a bustling metropolis.


Cairo Today

A Thriving Metropolis: Today, Cairo is home to over 22 million people, embodying a blend of ancient and modern elements. From the Pyramids of Giza to high-rise buildings, the city presents a unique tapestry of history interwoven with contemporary life.

This rich historical tapestry makes Cairo not just a city but a living museum, offering endless explorations into its glorious past and vibrant present.


history of cairo egypt


Coptic Cairo


In the heart of Old Cairo, the area known as Coptic Cairo, or mogama’ el adyan (Interfaith Complex), offers a profound glimpse into the religious and cultural past of the city. Predating the Muslim Fatimid's founding of Cairo in 969 AD, this enclave is regarded as the stronghold of Christianity in the region. Here's what you can explore in this tranquil and historically rich area:


Historical Churches and Synagogues

  • The Hanging Church: Known for its location above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, this 7th-century church appears suspended in the air. Inside, you'll find a wooden screen adorned with intricate geometric designs and a centrally placed marble pulpit.
  • Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church: One of Egypt’s oldest Coptic landmarks, this church stands above the cave believed to have sheltered the Holy Family during their flight into Egypt. Its crypt serves as a healing shrine where visitors leave prayer notes.
  • Ben Ezra Synagogue: Built on the site where baby Moses is said to have been found, this historical synagogue was once a vibrant center of Jewish worship, frequented by the medieval philosopher Moses Maimonides.


Coptic Museum

Delve into the rich history of Christianity in Egypt with a visit to the Coptic Museum. The museum houses an extensive collection of Coptic artifacts including frescoes, ivory carvings, textiles, and manuscripts that illustrate the transformation of ancient Egyptian culture through Christianity.


Practical Information for Visitors


Location and Access: Situated in a densely populated area of central Cairo, Coptic Cairo is accessible by car, Uber, or via the Mar Girgis metro stop.

Visiting Hours and Fees:

  • Churches: Open from 8 am to 4 pm, free entrance.
  • Coptic Museum: Open from 9 am to 5 pm, entrance fee 100 EGP for non-Egyptians, with an optional audio guide for an additional 20 EGP.


Tips for a Pleasant Visit

To enhance your experience, consider visiting on a weekday morning to avoid the larger crowds typically present on weekends. This quieter time allows for a more intimate exploration of this historic area.


Islamic Cairo

Explore the Rich Heritage of Islamic Cairo

Islamic Cairo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is not just a place but a journey back in time through its over 600 historical monuments including mosques, madrasas, and mausoleums. This area highlights the architectural genius and spiritual depth of Islamic culture over centuries.


Historical and Architectural Significance

  • Salah El Din Citadel: Originally built by Saladin in the late 12th century, the citadel was the seat of Egyptian government until the 1860s and offers panoramic views of Cairo.
  • Al-Azhar University: Founded in the late 10th century, Al-Azhar remains one of the oldest operating universities in the world, pivotal in Islamic education.
  • Mosque of Muhammad Ali: Dominating the skyline, this mosque was built in the 19th century and is renowned for its impressive Ottoman style architecture.


Navigating the Bazaars of Islamic Cairo

  • Khan El-Khalili Bazaar: Known for its vibrant atmosphere, here you can find everything from silverware to handcrafted shishas. Remember to smile and greet shopkeepers with "As-salamu alaykum" to enhance your shopping experience.
  • El Azbakeya Wall: For book enthusiasts, this market offers a treasure trove of books, some dating back to the 1800s.
  • Souk Al Khayamiya: Dive into the colorful world of Egyptian textiles, offering everything from carpets to wall hangings at affordable prices.


Tips for an Authentic Experience


  • Set a mental price before starting to haggle and maintain a polite firmness.
  • Bundle items for better deals and know when to walk away if the price isn't right.
  • Explore the less touristy Souq El Gom’aa for a wide range of goods at local prices.

