Historic Cairo


Historic Cairo encompasses the historic centre on the eastern bank of the Nile, which includes no less than 600 classified monuments dating from the 7th to 20th centuries.

Among them are Islamic Cairo, overlooked by the Cairo Citadel, Coptic Cairo and its many old churches and ruins of Roman fortifications.


Community Reviews

Jay T - December 2015

The winding streets of historic Cairo were a welcome change from the traffic congestion of downtown Cairo. When I visited in fall 2012, I spent one day visiting the Coptic section of the city and one day in the historic Islamic section. Nestled within the walls of an old Roman fortress in the southern part of Cairo are several Coptic churches, including the unique Hanging Church (suspended over a gatehouse of the fortress) and the St. Barbara Church, as well as the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George with its monastery; the enclave was quite a sight to see. The historic Islamic section of Cairo was a bit more spread out, and I started at the Citadel, with its impressive Mosque of Muhammad Ali and the older Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque, before working my way north through narrow streets to the twin minarets of the Bab Zuweila (Zuweila Gate). The Khan el-Khalili market was a wonder to explore, as were the surrounding neighborhoods. Although I was unsuccessful in finding the childhood home of the writer Naguib Mahfouz, I really enjoyed the variety of Islamic architecture I passed along the way.

Logistics: Coptic Cairo may best be reached by taxi or by Metro (Mar Gargis station), while historic Islamic Cairo--the Citadel in particular--may be easier to reach by taxi before walking through the neighborhoods

Chris - July 2015

When I was in Cairo in February 2015 I visited the Historical Cairo. Both the Islamic and Coptic part. The Islamic takes a day to see all for sure, the Coptic you not need a full day. It for sure was quiet everywhere, not many tourist. I like both places. Different religions mixed in a city does work as you can see here. Everything was in good state and easy to visit. We did have a guide to keep the touts away but on general we had no problems with touts. Did not get ripped off, did not get food "problems". I can recommend really everyone to visit Cairo, also now, it's perfectly safe to go! I used a guide from Egyptian Sidekicks; they are students and do not ask for tips and extra money. All fair and perfect service!

Read more from Chris here.

Anthony M. Fischer - October 2012

I visited this part of Cairo during my time in the US Army. It was 1998 and my fourth deployment to the Middle East. Cairo was almost overwhelming in its variety of impressions, sights, and just the sheer number of people. New Mexico, where I live, has roughly 10 people per square mile, or some other ridiculously low number. Cairo has about 170,000 (based on the figures I read). WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

Having said that, the historic section of Cairo is just beautiful, even though it is showing the wear and tear of the ages. Minarets, markets, mosques, tilework, colors, smells, people...I still get dizzy thinking about it.

I only wish I had done more research prior to my visit. It sometimes becomes a little difficult to determine the age of a building...which might cause you to miss something truly remarkable.

I can only say "GO!" if the opportunity comes your way.

Clyde - September 2012

I visited this WHS in March 2010. It is one of the world's oldest Islamic cities with several mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains. The highlight of my visit was the Alabaster Mosque and its marble courtyard.

Paula Fonseca - June 2011

The City of Cairo is an impressive place. The views from the Ancient City are simply astonished and the Mosques are very beautiful. It's possible visiting them and the Cairo people have some kind of joy that make the experience wonderful.

stewart ayu - June 2009

Historic Cairo with it's medieval layout , impressive mosques, and huge traditional market is fascinating. It's quite a large area and goes to show how important cairo was in the past. The mosques were imposing and unadorned. Worth a quick look.

Christer Sundberg - December 2005

I was still finishing some work when I - first time in my life - arrived in Cairo late one Dember evening. Following day, after having switched off the western world, I headed for the area named as “medieval Cairo”. Accompanied by the shop-keepers early morning routines of setting up their stands, filled with colourful fruits, raw meat and vegetables, I entered this “Arabian Nights”-look-a-like place through its northern gates and found myself suddenly in a world of its own filled with strange smells of spices, food, dirt and live animals. After having wondered around, visited a couple of mosques and fighting my way passed eager salesmen and beggars, I ended up in the Khan el Khalili bazaar for a touristy cup of coffee at the famous Fishawi Café. Though I could have easily bought myself dozens of carpets and other goods on my way, I continued down the Sharia El Muizz-street to the Tentmakers bazaar and later the gigantic Mamluk-mosques of Sultan Hassan & Ar-Rifai. A lunch at the Citadel ended a long promenade through a place where times seem to have stood still. It’s an almost magic place that you must not miss when visiting Cairo.

Klaus Freisinger - July 2005

Egypt is famous for its ancient history, the age of pharaohs and pyramids up to Cleopatra and the Roman Conquest. What came later, after the rule of Rome and Byzantium, is less well known in our minds, but of course no less important for Egypt today. Arabs conquered the country in the mid-7th century, and ruled for a time from Alexandria. In the 10th century, they built a new city on the banks of the Nile that they called al-Qahirah, the Victorious. Today it is the largest city of both Africa and the Arab Countries, but it doesn´t figure prominently in most peoples´ travel plans. That´s partly understandable, since the place is incredibly crowded, dirty, smoggy, and an insult to your senses in general. However, you can get used to that (really!) and the place has at least two things to offer that have to be seen by everybody - the Pyramids, which are not that far outside Cairo, and the Egyptian Museum, one of the greatest museums I have ever seen. Other sights like the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar and the Ottoman Fortress are interesting as well, but similar to other places in different Arab cities. Hotels and restaurants are usually very good, so if you can hold your breath for a while, there is no reason not to go to Cairo.

