Islamic Cairo

Cairo is Islamic though some areas are more so than others. Actually this area is no more Islamic than Central Cairo but as though walking through a time machine we are transported back to Cairo's past Islamic heritage to a world of ancient mosques and 1 500 hundred year old markets; to medieval forts and the city that was Salah ad-Din's.

One should dress appropriately if sightseeing is in order though it is not necessary when simply shopping in the Khan. Appropriate clothing involves clothing which will be acceptable in the mosques with little skin showing and particularly not legs and shoulders. Wear comfortable shoes that can be easily removed.

To start this journey we return to Midan Ataba. However before proceeding into the Islamic district lets head southwest along Mohammed Ali street to the intersection of Port Said (Bur Said) street and visit the Islamic Museum which will provide us with some additional knowledge and resources prior to entering Islamic Cairo. We can then proceed northeast on Port Said street until it intersects with Sharia al-Azhar which we will take to the east (right). We will first pass the carpet market (H) and then the Mosque-Madrassa of al-Ghouri (66) and then his Mausoleum (67) (the black and white buildings circa 1505 AD) which are both worth a visit. This complex is a beautiful reminder of the Mamluk era of Egypt when slaves were kings but it was al-Ghouri who turned the rule over to the Ottomans with his defeat in Syria. Of note is that there are Sufi performances held in the mausoleum. This whirling dance is a must see in the authors opinion. The Wikala of al-Ghouri (68) (the best preserved wikala in Cairo) is just east of the complex which serves as a theater and concert hall along with artist's galleries. Skirting the Khan and continuing on al-Azhar street past the Mosque of Abu Dahab (69) (circa 1774 AD) which currently houses students of the al-Azhar Mosque University we arrive at the al-Azhar Mosque (70) which was founded in 970 AD. It is one of Cairo's oldest mosques but perhaps more importantly it is the world's oldest university and certainly worth a look. The street which runs along the side of the al-Azhar Mosque is Shari Atfa el-Azhari and at the end of this street is Beit Zainab Khaton (not indicated on map) built in 1468 and refurbished in 1713. The first floor reflects the style of the Mamluks era while the second is Ottoman. Opposite the house is the El-Ayni Mosque and beyond that are two old houses at the end of Shari Atfa el-Ayni. They are the Beit al-Harrawi built in the 1700's and close by is Beit Sitt Wassila (circa 1637 AD).