Islamic Cairo not only offers a glimpse into the grandeur of past Islamic dynasties but also allows you to engage directly with the city’s vibrant cultural practices today.


Dining and Street Food in Downtown Cairo


Downtown Cairo invites you on a culinary journey through its bustling streets, where the essence of Egyptian culture is captured in every bite. This vibrant dining scene offers a delightful array of street food that ranges from traditional staples to modern twists on classic dishes.


Iconic Street Food Spots

  • Bashandy: Known for its 24-hour service, Bashandy is a go-to for those craving authentic Egyptian street food. From fuul and taameya to unique french fry sandwiches, this spot caters to all tastes at any hour.
  • Ezz el Menoufy: With origins as a humble street cart, Ezz el Menoufy now boasts over a dozen locations. Liver and sogouk sandwiches are the stars here, available until the wee hours of the morning.
  • Abou Haidar: Dive into some of the best shawarma Cairo has to offer at Abou Haidar. Established in 1968, this venue has mastered the art of quick, delicious eats without the option for delivery, ensuring each meal is enjoyed fresh.


A Taste of Local Favorites

  • Koshary Abou Tarek: Often hailed as the best place for koshary, watching the staff layer each component of this iconic dish is part of the experience.
  • Semsema: Since 1981, Semsema has been serving up shawarma in various bread options, from kaiser rolls to Syrian bread.
  • El Malky: For over a century, El Malky has been satisfying sweet tooths with traditional desserts like rice pudding and Om Ali alongside newer international offerings.


This exploration of Downtown Cairo’s street food not only tantalizes your taste buds but also offers a slice of Egyptian culture, served up one delicious bite at a time. Whether you're seeking a quick snack or a deep dive into local culinary traditions, Cairo’s streets promise an enriching and flavorful adventure.


Navigating Cairo's Bustling Bazaars

Explore the Vibrant Khan El-Khalili

As you meander through the historic center of Islamic Cairo, the enchanting Khan El-Khalili market awaits, offering a shopping experience that is as culturally enriching as it is diverse. Established in the 14th century, this famous souk has long been a hub where artisans, traders, and shoppers converge.


Discover Authentic Goods

  • Traditional Jewelry: Admire the craftsmanship of local artisans as you explore a myriad of shops sparkling with gold, silver, and bejeweled accessories.
  • Exotic Spices: Engulf your senses with the aromatic allure of spices that line the bustling alleyways. From saffron to sumac, these spices are perfect for adding a touch of Cairo to your cooking.
  • Rich Textiles: Khan El-Khalili's lanes are draped in vibrant fabrics and textiles, offering a colorful palette of options for every taste.


Immerse Yourself in Local Culture

Khan El-Khalili is not just a market; it's a lively part of Cairo's heritage where you can experience the local culture firsthand. Engage with friendly shopkeepers, sip on traditional Egyptian coffee, and soak in the atmosphere of this historic marketplace.


Relaxing Nile Felucca Ride

Embark on a serene journey along the Nile River aboard a traditional wooden felucca. These sail-powered crafts offer a peaceful escape from the bustling city life, providing a unique vantage point to view Cairo's historical landmarks and modern skyline.


Essential Information for Planning Your Felucca Ride

  • Duration and Timing: Rides typically last between 1-2 hours. Sunset trips are highly recommended for their breathtaking views and cooler temperatures.
  • Cost: Prices vary based on the duration and size of the group, generally ranging from $10 to $30 USD per person. It's possible to negotiate with captains for the best rates.
  • Booking: Advance reservations are advised, especially during peak seasons. Feluccas can be booked through hotels, local tour operators, or directly along the Nile corniche.


What to Expect on Your Felucca Ride

  • Views and Landmarks: Enjoy sights such as the majestic Cairo Tower, the imposing Citadel, and the grand Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
  • Wildlife Spotting: Keep an eye out for various bird species that inhabit the Nile's ecosystem, adding a touch of nature to your urban adventure.
  • Cultural Insights: Engage with your felucca captain to learn more about the Nile's role in Cairo's history and current day-to-day life.


