By Darren Griffiths

Our DIY Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map of Things to See

19th February 2023

Last updated on April 22nd, 2023 at 04:55 am

Along with the Pyramids of Giza, Islamic Cairo is our favourite part of the Egyptian capital. Within Old Cairo, you can find of the world’s oldest Islamic cities. Characterized by a maze of wonderful narrow streets and alleys where hundreds of mosques, tombs, markets, madrasas, mansions historic monuments, and fortifications dating back to the Islamic era can be explored.

An Islamic Cairo walking tour map is definitely needed so as 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.

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 experience Islamic Cairo with a knowledgeable and informative private tour guide, check out these Islamic Cairo Tours of Cairo City by GetYourGuide:

Most tours guide you through the historic districts, to the major mosques, Cairo Citadel, walking streets, and Khan el Khalili Bazaar and they are an ideal way to visit Islamic Cairo in a short time.

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.

Flakey Pizza Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map
Trying Egypt’s flakey street pizza in Islamic Cairo

If coming from Downtown Cairo, we recommend walking. During the 45-minute walk, you’ll experience the gradual but enormous change of downtown Cairo turning to Old Cairo.

The Islamic Cairo that you’re going to see was, from the 10th to the 14th centuries, the most famous in the Islamic world. You’ll also hear it called medieval Cairo and Fatimid Cairo and the old city walls are often called the Fatimid City walls.

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.

Islamic Cairo El Moez Street Muizz
El Moez Street

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.

Qalawun Complex Islamic Cairo
Qalawun Complex interior

The huge complex of Sultan Qalawun was built in 1284 by Sultan El Mansur Qalawum. It contains a mosque-madrasa, 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.

Sabil Kuttab of Katkhuda Islamic Cairo Walking
Approaching Sabil Kuttab of Katkhuda in the centre

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 styles 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 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.

Cafe al Lord- Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map
Cafe al Lord on the right

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 are 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.

Al Hakim Mosque Islamic Cairo Walking Tour
Inside Al Hakim Mosque

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.

Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map Gates
The northern end of Islamic Cairo from 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, donkeys 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.

Khan el Khalili Market Islamic Cairo Walking Tour
Khan el Khalili Market

Continue South along Al Mashhad Al Husseini Street and you’ll soon reach the major souk called Khan el-Khalili bazaar.

(Khan El Khalili Bazaar which is just west of the Sayyidna Al-Hussein Mosque).

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.

Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Coffee Shop Stop
Enjoying drinks at one of the square’s many coffee shops.

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 Al Hussein 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.

Al Azhar Mosque Islamic Cairo
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 bookshop-lined street of Mohammed Abdou.

Wasila Historical House Islamic Cairo
Inside Wasila Historical House

You’ll soon reach a cozy courtyard that 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 the 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.

Al Motaz Idin Allah Street Islamic Cairo Walking
Al Motaz Idin Allah Street

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 photographer’s playground.

12. Bab Zuwayla

We finish our Islamic Cairo walking tour map at the southern gate of Bab Zuwayla.

Bab Zuwayla Views Islamic Cairo Walking Tour Map
Views from 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.

Other famous Mosques to visit in Islamic Cairo

If you have time when you’re in Cairo, definitely check out the other famous mosques in this city as they are important Islamic monuments with ornate and beautiful architectural features, and are a vibrant part of everyday Cairo life.

Sultan Hassan Mosque

Sultan Hassan Mosque is one the largest mosques in the whole Arab world. You’ll find Sultan Hassan Mosque in El Khalifar, below the citadel.

Archaeologists think the Sultan Hassan mosque might be the best example of the architecture of the Mamluk dynasty. In addition to being a significant mosque, Sultan Hassan is also a madrasa or religious school.

Ibn Tulun Mosque

Near the Citadel and Sultan Hassan is the oldest mosque in Cario, and also the largest. Ibn Tulun Mosque. The Mosque is unique because it is built in the Iraqi Samarran style in 872 AD and modeled on the Samarra Mosque in Iraq at a time when Egypt’s rulers were Iraqi.

It’s a six-acre site and when it was built, every Cairo man could fit inside it for Friday prayers!

Alabaster Mosque of Muhammad Ali

The Grand Mosque of Egypt is now called the Alabaster Mosque. Muhammad Ali Pasha had the mosque built in memory of his oldest son.

Construction began on top of older Mamluk buildings in The Citadel in 1830. It has twin minarets, is built in the Ottoman style, and can be seen from pretty much any approach to the city.

Rifaii Mosque

This modern mosque, built in 1911, is perhaps best known for its tombs of Egypt’s aristocratic class and for being the burial place of the last Shah of Iran who fled to Cairo upon the fall of Iran.

Blue Mosque

You might have visited the Blue Mosque of Istanbul but did you know there are several Blue Mosques in the middle east?

Aqsunqur Mosque is Egypt’s Blue Mosque. It’s built in a Syrian style and Ottomans later added blue and green roof tiles, which is why it’s called the Blue Mosque.

It has a domed Mausoleum and a minaret and interesting features both inside and outside. You’ll find the Aqsunqur Mosque (Darb al-Ahmar district) in Islamic Cairo, in the Darb al-Ahmar district, the Citadel, and the Bab al Zuweila.

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.