Our DIY Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map of Things to See
Along with the Pyramids of Giza, Islamic Cairo is our favourite part of the Egyptian capital. Characterized by a maze of wonderful narrow streets and alleys where hundreds of mosques, tombs, markets, madrasas, mansions, and fortifications dating back to the Islamic era can be explored. An Islamic Cairo walking tour map is definitely needed so not to get lost in the hotchpotch of passages and lanes. But then again, getting lost in areas like this is all part of the fun of travel.
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We found the old walled city to be in two parts, separated by the traffic-heavy street of Nafak Al Azhar. To the north, Islamic Cairo feels more touristic, cleaner and spacious, while in the south, the atmosphere was definitely more local, rustic and without any other tourists around. Both areas are definitely worth checking out as they each offer a number of interesting sites.
With our DIY Islamic Cairo walking tour map (found at the bottom of this article), you’ll get to see both sides of the area, taking in all the highlights of this ancient citadel. We’ve listed the places of interest below so you can pick and choose what’s best for you. If you want to follow our entire DIY Islamic Cairo walking tour map, give yourself around 4-6 hours, which is also enough time for a couple of snack/drink stops.
Alternatively, if you want to discover Islamic Cairo in the comfort of an experienced and informative guide, check some of these awesome tours by GetYourGuide:
- Islamic Cairo: Private Sightseeing Day Tour
- Full-Day Islamic & Christian History of Cairo Tour
- Half-Day Islamic Cairo-in-Depth Tour
Getting to the Starting Point of Our Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map
Our DIY walking tour of Islamic Cairo starts where the previously mentioned Nafak Al Azhar Street meets Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatimi Street, also known as El Moez Street or Muizz Street.
If coming from Downtown Cairo, we recommend walking. During the 45 minute walk, you’ll experience the gradual change of new Cairo turning to old. We started walking from our Hotel Luna accommodation near the junction of Talaat Harb Street and Abd El-Khalik Tharwat Street.
Walk east along Abd El-Khalik Tharwat Street until it meets the flyover on Kobri Al Azhar Street, then continue following the flyover underneath on Nafak Al Azhar Street until you reach Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatimi Street, the starting point of our DIY Islamic Cairo walking tour map.
Otherwise, the nearest Metro station is Bab El-Shaaria or jump in a cab and ask to be dropped off at the bottom of Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatimi Street (El Moez Street).
Once at the bottom of El Moez Street, start walking North and follow our guide below.
Things to See on Our DIY Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map
1. El Moez Street
Also known as Muizz Street, this is one of Cairo’s oldest streets. At approximately one kilometer long, this beautiful street features all kinds of colourful shops selling African spices, old antiques, clothing and perfumes to name a few. Feel free to wander into one or two of the side streets to find more interesting shops.
This is the most touristy street in Islamic Cairo but it’s extremely pretty and as it continues north on our Islamic Cairo walking tour map, it contains a number of interesting sites.
2. Qalawun Complex
Continue walking north on El Moez Street until you reach the Qalawun Complex on the left. The huge complex of Sultan Qalawun was built in 1284 by Sultan El Mansur Qalawum. It contains a mosque-medersa, a mausoleum and a mauristan (but in the 1920s, this was superseded by a new hospital).
The Qalawun Complex is the earliest example of a new Syrian style of architecture and interior design of those times. It’s a stunning building with such amazing attention to detail and reminiscent of the Gothic style. This is definitely a highlight on our Islamic Cairo walking tour map.
3. Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda
From the Qalawun Complex, continue north on El Moez Street until the street forks. In the middle of the forked road is Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda, an interesting looking building containing a public fountain, an elementary Quran school, and an adjoining residential wing.
Built in 1744 by a forward-thinking Egyptian architect, Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda is an excellent example of the Ottoman and Mamluk style of architecture. The narrow structure has been described by some architects as “The treasure of Ottoman architecture“. This building’s exterior is more impressive than from the inside, so save some time by not going in.
4. Cafe al-Lord
Take the left fork on the road passing Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda on your right and continue walking north on El Moez Street. Look out for Al Dabeeba Street on the right where you’ll clearly notice an interesting looking cafe named Cafe al-Lord.
A well-known cafe in Islamic Cairo, Cafe al-Lord is only frequented by tourists so is not the most authentic Egyptian experience you’ll find in the area. But if pictures of Egyptian movie stars and life-size statues of famous figures is your thing, then feel free to rest your feet and drink tea or Turkish coffee at this overpriced but popular cafe.
