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Old Cairo

Cairo is an impressive city where new and old mix. And even though Cairo grew to be the biggest city in the Middle East (19 million of inhabitants so far) it had to start somewhere. Clue: it was not where the current city centre is, and that's what we are going to see now. Come and discover more about Old Cairo, a truly fascinating place!

What is Old Cairo? 

Cairo was founded by the Fatimid in 969 AC. The city started where today is known as Old Cairo, but in that time gathered other cities such as Fustat and al-Askar. The location became a heritage centre for Muslims, Christians and Jews - and Egyptians, of course - with many early Coptic Christian churches, synagogues, and mosques, some the oldest in Egypt and even in the world. 

The old part of the city started to "lose space" as the city started growing beyond its initial borders and the new part, in contrast, was called Modern Cairo, where people started to move to. Yet, Old Cairo never lost its importance and nowadays remains as an historical site that attracts many visitors around the world. 

Where is Old Cairo? 

The area known as Old Cairo is a small portion of the enormous city located south of the centre, close to Corniche el Nile in the proximity of Garden City and Mar Girgis. 

What should I visit in Old Cairo?

Old Cairo is a place to submerse in history and culture with many sites that mixes Christian influence and Islam's presence in the country. Below there are some of the highlights of Old Cairo that you can't miss: 

In the Coptic Cairo area you will find many Christian churches of several centuries old. The ancient ones are six and date back to early Christianity, such as Church of St. Sergius (dates back to the V century), built supposedly upon the crypt where the Holy Family sought shelter during their stay in Egypt (it is possible to visit a small chapel inside the church built in the exact place). 

The Hanging Church (also referred to as the Suspended Church or the Church of Virgin Mary) was built around 690 AD on the gate of a Roma fortress (today buried) and for over five centuries served as the official residence of the Coptic Patriarch. Most of its items were taken to the Coptic Museum, founded in 1908, that exhibits a large collection of artefacts in a very insightful overview of the period that Christianity ruled the country under the Roman Empire. The museum is very close by the church. Other churches that deserved a visit are St John the Baptist, St George Church, and The Church of St. Barbara.

Next you can visit Ben Ezra Synagogue, that is the oldest Jewish temple in Cairo (it dates back to the IX century). Nowadays it is open only as a touristic attraction but it still holds great importance to the Jewish community. 

The Babylon Fortress is another attraction of Old Cairo. The original fortress was built in 30 BC as part of the city's defences. When the Romans brought Christianity to Egypt in 1 AD the surroundings became an important religious centre. The remains we see now are from the II century, when a new fortress was built.

Islamic Heritage in Old Cairo

Old Cairo also holds a rich Islamic heritage, such as Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque, named after the general who introduced Islam to Egypt, and founded in 642 AD, where used to be Fustat, the old neighbour city. Old Cairo was neighbour to Fustat (Saladin intentioned to surround both cities when building the Citadel, making them one), it is where Amr Ibn Al-Aas' troops set a military quarter, and despite the religious differences, the cities only became more linked. Even though most of the original mosque has been replaced (the construction was mainly rebuilt in 1875), the place holds big importance and attracts visitors around the world.

How to go to Coptic Cairo?

You can go by private car, cab or metro (Mr Girgis Station). Most of attraction open at 9am and close at 5pm. 

Is it worth to visit Old Cairo?

Undoubtedly. A visit to Cairo would not be complete without visiting Old Cairo, it is one of the main attractions amongst tourists and locals.