Ben Pastore - June 2005

My visit here was in 1995-long before the attacks of 9/11 that spooked Americans from traveling to the Middle East. Though not a Muslim myself, I was entranced by the exotic atmosphere that Cairo exuded. Perched in my hotel on an island amid the mighty Nile, it wasn't hard to picture the history that made this place what it is.

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Site Info

Full name: Historic Cairo

Site History


The site has 5 locations.

  • Al-Fustat
  • Al-Imam ash-Shaf'i Necropolis
  • As-Sayyidah Nafisah Necropolis
  • Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, The Citadel Area, The Fatimid Nucleus of Cairo, Necropolis
  • Qayitbay Necropolis


The site has 44 connections.



  • Aqueduct Aqueduct of Cairo (Sour Megra Eleyoon)
  • Baths Hammam Behbel Bah Sharia
  • Bazaars & Market Halls Khan el-Khalili
  • Caravanserai One dating from 1382 in the Khan el-Khalili shopping area, and various Wikala around town
  • Hospitals Qala'un complex
  • Hypostyle Cairo has several "Hypostyle" mosques. E.g Al-azhar Mosque - "the original structure was 280 feet (85 m) in length and 227 feet (69 m) wide, and comprised three arcades situated around a courtyard. To the southeast of the courtyard, the original prayer hall was built as a hypostyle hall, five aisles deep.... The marble columns supporting the four arcades that made up the prayer hall were reused from sites extant at different times in Egyptian history, from Pharaonic times through Roman rule to Coptic dominance" (Wiki). Al-Nasir Mohammad Mosque (Citadel) and the Ibn Tulun mosque - Ibn Tulun " had solid bricks baked and used, following the tradition in Mesopotamia.....(and) applied this policy even to the pillars of the hypostyle hall, making all of them very thick and solid by piling bricks, having quit taking marble columns from ancient Roman temples or Christian churches." See
  • Mausolea Qala'un complex
  • Universities Al-Azhar University


  • Terrorist Attacks "On Thursday, 7 April 2005, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device on Sharia al-Moski in Islamic Cairo, near the al-Hussein Mosque and Khan el-Khalili, a major souq popular with tourists and Egyptians alike. Three foreign tourists (two French and one American) were killed, and 11 Egyptians and seven other overseas visitors were injured." Followed by further (lesser) attacks.



  • Abbasid Caliphate Ibn Tulun Mosque (870-879), the oldest surviving mosque in Egypt. Its minaret was modelled after the one in Samarra.
  • Eunuchs former center of eunuch trade (source: Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History)
  • Mamluk Sultanate Palace of the Bashtak, Sultan Hassan Mosque (1356-1362), various mausolea. Cairo also was the capital of the Mamluks.
  • Ottoman Empire Part of empire from 16th century until 1867. Visible remains for example in ornamentation at the Harem Palaces at the Citadel, Ibrahim Agha Mustahfizan House-Waqf e.a.
  • Pisan colonies 
  • Sieges and Battles By Saladin

Individual People

  • Baibars Baibars Mosque
  • Gertrude Bell Photo taken January 1909
  • Ibn Battuta 
  • Ibn Khaldun Lived there from 1384 until his death in 1406. Taught at al-Azhar University and was appointed a qadi or "judge" by the Egyptian Mamluk sultan.
  • King Chulalongkorn of Siam (Rama V) (7 Nov) met Caliph Abbas Hilmi
  • Lawrence of Arabia Visited
  • Mapped or Illustrated by Blaeu On top frieze of Appendix Theatri A. Ortelii et Atlantis G. Mercatoris (1631)
  • Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Shah is buried in the Al-Rifa'i Mosque within the Cairo Citadel. He died in Cairo during his exile after being given permanent asylum there by Sadat (He had previously been "shuttled" between Morocco, Bahamas, Mexico, USA and Panama!). His family had connections with the mosque - King Fatouk his brotherin Law is buried there and his father Reza Shah had initially been buried there.
  • Saladin Besieged 1167
  • Sir Richard Francis Burton At the Al Hazar Mosque in old Cairo when he was putting the finishing touches to his Islamic knowledge and Arabic language in preparation for his trip to Mecca

Religion and Belief

  • Coptic Orthodox Church Includes Coptic Cairo
  • Jewish religion and culture Ben Azra Synagogue
  • Karaites Karaite Quarter
  • Mosque Al-Azhar Mosque, 975, Sunni, connected to one of the world's oldest universities, home to Arab medieval scholarship; Sultan Hassan Mosque, 1356, Sunni, a masterpiece of Mamluk architecture
  • Sufism The Khanqah of Babars II "a medieval building located on historic Muizz St.. It was built in 1309,......to accommodate four hundred Sufis and and children of the Mamluks. This is the oldest Khanqah or hostel, that has survived in modern Cairo." A Khanqah "is a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, or tariqa, and is a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation. In the past, and to a lesser extent nowadays, they often served as hospices for Sufi travelers". (Both Wiki). See



WHS on Other Lists

  • U.S. Ambassadors Fund  Emergency Stabilization of the 14th-Century Mosque of Aslam Al-Silahdar, Midan Aslam, al-Darb al-Ahmar in Islamic Cairo (2005) & Preservation of Traditional Buildings Trades (2004)
  • World Monuments Watch (past) Sabil Ruqayya Dudu (2006, 2004) , Qa'itbay Sabil (1996) , Tarabay al-Sharify (2006); Aqsunqur Mosque (Blue Mosque) (2008)
  • World Monuments Watch (past) Bayt al-Razzaz (2014)

World Heritage Process