5. Al-Hakim Mosque
Turn back onto El Moez Street and continue walking north on our Islamic Cairo walking tour map. As you reach the most Northern point of El Moez Street, you’ll see the impressive mosque of Al-Hakim on the right. The mosque, which was started in 990 and completed in 1013, is the second largest Fatimid mosque in Cairo.
Like all mosques in Cairo, it’s free to go inside, but if you want to head up one of the tall minarets then you’ll need one of the key keepers to take you up for a small tip. This is worth doing as the views up there are pretty impressive.
6. The Northern Gates of Bab al-Futuh and Bab El Nasr
Once you exit the mosque of Al-Hakim, continue north and walk through one of the Northern gates of the citadel, Bab al-Futuh. When you reach the other side, turn right and follow the city wall for just a few minutes until you reach the second gate called Bab El Nasr. Walk through it to re-enter Islamic Cairo.
Spend the next 30 or so minutes walking south down El-Gamaleya Street and Khan Gaafar Street, and witness a more genuine side of Islamic Cairo with fewer tourists around. Trays of freshly baked bread being carried upon heads, donkey’s pulling carts and authentic street food stalls can all be seen here.
7. Khan el-Khalili Market
At the end of Khan Gaafar Street, the road bends left until it joins Al Mashhad Al Husseini Street. Continue South along Al Mashhad Al Husseini Street and you’ll soon reach the major souk area of Khan el-Khalili. This market might be the most touristy attraction on our Islamic Cairo walking tour map, but it’s still a great place to buy your Egyptian souvenirs.
Market traders work hard to grab your attention and lure you into their shops but some good deals are to be had with a bit of haggling. In addition to shops, there are several coffee shops, eateries, and street food vendors scattered throughout the market.
8. Al-Hussein Mosque, Square and Coffee Shops
At the most southern end of Mashhad Al Husseini Street is a great spot to sit down for a relaxing drink. The line of inexpensive coffee shops on the west-side of the open square is great for people watching and views of the impressive Al-Hussein Mosque.
Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed to enter this mosque but it’s still photo worthy from the outside. There are around 8 coffee shops, one after the other, but they’re all similar and offer pretty much the same menu of juices, soft drinks, teas and coffees.
9. Al-Azhar Mosque
The only challenge on our Islamic Cairo walking tour map is crossing busy Nafak Al Azhar Street. In the middle of the street is a tall safety fence, but locals seem to ignore this and squeeze through gaps to cross the road. Follow their lead to reach Al-Azhar Mosque on the other side, this is the last of the mosques on our Islamic Cairo walking tour map.
Commissioned in 970, it was the first mosque erected in Cairo, a city that has now gained the nickname “the City of a Thousand Minarets”. It’s free to wander and explore inside and stairs to the minarets were open to the public during our visit.
10. Wasila Historical House
Walk around the back of Al-Azhar Mosque and walk east along the cute book shop-lined street of Mohammed Abdou. You’ll soon reach a cosy courtyard which features Wasila Historical House in the south-eastern corner. Beit El Sit El Wasila is another example of early Egyptian architecture and is one of the oldest houses in the city.
The highlight here is the ground floor hall and rooms which have been historically preserved and include some elegant wall paintings of travels and pilgrimages. The hall now houses a number of cultural events throughout the year with poetry being most popular.
11. Al Motaz Ldin Allah Street
From the courtyard, walk West along Sidi Al Dardirai Street and Al Kahkeen Street until you reach Al Motaz Ldin Allah Street which runs north to south. Follow it south and simply enjoy a more local and authentic side to Islamic Cairo.
It’s along here where you’ll be greeted by more genuine welcoming smiles and hellos. There’s nothing really of interest to tourist shoppers here so there is less hassle than the previously visited market streets further north. The area is a real feast for the senses and a photographers playground.
12. Bab Zuwayla
We finish our Islamic Cairo walking tour map at the southern gate of Bab Zuwayla. Considered a major landmark, Bab Zuweila is one of three remaining gates in the walls of the Old City and is the last remaining southern gate. Its name comes from Bab, meaning “Door”, and Zuwayla, the name of a clan of Berber soldiers from the western desert, who were entrusted with guarding the gate.
We recommend arriving at sunset so you can watch the sun drop over the city from one of the two towering minarets. The views up there were the best we found in Cairo.
Here’s our DIY Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map
We hope you find our DIY Islamic Cairo walking tour map useful. We felt extremely satisfied with all the attractions highlighted here which gave us a fascinating insight into this charming area of Cairo.