The Citadel and the mosque of Mohamed Ali gaze over the dusty city by day and shimmer beautifully in green and gold at night. There is much to see and do in the Citadel complex (it has several museums and re-furbished buildings to visit) but the highlight of a visit really is the view you get over the city.
On a good day you can spy the Cairo Tower and the pyramids in the distance, but don't feel disappointed if the Cairo smog puts their form out of reach as your eyes will be kept busy picking out the colour and movement of daily life as it flits across the grey canvas of the city below you. You can see the cars glistening as they drive along the Autostrad road, and this silvery streak through the city almost looks like a branch of the Nile. See if you can spot the different historic minaret styles that give a clue to the date of each mosque’s construction in he surrounding area.
If you can visit the Citadel on a Friday then do so: although you aren't able to go inside the Mohamed Ali mosque during Friday prayers, you can time a visit to experience the striking sounds of the call to prayer as it rings out across Cairo. To be looking out from the Citadel when the call to prayer goes out in the city of a thousand minarets is breathtaking.
There is no nearby metro station, so you will have to take a taxi to the Citadel. Try to take a "white" taxi as these have meters, which mean you avoid any confusion over payment. Ask for “gamaa Mohamed Ali” (Mohamed Ali mosque) or “il all ail qalla” (Citadel)
Ibn Tulun Mosque is the oldest mosque in Egypt and one of the oldest in the world (approx 1200 years old), most notable for its minaret based on the famous one at Saqqara. It's eerily deserted, something I did not expect, and is off the beaten track for tourists (though I went in July) - a must see.
Sultan Hassan Mosque is an amazing piece of Mamluk architecture and a must for anybody visiting Cairo. Bab al-Shariah is a place I visited with my friend's family. Native Egyptians live and work there amid the hustle and bustle and there are all kinds of shops with merchandise at affordable prices.
Sultan Hasan Mosque is near the citadel. Bab al-Shariah is near the Al-Azhar and Al-Hussein mosques
It's actually possible to escape the crowds and the noise in Cairo, although you have to put up with a lot of both on the way. I would recommend Beit el-Suhaymi, a wonderful, labyrinthine Islamic house-turned-museum where you can really picture how the large families used to live.
Before or afterwards take a stroll around the north of Khan al-Khalili market. Away from the hassle of the market stalls you see a bit of real innercity life. I am female and, being there on my own, I didn't feel hassled at all in this part. Be sure to respect their dress code though.
Another tip is go to the Mosque of Sulayman Pasha when at the Citadel. Around the Citadel itself, in particular the Muhammad Ali mosque, was very busy, but the simpler, smaller mosque felt like a peaceful oasis and has lovely mosaics.
Beit el-Suhaymi, Khan al-Khalili market and the Citadel are all located within the city centre.
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