Editors' Picks

Churches and Temples


The highlights of Old Cairo are connected to the three central religions of the region. The main sites of Islamic Cairo are the Citadel and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. In the mosque’s courtyard, visitors can see the clock that the French gave the Egyptians in exchange for the obelisk that sits in Paris’s Place de la Concorde. Because the clock was not operational, the French also sent elaborate crystal chandeliers that hang in the central dome. Also not to be missed are the Sultan Hassan and Rifai mosques, which sit next to each other. The mosque of Sultan Hassan, which dates back to the 14th century and melds influences from medieval Europe and Asia, is a must-see for architecture and design enthusiasts. The Rifai Mosque contains the tombs of several important Muslims, including King Fuad and King Farouk, as well as the last shah of Iran.

Old Cairo, also known as Coptic Cairo, is where the significant Christian and Jewish landmarks are found. The Hanging, or ‘Suspended,’ Church is regarded as the heart of Coptic Christianity. A short walk away is the Church of Saint Sergius, which dates back to the 3rd century, and is said to have been built over the cave where the Holy Family hid from the soldiers of King Herod. Egypt’s oldest remaining synagogue, Ben Ezra, is just down the road. When the city’s Jews were chased out under President Nasser, the synagogue fell into disrepair, but it has since been restored and again has active (though few) worshippers. It is reputed to be built on the spot where a pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in the reeds. Contact Indagare to arrange a tour.

Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley

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