In celebration of World Tourism Day on Saturday, during which entry to all touristic sites will be free, we give you some of Egypt's most underrated yet wonderful touristic sites…
Admission to museums and archaeological sites across the country will be free tomorrow (Saturday) in honor of World Tourism Day. However, deciding where to go could present a mystery as puzzling as the Pyramids themselves.
Here's our Cairo Scene list of Egypt's coolest and quirkiest tourist sites.
Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa
This Alexandria historical site, dating back to the second century CE, comprises over 300 bodies, showing the true skill and talent involved in Ancient Roman architecture. The intricate design of the tunnels and the decorations show the ingenuity involved in some of these great works, blending Egyptian, Roman, and Greek architecture into a package that truly shows a diversity in Egypt that is often forgotten.
El Alamein Battlefield
The Battles of El Alamein remains two of the most important battles in the Second World War, with the second specifically being considered a turning point in the battle between the Allies and the Axis. Winston Churchill himself once said, “It may almost be said, Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat." This is the battle that forced the Axis forces out of Egypt, and secured the Suez Canal. This is a truly varied site, comprising of memorials, bunkers, plaques, and a museum dedicated to those who lost their lives in the battles.
Egypt is widely known for the Great Pyramids of Giza, but many don’t know of the Sakkara Pyramids. Located in the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, the Step Pyramid is considered to be the oldest known pyramid in all of Egypt, dating back to around 2640 BC. Despite the fact that some parts of the site were damaged during the unrest in 2011, this is still a must-see for anyone interested in the early history of Ancient Egypt.
This is one of the largest Fatimid mosques in Cairo, and has at various times been used as a jail, a storehouse, and a school, and in 1980, was restored as a mosque. The mosque was built under the decree of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the same Caliph that banned the eating of grapes, and the playing of chess. The mosque is also home to the earliest surviving minarets in Egypt.
Gezira Center for Modern Art
Egypt is, for obvious reasons, known for its ancient tourist attractions, so it may make a nice change to check out some modern and contemporary art. With collections of art by many contemporary and modern Egyptian artists, such as Mahmoud Sa’id, Tahia Halim, Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar, and many others, as well as occasionally having works from world-renowned artists such as Monet and Gaugin, this is an alternative way to get some Egyptian culture in you.
Ben Ezra Synagogue
The oldest surviving synagogue in Cairo, this historical monument started life as a Coptic Christian church, and was sold to the Jews of Egypt in 882 CE so that the Coptic Christian community could pay the harsh taxes levied against them by the Muslim rulers. This house of worship is a testament to the historical, religious, and architectural diversity of Cairo, and Egypt in general.
This Helwan landmark is unique in that it's structured and decorated in a very Far Eastern style. Filled with Buddha statues, bamboo groves, artificial ponds, and pagodas, this is a beautiful and unique spot in Egypt. The garden was built in 1917 and dedicated to Egypt’s ruler at the time, Sultan Hussein.
Legend tells that this strange rocky formation is the site where the ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra, would bathe. The beauty of the natural shape of the site is palpable; the natural skylight brings light directly into the pool of water, and the remains of an altar, the purpose of which is unknown, are still on the wall.