Islamic Old Town
Islamic Old Town Cairo Reviews
Feb 24, 2006
There are two old religious centres in Cairo that are well worth a look.
The first is rarely visited, the Coptic Quarter. It has been occupied by Coptics since Roman times. The Coptics split off from other Christians about ~150CE after a division on the nature of Jesus. There are a few sites that are more often visited - ancient Roman towers, the hanging Church, and the Church of St Sergius, but a lot of the fun comes from just getting lost in the narrow winding alleys with blind ends and rubble-blocked paths, full of donkeys and kids.
The second centre is visited by most people, and for good reason. It is Islamic Cairo, the old centre of Cairo dating back nearly 1000 years. It is such a contrast - ancient mosques from 200-1000 years old (including Al-Azhar, the world’s second oldest surviving university at 1000 years), the old city walls with the three gates of Bab an-Nasr (Gate of Victory), bab al-Futuh (Gate of Conquest) and Bab Zuweila, and the Citadel, founded by Saladin in the 12th century. Yet it is also literally full of rubbish, piles of it standing among the rubble of half demolished historic sites, streets completely filled in with it, the building were decaying and all was shrouded in the choking smog. Also worth a look in Islamic Cairo is Khan al-Khalili, the Great Bazaar (built in 1382), but try to avoid being sold tacky snow glob pyramids and camel shaped handbags.
Part of the Through the Middle East travel blog
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