A Cairene tourist in Cairo
Cairo is the hub of tourist attractions. But besides the usual suspects, Pyramids, Citadel, Tahrir Square, Khan Al Khalili, etc., there are some pretty cool stops that aren’t as popular. Here are is a photo journal of some suggestions for where to go in Cairo if you’re feeling adventurous.
The Andalusian Garden Park – I’ve passed the outer gates of this little park about a hundred times without ever noticing it. It’s right across from the Sofitel Hotel in Zamalek. Built by Zulfaqar Basha in 1935, who originally designed it to be part of the royal mansion of Khedive Ismail. This Garden is so unique with its preserved old Andalusian-architectural style.
Gayer-Anderson Museum – Hidden in the Saida Zeinab neighborhood, the museum consists of two houses built using the outer wall of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. Major Gayer-Anderson lived in the homes from1935 and 1942. The museum is noted for being one of the best-preserved examples of 17th-century domestic architecture left in Cairo and has a massive collection of furniture, antiques, carpets and other objects.
Fun fact: The James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me was partially shot in the museum.
Ibn Tulun Mosque – If you go to Gayer-Anderson, you’ll have to go into the Ibn Tulun Mosque entrance first. So this is win-win stop. It’s said to be the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area, and the oldest mosque in the city that has survived it’s original form.
Bab Zweila – this is a silly addition as it is an extension of Al Hussein and Khan Khalili, but as an Egyptian I had never walked far enough to reach Bab Zweila. The large gate is one of three remaining gates in the walls of the Old City of Cairo. You’ll be greeted with a small little park and later on you’ll reach Mosque of Sultan al-Muayyad.
City of the Dead – not the most luxurious place to visit but worth the history. Stretching for miles, this ancient cemetery has become a residential quarter for thousands of Egyptians. The tombs fill the land, and many of the mausoleums have now become small homes for both the living and the dead.
Al Manial Palace – a historic house and estate located in Al Manial, Cairo, this palace was built between 1899 and 1929. Established by Prince Mohamed Tewfik, the uncle of King Farouq, this gem is a reflection of integrated styles from the Ottoman and Persian empires and architectural influences from other Islamic dynasties.
El Sakkakini Palace – built in 1897, this is one of the most lavishly decorated structures in downtown Cairo, the palace is a reminder of Count Gabriel Habib Sakkakini Pasha’s influence on architecture in Egypt. Sadly, visitors are unable to enter the premises, but the building is worth a quick visit.
Japanese Garden Helwan – built in 1917 and has been forgotten in the new age. It is the only Japanese botanical garden in the Middle East, and although abandoned it’s worth a stop. Sadly, I stumbled upon it without a camera, but will surely be back to grab a few flicks. Here is an article by Cairobserver with some photos.