Coptic Cairo and the Citadel

Coptic Cairo and the Citadel – STT 112

Discover the ancient sites and culture of Coptic Christians on a private tour through Old Cairo when you will visit sites that in fact have meaning for all Christians. 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. Learn about Christian life in Egypt, a country where Christianity is a minority. Also visit one of the great Islamic sites by touring the Citadel of Salah al Din and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.

The entrance to the Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo

The entrance to the Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo, so named for its location above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, the Roman fortress in Coptic Cairo (Old Cairo); its nave is suspended over a passage.

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.

Icons in the Hanging Church

The iconostasis of the central sanctuary is made of ebony inlaid with ivory, and is surmounted by icons of the Virgin Mary and the Twelve Apostles.

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.

Annex of the Library of Jewish Heritage in Egypt at Ben Ezra Synagogue

Annex of the Library of Jewish Heritage in Egypt at Ben Ezra Synagogue. The Ben Ezra Synagogue, sometimes referred to as the El-Geniza Synagogue or the Synagogue of the Palestinians, is situated in Old Cairo, Egypt. According to local tradition, it is located on the site where baby Moses was found.

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.

Entrance to the Coptic Museum

The Coptic Museum in Coptic Cairo, Egypt has the largest collection of Egyptian Christian artifacts in the world. It was founded by Marcus Simaika Pasha in 1910 to house Coptic antiquities. The museum traces the history of Christianity in Egypt from its beginnings to the present day.

Enjoy lunch at a floating restaurant before heading up to the Citadel of Salah al Din. The Saladin Citadel, built on an artificially detached range of the Muqqattam Hills, was constructed with limestone quarried from it and large blocks supplied by the small pyramids at Giza. Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty in Egypt, came to power in 1169 AD as the result of a threatened attack by crusaders, and the Citadel was completed between 1176 and 1182. In the 19th century, during the Turkish period, the Citadel became the residence for the royal family. Muhammad Ali, the Turkish ruler, added a great alabaster mosque, built in the Istanbul style. As well as visiting the mosque and palace, you will enjoy spectacular views across the city from this high point.

The Citadel of Salah al Din in Cairo

The Citadel of Salah al Din in Cairo

Muhammad Ali Mosque (or the Alabaster Mosque)
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali was designed in the Ottoman style of Istanbul and is quite unrelated to the architectural tradition of Cairo. In the courtyard in front of the sanctuary there is a charming Turkish baroque ablution fountain (which makes an excellent photo opportunity). The gingerbread clock was given by Louis Philippe in 1846 as an exchange gift for the obelisk now in the Place de la Concorde, Paris. Apparently the clock has never worked and there are those who say the French got the best of the bargain.

Mosque of Muhammad Ali

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster Mosque is a mosque situated in the Citadel of Cairo in Egypt and commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848.

Departs from your accommodation at 8:00am. Hotel pickups may commence prior to this time, exact pickup time will be advised on reconfirmation.
Duration: around 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

All transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
Pick up and drop off at your accommodation
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

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

Things to note:
– Walking through Coptic 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.
– 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. A vehicle with wheelchair accessibility can be made available but 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.
– Photography is allowed inside most of the sites, however in the Hanging Church you may not use either a flash or tripod.

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

1 person – US$110 per person
2 – 4 people – US$70 per person
5 – 8 people – US$47 per person
9 -15 people – US$42 per person
Request a quote for 16+ people
Reduced costs for children 4-12, children 3 and under free

Thank you for choosing Nile Wave Travel. If you wish to book this tour please quote STT112. You may contact us by email at or phone +2 017 3338800.

Entrance to the monastery of St George

Entrance to the monastery of St George in Coptic Cairo. The current monastery was rebuilt after a fire in 1904.


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