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Landmarks & Monuments

Bab El Futuh

The square-towered Bab an-Nasr (Gate of Victory) and the rounded Bab El Futuh were built in 1087 as the two main northern entrances to the walled Fatimid city of El Qahira. Walk along the outside and you'll see what an imposing bit of military architecture the whole thing is.

When renovations are done, visitors should be able to get access to the top of the walls and inside the gates themselves, and see inscriptions left by Napoleon's troops as well as carved animals and Pharaonic figures on the stones scavenged from the ruins of ancient Memphis.

In days of yore returning pilgrims from Mecca would symbolically re-enter the city via this gate.

Bab Zuweila

Built at the same time as the northern gates (10th century), beautiful Bab Zuweila is the only remaining southern gate of medieval El Qahira. Visitors may climb the ramparts, where some intriguing exhibits about the gate’s history are in place. The two minarets atop the gate, also open to visitors, offer one of the best available views of the area. In Mamluk times, the space in front of the gate was the site of executions, a popular form of street theatre, with some victims being sawn in half or crucified. The spirit of a healing saint was (and still is) said to reside behind one towering wooden door, which supplicants have studded with nails and teeth as offerings over the centuries.

Cairo Tower

A more modern and contrasting landmark, the Cairo Tower is more likely to endear the locals with pride than some of the more ancient relics. With a restaurant on top there's a good excuse to find your way up there to admire the views that spread beyond central Cairo to the distant desert landscape. A fun additional attraction that will interest the kids is the Pharaonic Personal Analysis, which provides Egyptian hieroglyphics together with an interesting personality analysis, available in both Arabic and English.

Citadel (Al Qalaa)

An obligatory stop on the 'taxi tour', the Citadel offers the best free views of the city, exactly as the Turkish Sultan Selim saw it when he conquered the city. An enormous stone fort and bastions still stand despite many battles on this site, but it is the imposing mosque, adjacent medieval palace and museum which make the trip up here all worthwhile.

Great Sphinx

Despite losing its nose to French cavalry target practice during a brief French occupation in the 18th century, the lion-like Sphinx remains a remarkable icon of Egyptology. The Sphinx sits guarding the Great Pyramids in Giza and is noted for its mythical identity of lion's body and woman's head. Despite begin dwarfed by the pyramids, the Great Sphinx is an enormous limestone structure in remarkably good shape for it age, said to be more than 4,000 years old.

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