So we finished with all pyramids and we moved to the Nile river. We chose Novotel El-Borg, located on Zamalek Island in the river, due to its strategic location and fair prices.
From the window of our room, we can’t help watching buzzing Cairo till late night, serene Nile river in the morning (on Friday exactly) with Cairo skyline as backdrops.
Our plan today is centered around mosques, and Cairo Tower. With us is our Indonesian guide we hired from Wisma Nusantara, Cairo. Later we found that he is an Al Azhar University student and is really very good guide.
THE SALADIN CITADEL OF CAIRO
This medieval Islamic fortification is easily recognizable due to its location on the hill (Mokattam) near the center of Cairo, dominating the city view. The Citadel is sometimes referred to as Mohamed Ali Citadel because it hosts the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, perched on the summit of the citadel.
The Citadel is the most visited Islamic monument in Egypt. Within the enclosure walls are several important buildings that are open to the public, including the famous Mosque of Muhammad Ali (1828-1848 AD); the Mosque of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad (1318); and several museums (Egypt Military Museum and National Police Museum).
Great views of Cairo (southwest to northeast) just outside the Mosque of Muhammad Ali was an added bonus.
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Open daily, 8AM-5PM
Mosques closed during Friday prayers
Egyptian/Arab: LE 2 (Students: 1 LE)
Foreign: LE 40 (Students: 20 LE)
Student rates available to bearers of a valid student ID from an Egyptian university or an International Student ID Card (ISIC)
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali
This great mosque is the most visible mosque in Cairo. Built in between 1830 and 1848, the mosque took its inspirations from Yeni Cami in Istanbul (if you happened to visit Istanbul it is located at Eminonu, at the southern end of the Galata Bridge).
Visiting this mosque, I couldn’t help admiring the grandness, and beautiful architectural elements though I wished it could be maintained better.
Mosque of Al-Nassir Muhammad Al-Qala’un
This mosque is easily missed, shadowed by its nearby Muhammad Ali Mosque. It’s probably best visited after your visit to Egypt Military Museum, north of this mosque.
What’s unique from this mosque is that the walls of the mosque were constructed using limestone pillaged by the pyramids and some red granite pillars in the mosque were also stolen goods (I saw one of them bears Christian cross symbol!)
AL AZHAR MOSQUE
Al Azhar Mosque was the first mosque established in Cairo (circa 970). We visited the mosque one hour before the busy Friday congregations so we had a plenty of time exploring the mosque, taking pictures and listening to beautiful Al Quran recital (I wanted to cry! Masha Allah).
Although it’s located in very busy Al Azhar Street and opposite Khan el-Khalili, once we entered its marble paved courtyard it was as if we’re in the oasis of calm and quiet amid chaotic and frenetic Cairo!
Once we finished with our lunch at one of the Indonesian restaurants in Cairo, we returned to our hotel to get ready to Cairo Tower, located just behind our hotel. We timed our visit so as we’ll be able to see Cairo in both world: day and night; unfortunately many visitors thought the same and we ended up with long queue. Later I found out that there were two queues, the normal one and speedy one. The latter would cost 30EGP more (normal would cost 70EGP) however it included an access to Sky Garden restaurant and use of this price difference for drinks and snacks! Recommended if you have little time.
Access to the observatory deck (which crowning the tower’s 178m structure) is via one only old, slow, and small elevator. The tower’s partially open lattice-work design is intended to evoke a pharaonic lotus plant, an iconic symbol of Ancient Egypt.
The tower offers a fantastic 360 panoramic view over all of Cairo, the river Nile and, on a clear day the pyramids at Giza.
OPEN: Winter 8am to 12am, Summer: 9am to 1am (http://www.cairotower.net/)
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AL AZHAR MOSQUE