Cairo Halal Travel Guide
Islamic Cairo is the name commonly given to the core of medieval Cairo, a part of the city remarkably different from the modern Downtown district and the suburbs to the west.
Islamic Cairo is not more or less Islamic than the rest of the city, but it’s the area of the city which holds the most, the greatest and the most famous Islamic monuments. Many of these raised by the Fatimid caliphs who founded the city Cairo (preceded by Fustat or Old Cairo). Unlike Islamic quarters in other cities, people, often quite poor, continue to live by historic monuments and mosques. A huge, bustling center of worship, trade, shopping and commuting – it’s a must-see for any visitors and deserves at least a couple of days exploring.
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and, with a total population of Greater Cairo metropolitan area in excess of 16 million people, one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (the regions which it conveniently straddles). It is also the 19th largest city in the world, and among the world’s most densely populated cities.
On the Nile river, Cairo is famous for its own history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo — with historic Cairo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Egyptian Museum in the city Centre is a must see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artefacts, as is shopping at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. No trip to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Giza Pyramids and to the nearby Saqqara Pyramid Complex, where visitors will see Egypt’s first step pyramid built by the architect Imhotep for the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser.
Though firmly attached to the past, Cairo is also home to a vibrant modern society. The Midan Tahrir area situated in downtown Cairo, built in the 19th century under the rule of Khedive Ismail, has strived to be a “Paris on the Nile”. There also are a number of more modern suburbs including Ma’adi and Heliopolis, while Zamalek is a quiet area on Gezira Island, with upmarket shopping. Cairo is best in the fall or spring, when the weather isn’t so hot. A felucca ride on the Nile is a good way to escape from the busy city, as is a visit to Al-Azhar Park.
Since the revolution in 2011 and the ongoing counter-revolution, tourists have fled Cairo to a large extent. This has created an opportunity for unique experiences of Cairo’s and Egypt’s cultural treasures without the crowds. Finding yourself alone inside a pyramid is now a real possibility. Prices are also lower.