Tips for a Comfortable Journey

Preparation: There are no restroom facilities on board, so plan accordingly. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect against the sun.

Refreshments: While some tours offer water and snacks, you might want to bring your own, especially for longer rides or specific dietary needs.

This tranquil experience not only connects you with the ancient river that has been Egypt’s lifeline but also offers a moment of reflection amidst Cairo’s dynamic rhythm. Enjoy the gentle breeze and the rhythmic sound of water against the sail as you glide past centuries of history mirrored in the waters of the Nile.


The climate in Egypt


history of cairo egypt 


The climate in Egypt is always a very important advantage in the field of tourism since in the summer the temperature is temperate in the middle while in the winter it is a bit cold but not too much compared to Alexandria since it is a country that from the sea, when we talk about Sharm El Sheikh we have to say that it is a city of a very famous tourist destination and a lively flavor to experience.

  •  Egypt temp in January: Winter in Egypt brings mild temperatures with daytime highs ranging from 15°C to 22°C (59°F to 72°F) and cooler nights. It is a popular time for tourists to visit historical sites and enjoy outdoor activities.
  • Egypt temp in February: Similar to January, February sees mild temperatures with occasional fluctuations. It is a good time to explore cities like Cairo and Luxor without the scorching heat.
  • Egypt temp in March: Spring begins in Egypt, and temperatures start to rise. Daytime temperatures range from 20°C to 27°C (68°F to 81°F), making it an ideal time to visit the coastal areas and enjoy water activities in the Red Sea.
  • Egypt temp in April: Temperatures continue to rise, ranging from 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 90°F). It is a great time to visit popular tourist destinations like Aswan and Abu Simbel before the summer heat intensifies.
  • Egypt temp in May: The weather becomes hotter with temperatures ranging from 30°C to 38°C (86°F to 100°F). It is advisable to stay hydrated and seek shade during outdoor activities.
  • Egypt temp from June to August: These months mark the peak of summer in Egypt, with scorching temperatures exceeding 40°C (104°F) in many regions. It is recommended to avoid outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day and stay in air-conditioned spaces.
  • Egypt temp in September: As summer transitions to autumn, temperatures start to cool down slightly, ranging from 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F). It is a good time to explore ancient sites and enjoy outdoor adventures.
  • Egypt temp in October: Autumn brings pleasant temperatures ranging from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F). It is a popular time for tourists to visit Egypt, as the weather is comfortable for various activities.
  • Egypt temp in November: Temperatures continue to cool down, ranging from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). It is a great time to explore the Nile River cruises and indulge in desert adventures.
  • Egypt temp in December: Winter approaches, and temperatures drop further, ranging from 15°C to 22°C (59°F to 72°F). It is a wonderful time to visit historic sites and enjoy the festive atmosphere in cities like Cairo.



Through the bustling streets and along the tranquil waters of the Nile, Cairo presents a vivid tableau that bridges ancient history with the vibrancy of a modern metropolis. This exploration has traversed the city's rich cultural heritage, from the architectural marvels left by dynasties of the past in both Islamic and Coptic Cairo, to the modern-day dynamics of its bazaars and culinary delights. Each aspect of Cairo, whether it’s the historic significance of its monuments or the everyday pleasures found in its street food and markets, contributes to a deeper understanding of this magnificent city.


As visitors navigate the complex layers of Cairo’s history and present, they engage with a place that constantly redefines itself while honoring its past. The significance of Cairo's historical sites, alongside the contemporary experiences offered by its markets and cuisine, underscores the city's unique position as a confluence of times, cultures, and traditions. Engaging with this city is not just an act of observation but a participatory experience in a living history that promises to leave an indelible mark on the hearts of those who wander its paths. 


You Can Visit Cairo by choosing one of our Egypt tour packages

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