Located along the enchanting Nile River, Cairo is the charming capital city of Egypt. A visit to this amazing city will show you why Egyptians call it Umm ad-Dunya – the Mother of the World. Its streets are crazy busy with locals and tourists; its historical ruins take you back in time; it has iconic pyramids just a stone’s throw away; it is the home of the mummies; and you can enjoy the serene beauty of vast deserts right here. However, apart from the Pyramids and the Sphinx, there are many lesser-known attractions of Cairo that are equally amazing. Read on to know more about some these hidden attractions of Cairo.
The Valleys of Maadi and Hulwan
It is a treat for nature lovers and photographers to visit the lesser known yet breathtaking Valleys of Maadi and Hulwan, which are located towards the southern periphery of Cairo. These are actually a collection of four secluded valleys, which are known as Wadi in Arabic. Three of these picturesque valley or wadis are located in Hulwan – Wadi Houf, Wadi Gerawi and Wadi Risheid. The fourth wadi – Wadi Degla – is located in Maadi, which is popularly called the Grand Canyon of Egypt. You can enjoy scenic day excursions to these four wadis.
The Cave Church in Garbage City
Visit the magnificent Monastery of Saint Simon, popularly known as the Cave Church, which is located in the Garbage City in the Mokattam Mountain, Cairo. It is difficult to find large Christian communities in a Muslim-dominated country like Egypt. Yet, Cairo’s Garbage City is home not only to a large Coptic Christian community, it also houses the largest church in the Middle East. The journey to the church adds to the experience. You will have to cross the Garbage City to visit this church, which seats around 20,000 people. Explore the stunning frescos and intricate designs of this well-maintained church.
The Moqattam Mountains or Hills are a range of rocky, flat mountains on the eastern side of Cairo. The destination attracts fewer tourists and you can have the privilege of relaxing in serenity and isolation in a bustling city like Cairo. Just sit on top or around the edge of the mountain, enjoying stunning views of the city and surroundings.
The City of the Dead
Don’t let the name intimidate you! The City of the Dead, which is also called Cairo Necropolis, is an old Islamic cemetery located under the Mokattam Hills in south-eastern Cairo. The area is well populated and reflects a perfect unison of life and death in a fascinating way. Exploring this vast cemetery, which is spread over four miles, is an unforgettable experience. The cemetery has streets dedicated to tombs and shrines of past civilizations including those of the Islamic world’s famous figures.
Mosque of Al-Hakim
Visit the historical mosque named after the famous Caliph Al-Hakim, who is regarded one of the most important rulers of Egypt. The mosque of Al-Hakim is located on Al-Galal Street in Islamic Cairo District. You can explore the mosque, which was completed in AD 1013, and its several minarets which showcase typical architectural features of its time. The mosque is located between two other historical sites – Bab el-Futuh (Gate of Conquests) and Bab el-Nasr (Gate of Victory), both of which look like ancient Roman town gates.
Memphis Open-Air Museum
Memphis was once the capital of Egypt and can now be seen only through its ruins and remnants. This ancient city is now a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site and an officially recognized open-air museum that contains several ancient artefacts. Photographers can satisfy their artistic cravings here, since Memphis is one of the few ancient sites in Egypt which allow photography. Marvel at the giant statue of King Ramsis II, which has been carved out of a large piece of limestone; and admire the statue of a giant alabaster sphinx, which weighs over 80 tons.