1 May 2019
Known as the greatest city in the Islamic world, Cairo’s ancient monuments and medieval customs thrive in a cosmopolitan, modern city. A blend of Arab, African and European influences, Africa’s largest city has a population of at least 18million. In Islamic (or Medieval) Cairo, narrow congested streets are filled with donkey carts, spice traders and imposing mosques. A central landmark is Midan Hussain, a large open square with teahouses around the perimeter, and dominated by the sacred Mosque of Sayyidna Al-Hussain. Adjacent is the famous Khan-el Khalili, one of the world’s largest bazaars, pulsing with commerce and crammed with spices, coppersmiths, perfume and trinkets. Hop in one of the many old Peugeot taxis, and your ears will be assaulted by the sometimes pleasurable sounds of Arabic Pop music or the cacophony of car horns.
Egyptian Museum - Check out the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities which houses over 130,000 exhibits, including Pharaonic and Byzantine art and sculpture, the Mummy Room and the celebrated Tutankhamen exhibition where you can check out the solid gold funerary mask of the boy King. At time of writing, the new Egyptian Museum remains closed.
However, the opening of the long-delayed Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) near the Pyramids of Giza is scheduled to open in 2020. The star attraction will be the showcasing of all the treasures of Tutankhamen —all 5,400 objects from his tomb in Luxor. At 490,000 sq. m, the GEM complex will be the world’s largest archaeological museum and also home to 28 shops, 10 restaurants, a conference centre and a cinema. Around 50,000 objects (half of the total collection) will make up a “bigger picture” that moves chronologically from prehistory to the Graeco-Roman period. More than 20,000 items have never been shown before, including archaeological discoveries from recent decades and monumental pieces too large for the present Egyptian Museum in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square. GEM will have galleries up to 20m high. And unlike the present Tutankhamun display at the Tahrir Square-based museum, where treasures such as the King’s golden death mask and coffin were left to impress by their mere artisanship, GEM will immerse visitors in his court, his lifestyle and his funeral. Two galleries measuring more than 7,000 sq. m will reveal, for example, how he dressed, what he ate and what he did for Egypt. The new gallery will throw far more weight on the boy king and build a greater picture of him as a person.
Hanging Church - Beyond Islam, there is also the Coptic Egypt. Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church also known as the Hanging Church is one of the oldest in churches in Egypt. The history of a church on this site dates to the third century. The Hanging Church is named for its location above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, the Roman fortress in Coptic Cairo (Old Cairo); its nave is suspended over a passage. The church is approached by twenty-nine steps; early travelers to Cairo dubbed it "the Staircase Church".
The Nile – Cutting a swathe through Africa’s largest city, the Nile as primary water source is Egypt’s and also neighboring Sudan’s lifeblood. Popular Nile felucca cruises are an opportunity to view the skyline as the boat sails in a gentle breeze along arguably Africa and the planet’s longest river.
Ben Ezra Synagogue - The founding date of the Ben Ezra Synagogue is not known, although there is good evidence from documents found in the geniza (storeroom) that it predates 882 C.E. and is probably pre-Islamic.Egypt's Jewish community is at the end of a dramatic decline, from about 80,000 people in the 1920s to less than a dozen of Egyptian ancestry now residing in Cairo. Accordingly, the Ben Ezra Synagogue functions now as a tourist attraction and museum, rather than as a functioning congregation.
Khan-el Khalili Bazaar - Khan el-Khalili is a major souk in the historic centre of Islamic Cairo. A major attraction for locals and visitors alike, the bazaar has been plying trade since the 14th century. The skinny lanes of Khan Al Khalili are basically a medieval-style mall. This agglomeration of shops – many arranged around small courtyards – stock everything from laundry powder to lapis lazuli, not to mention alabaster pyramids and pharaonic objets. Most shops and stalls open from around 9am to well after sundown (except Friday morning and Sunday).
Saqqara - There are remains of the Old Kingdom’s capital Memphis; the necropolis at Saqqara, with the Step Pyramid older than those at Giza, with well-preserved wall reliefs and royal tombs.
The Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza Plateau - The pyramids are the earth's oldest tourist attraction and the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is the only remainder of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Throughout their history, they have fired human imagination, with much speculation as to their origin and purpose, but most evidence supports the theory that they were built by the ancient civilization as tombs or great monuments in which to bury their kings and nobles, a place to start their mystic journey to the afterlife. The oldest and largest pyramid, the Great Pyramid, is thought to have taken 20 years to build and is made of about two million blocks of limestone. No one knows how the two-ton blocks were moved into place, but it was known to be the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 40 centuries. The Sphinx, known as the Abu al-Hol (Father of Terror), stands in front of the Great Pyramid and is thought to be older than the pyramids themselves.
And the other two pyramids? Chephren and Mycyrinus.
19-Day Arabia, Egypt & Holy Lands
Sail 19 days between Dubai and Athens, with stops in the Holy Lands and Greece