2015 Egypt Trip: Day 3 – Cairo: Citadel, Al Azhar, Nile and Cairo Tower

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Room with a view. Deciphering Egypt while enjoy unparalleled view of the Nile

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

TICKET COST:
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!

CAIRO TOWER

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/)

Other Related Posts:

Day 1 – Arrival and Egyptian Museum

Day 2 – Pyramids

Day 4 – Tahrir, Cairo – Luxor, Karnak Sound & Light Show

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The Mosque of Muhammad Ali
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A corridor surrounding inner court yard
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Inner courtyard
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Beautiful corridor
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The mosque is feast to the eye
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I can imagine how lovely this mosque was when it’s new
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The mosque was built with a central dome surrounded by four small and four semicircular domes.
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So middle east….
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Plant shaped to Allah inscription
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The use of two levels of domes gives a much greater sense of space
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Inside the mosque. The mosque is built in the Ottoman architectural styles
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On the right is the mimbar of the mosque
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The mosque reminds me of Yeni Cami (New Mosque) in Istanbul
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The western side of citadel offers commanding view to old, crowded, minaret-laden Cairo
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Hi Fathan!
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View from southwest corner of the Citadel
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Panoramic view of Cairo from the Citadel
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On the right is Mosque of Sultan Hassan
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A closer look of old Cairo
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View towards Fostat Park, southwest of the Citadel
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Another panoramic view of Cairo from the Citadel
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Mosque of Muhammad Ali looks magnificent from this small street separating this mosque with Mosque of Al-Nassir Muhammad Al-Qala’un
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This is taken past parking areas and before main entrance
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Citadel walls seen from the access road
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Mosque of Muhammad Hassan and Al Rifa’i Mosque
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View towards Al Azhar Mosque
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Police National Museum part of the Citadel
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Police uniforms as displayed in Police National Museum
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Opposite entrance to Military Museum, still within the Citadel complex
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The Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un Mosque
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The Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un Mosque
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Unique roofs in the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un Mosque
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Pillar taken from the church (see cross symbol?)
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Column with traditional sundial
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Main prayer area with niche and mimbar

AL AZHAR MOSQUE

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Al Azhar Mosque, the first mosque established in Cairo
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On marble paved interior courtyard of Al Azhar Mosque
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Two Mamluk era minarets
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Waiting for Friday prayer
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Ornaments in the corridor
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Hypostyle prayer hall with columns used from various periods in Egyptian history
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Keel shaped arches along the courtyard wall with stucco ornaments inscribed
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Waiting for Friday prayer. We came too early, before flood of people
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Glass mosaics adorn prayer hall

CAIRO TOWER

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If you are lucky, during clear day, the Giza Pyramids can be seen from Cairo Tower, like this picture
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Egypt coat of arms on the main entrance of Cairo Tower
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Oh, and it was fantastic! (seen here Opera House on the foreground, and Sofitel at the edge of Zamalek Island
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Novotel, and Tahrir Bridge from Cairo Tower
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Enjoying Cairo Tower before sunset is the best choice
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Looking west from Cairo Tower
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Al Ahly Club from Cairo Tower
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At Sky Garden restaurant located one floor down the observatory deck
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Looking east from the tower
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The Pyramids of Giza from the tower
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Panoramic view from Cairo Tower
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Looking northeast. Seen here 6 October Bridge

THE NILE

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Tahrir Bridge and the Nile river in the morning
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Roundabout at the west end of Tahrir Bridge
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Looking northeast from Novotel
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Tahrir Bridge in the morning of Friday around 8am
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Four Seasons Hotel on the left
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Meanwhile early morning, before sunrise
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The legendary Nile from Novotel
The legendary Nile from Novotel
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Tahrir Bridge’s West Approach with two large stone lion statues flanking each entrance
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Felt safe walking at night in Cairo
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Nile City, few minutes walk from Novotel, hosting 4 restaurants aboard the boat
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Indulging in a dinner while enjoying the picturesque view of the Nile river
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