Bedouin Castle: Hotel, Safari, Nile Tours © 2013
Site Descriptions: Cairo and Heliopolis
THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM houses the finest collection of ancient Egyptian and Ptolemaic artifacts in the world. Here you will view over 5000 years of Pharaonic (ancient Egyptian) artifacts that include: the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb (some may be on world tour), the relics of Ankhnaton (the “Heretic King”), many statues and artifacts from all of the Ramesses pharaohs, statuary and artifacts from the Giza Plateau, collections from the Saite, Nubian, and Ptolemaic dynasties – anything having to do with ancient Egypt, you will find it here. You also have the option of visiting the “Mummy Room” which contains many kings and queens who have been preserved in the ancient Egyptian mummification manner.
THE KHAN EL-KHALILI is one of the largest souks (bazaars) in the world. It is located in Islamic Cairo and consists of many narrow, winding streets, interesting architecture, and about anything you might want to purchase, including: Islamic art, “Khol” containers (ancient and modern Egyptian eyeliner), magic spells, gold, silver, Bedouin furniture and clothing, crocodile purses, any kind of spice you can think of, clothing, shoes, and ancient Egyptian replicas of papyri, statues, etc.
Al-Azhar Mosque. This splendid mosque is located in Old Cairo in the Khan E-Khalili bazaar area. It was built in the 9th c AD and the most important sheikhs and
holy men reside and work here; it is the world’s oldest university.
THE CITADEL was built by the great ruler, Saladin (Salah el-Din) in 1176. The Citadel has been the home of Egyptian rulers for over 700 years and has several palaces and mosques inside, including the Mosque of Mohammed Ali (1828-1848), the Mosque of sultan al-Nasir(1318), Mohamed, and the Mosque of Sulieman Pasha (1528). There is also a hippodrome for parades and games, several palaces (including the Gowhara Palace), and also several museums inside including the Police and National Military museums. The Citadel and its interior buildings are an interesting and beautiful collection of Egyptian, Turkish, and Mameluke architecture.
The Citadel was the seat of government for the Ayyubids (1171 – 1250), the Mameluks (1250-1516), then the Ottomans (1516 – 1798) and finally for Mohammed ‘Ali Pasha and his family (1798-1952). When the Ottomans ruled Egypt, the northern enclosure of the Citadel contained the barracks of the jannissaries, the western enclosure was the home of the locally recruited troops (al-Azab), and the Pasha lived in the southern part. During the British occupation (1882-1946) the Citadel was the headquarters of the British army, and later it became the Egyptian army headquarters.
Citadel Prison Museum features prison cells and describes daily life and interrogation procedures that have been used in Egypt, starting from the time of Saladin.
National Military Museum: Military history and artifacts can be found here, dating from ancient Egyptian times to the modern era.
National Police Museum. This museum describes infamous crimes, assassinations, and how suspects were apprehended and punished.
Gowahara Palace Museum contains the palace jewels, throne room, and receptions halls of the great Mohammed Ali Pasha.
HELIOPOLIS was named by the Greeks and it means, “Sun City.” To the ancient Egyptians, however, it was known as Iunu or On, and it was one of the most important religious centers of ancient Egyptian history as it was the primary center for the cult of the sun god, Ra. Today, ancient Heliopolis is covered by modern structures and streets, and very little of the Sun cult center can be seen. The only remains are the obelisk of Senwosret I, and some artifacts in a small site museum. There is also the “Tree of Mary,” which is supposed to have been one of the trees that sheltered the Holy Family during their escape from Jerusalem.
COPTIC CAIROgo to separate “Coptic Cairo and Christians” page
KERDASSA is another souk where mostly textiles, galabiyas, carpets, and furniture are sold. It is located in Northwest Giza (to the west of Cairo) and about a 20-minute drive north of the Giza Pyramids. Kerdassa, although smaller than the Khan el-Khalili, is one of the primary purchase markets for the merchants at the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. So if you are low on cash, see what you like at the Khan, and then go to Kerdassa to make the purchase as many times you will pay ½ price or less. It just depends on how good of a bargainer you are.
CAMEL MARKETS of Cairo are located about 15 minutes north of Kerdassa. Every Friday, many camels are brought here for sale to local merchants, tour operators, and even restaurants. If you can keep it out of your mind that about half of these animals will probably go to slaughter, you will find yourself in a fascinating place with myriads of camels and people doing business in the same way that their forefathers have been doing for centuries, if not millennia.
CITY OF THE DEAD is located in the southeast portion of Cairo. The “City of the Dead,” was founded in 642 by the military commander Amir ibn al-On; he developed this large plot into a cemetery for his family. Following Arab dynasties expanded this burial location into a major burial ground. One of the ancient Egyptian mourning customs appears to still be practiced by modern Egyptians: when visiting the tomb of your relative or friend, you should spend the day having a picnic lunch near the remains. If you came from a long distance, there is usually a little house next to the tomb so the visitor could spend the night.
As centuries passed, people started living full-time in these small “rest” houses, and the actual tombs of the “City of the Dead.” When the Nasser era began (1950’s) the number of poor living people in the City of the Dead grew dramatically as the lower classes became so poverty stricken that they had no other place to live. The “City of the Dead” has grown dramatically since the 1950’s and seems to be occupied by more living people than dead ones.