Classic Cairo

Coptic Cairo, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Gayer-Anderson Museum and Khan il Khalili (STT115)

The ancient sites and culture of Coptic Christians will be explored on a private tour through Old Cairo when you will visit Abu Serga where the Holy family sought refuge, and Ben Ezra, one of the oldest synagogues in Cairo and said by some to be where Moses was taken from the Nile. You’ll also visit the heart of Islamic Cairo, see one of Cairo’s oldest mosques, Ibn Tulun, and walk and shop in the Khan il Khalili, Cairo’s oldest souq.

The Hanging Church is built into the walls of the water gate of the Roman fortress known as Babylon and is possibly the oldest Christian church in Egypt. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is one of Cairo’s most beautiful churches. Continue to the Monastery and Church of St George. This is not such an old church, dating from 1909, but there has been a church in Coptic Cairo dedicated to the Martyr since the 10th-century. It is one of the few remaining circular churches in the Middle East.

Abu Serga interior

Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church is traditionally believed to have been built on the spot where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress. The church is of significant historical importance, and in fact, it is where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected. The first to be elected here was Patriarch Isaac (681-692) It is the episcopal church of Cairo, and it was the episcopal See of Masr (the district of Old Cairo) that replaced the former See of Babylon. Many bishops of the See were consecrated in the Church until the reign of Patriarch Christodulus (1047–1077).


Your next stop is the Abu Serga, the oldest church in Egypt dating back to the 5th century A.D. The church owes its fame to having been constructed upon the crypt of the Holy Family where they stayed for three weeks during their sojourn in Egypt, resting after fleeing Israel from King Herod. Ben Ezra Synagogue is one of the oldest in Egypt and the only synagogue you can currently visit. Set in a shady garden, it was built on the site of 4th-century Christian church and was originally a church, sold by the Copts to the Jews to pay taxes to the Muslim rulers of the day. The synagogue was severely damaged, but it has been almost completely renovated.

The Church of St. Barbara is among the churches of Old Cairo of historic importance. It was originally dedicated to St. Cyrus and St. John who were worshipped for their healing powers. Finally you will visit the fascinating Coptic Museum, which is located in an area of great historical importance within the precinct of the Babylon Fort. The museum features almost 16,000 objects of importance to the Copts of Egypt.

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is arguably the oldest mosque in the city surviving in its original form, and is the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area. The mosque was commissioned by Ahmad ibn Ţulun, the Abbassid governor of Egypt from 868–884 whose rule was characterized by de facto independence. The historian al-Maqrizi lists the mosque’s construction start date as 876 AD, and the mosque’s original inscription slab identifies the date of completion as 265 AH, or 879 AD.

Ibn Tulun Mosque courtyard

The courtyard of Ibn Tulun Mosque. It is arguably the oldest mosque in the city surviving in its original form, and is the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area.

During the medieval period, several houses were built up against the outside walls of the mosque. Most were demolished in 1928 by the Committee for the Conservation of Arab Monuments, however, two of the oldest and best-preserved homes were left intact. The “house of the Cretan woman” (Beit al-Kritliyya) and the Beit Amna bint Salim, were originally two separate structures, but a bridge at the third floor level was added at some point, combining them into a single structure. The house, accessible through the outer walls of the mosque, is open to the public as the Gayer-Anderson Museum, named after the British general R.G. ‘John’ Gayer-Anderson, who lived there until 1942.

After visiting the mosque you will visit the Gayer-Anderson Museum and then later see many other medieval buildings as you walk through the Khan il Khalili, Cairo’s oldest souq. This labyrinth of narrow streets has shops that sell all sorts of products, as well as my cafes and tea-shops.

Gayer Anderson entrance

The Gayer-Anderson Museum is located adjacent to the Mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun in the Sayyida Zeinab neighborhood. The museum takes its name from Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson Pasha, who resided in the house between 1935 and 1942 with special permission from the Egyptian Government. It is noted for being one of the best preserved examples of 17th century domestic architecture left in Cairo, and also for Gayer-Anderson's vast collection of furniture, carpets, curio, and other objects.


Duration
Departs from your accommodation at 8:30am. Hotel pickups may commence prior to this time, exact pickup time will be advised on reconfirmation.
Duration: around 8-9 hours depending on how long you would like to linger at each site and the ubiquitous Cairo traffic
This tour is available each day of the year

Inclusions
All transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
Pick up and drop off at your accommodation
Lunch
Registered tour guide who speaks your own language who will assist you in making the most of your visit
Entrance fee to all sites. Some sites do not have an entrance fee but a donation is always welcome

Exclusions
Food and drink unless specified
Some sites do not have entrance fees but donations are always welcome
Tips (recommended)
Your shopping
Any activity costs not mentioned in our program

Things to note:
– Walking through Coptic and Islamic Cairo, while the sites are close together, can be over uneven surfaces and sensible, comfortable footwear is advised.
– Sunscreen, a hat and water are important even though some of the ways are covered.
– There are souvenir salesmen everywhere in Egypt and bazaar shop owners can be insistent; be polite but firm if you are not interested in purchasing. Ask your guide for assistance if necessary.
– If required, wheelchair accessibility should be discussed when booking as the streets of old Cairo are not always easy with a chair or for people with disabilities.
– Don’t forget your camera!!! Bring a spare battery and card – you’ll take far more pictures than you imagine.

Confirmation
– A confirmation sheet will be sent to you as soon as possible after booking with all details, including local telephone numbers for enquiries.

Cost
1 person – US$105 per person
2 – 4 people – US$66 per person
5 – 8 people – US$44 per person
9 -15 people – US$39 per person
Request a quote for 16+ people
Reduced costs for children 4-12, children 3 and under free

Babylon Fortress

Babylon Fortress was an ancient fortress city or castle in the Delta of Egypt, located at Babylon in the area today known as Coptic Cairo. It was situated in the Heliopolite Nome, upon the right (eastern) bank of the Nile, at latitude 30°N, near the commencement of the Pharaonic Canal (also called Ptolemy's Canal and Trajan's Canal), from the Nile to the Red Sea.

If you wish to book this tour please quote STT115. You may contact us by email at nilewavetravel@gmail.com or phone +2 017 3338800.

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