The one thousand Minaret City
The Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities has the richest and most important collection of
objects from Ancient Egypt in the world. The collection is continuously growing
since the museum is the primary recipient of any discovery made in Egypt. The
imposing building of the museum opened in 1902 was designed by the French
Architect Marcel Dourgnon (winner of an international competition in 1898). The
museum is the first in the world intended from the beginning for such task as almost
all others (mainly in Europe) were formerly palaces converted to be museums.
However, the Egyptian Museum has had a complex and difficult past.
The interest in Egyptian Antiquities began at the 18 th century just after the campaign
of Napoleon in 1798, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone the following year and above
all the publication of the 18 volum "Description de l'Egypte" between 1809-1816, not
only gave a rigorously systematic definition to the study of the new-born science of
Egyptology but increased the interest of those had already begun to collect objects
(including sarcophagi, statuettes and the like), such collections found their way to
Europe, and displayed in various Museums. Thus the artistic and archaeological
heritage of Egypt suffered serious loses, the situation was so serious that in 1830 a
scholar of the Champollion school, asked the Pascha of Egypt "Mohammed Ali" to set
up a service to safeguard the preservation of monuments, the former monuments'
plundering seems to have come to an end in 1834, when a museum was founded on
the banks of the Ezbakiah Lake (today the area of down town) where all the objects
were catalogued. These were soon transferred to a more suitable site in the Citadel (in
one room) when the number of objects were increased in number. But in 1855 during
a visit to the Roomby the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who liked some objects,
asked the Pascha of Egypt for an gifted-object, the generous Pascha gave him all in
the room (the museum. Thus the first true Egyptian Museum could be seen, but in
Vienna, not in Cairo. In 1858, August Marriette (one of the directors of the Louvre
Museum) arrived into Egypt to buy some Coptic Manuscripts, he was able to get
himself appointed as Maamour "that is Director of excavations", from this point it
began a new era of preservation of Egyptian Antiquities in a true-specialized museum
which due to the efforts of Marriette was opened in Boulaq (to the west of present-day
Down Town by some 2-3 KM. Unfortunately the objects of Boulaq Museum had to
be transferred to Giza Palace in 1891 due to a Nile Flood. It remained there till the
present-building was built in 1902.
The exhibits are displayed on two floors which are arranged symmetrically around a
central atrium (of total 160.000 objects dating back from pre-historic to the Roman
and even few items of the Christian era).
The Upcoming Opening of the new museum (The Grand Museum) will witness the
many objects, particularly of Tut-Ankh-Amun treasures to be on display, after being
transferred from this "old" Egyptian Museum.
Of the masterpieces of the Museum:
At the first floor:
Statue of king "Meren-Ptah"
A granite statue of king "Meren-Ptah" (Son and successor of king Ramsess II"
represented as a standard bearer of god "Horus", the king is depicted as a young man,
Colossal Statue of king "Ramsess II"
This granite colossal depicts king "Ramsess" (whose fame and memory has passed
unblemished through time). The king wears the double crown of Upper and Lower
Egypt, together with other royal regalia.
The Narmer' Stele
This small engraved schist-stone stele is believed to be a cosmetics tablet, and could
be dated at around 3200 BC, the beginning of the dynastic era (the first dynasty), it
depicts an important event of the country, which is the unification of Upper and
Lower Egypt by the legendary king "Menes" who is for some Egyptologists is
Statue of king "Zoser"
This 1.4 m high limestone statue, represents king "Zoser" the builder of the first
pyramid in history (the Step Pyramid) around 2800 BC.
King Myceinus Triad
This famous fourth dynasty group, found in the valley temple of the king at Giza,
king Mycerinus (the builder of the third pyramid at Giza) is depicted advancing
forward from the background, beside goddess "Hathor" of love, music and beauty,
and the figure of a personification of one of the 42 Egyptian provinces. Out of 42,
only three groups were found intact.
Statue of king "Chephren"
This superb black-Diorite statue, is without doubt the first of the masterpieces in the
museum. It depicts king "Chephren" (the builder of the second Giza Pyramid) sitting
on his throne with his right hand symbolically closed in a fist, wearing the "Nemes-
headdress". The throne is decorated on both sides by two-lion figures and behind the
head of the king, is god "Horus" in the form of a hawk outspread the wings, giving the
protection to the monarch.
Statue of Ka-Aper
When this sycamore-wooden statue was found in 1850, the Egyptian excavation
workmen were struck by its physical similarity to the head of their village. Thus it has
always been linked to the playful nickname (Chiekh IL-Balad, meaning head of the
village). It dates back to around 2400 BC.
Statue of the Scribe
This statue is made of painted limestone, with the eyes encrusted, representing the
scribe which is a profession highly esteemed in Ancient Egypt. He is depicted in the
typical position, sitting cross-legged with the tablet on which the sheet of papyrus was
Group statues of Ra-Hotep and his wife Nofret
These two statues are made from two separate blocks, but obviously conceived
together in unity. They were found in 1871, at "Meidum" some 80 KM south of Cairo,
it depicts prince "Ra-Hotep" and his wife "Nofret". He was Army-General, High
Priest and abovel all he was the half-brother of the builder of the Great Giza Pyramid
"Cheops", his wife "Nofret" whose name means the beautiful "female" bore the title
of a princess "lit. who is known to the king".
The Geese of Meidum
This 1.7 m long plaster "tempera" was found at "Meidum" in the tomb of Princess
"Atet" from the beginning of the fourth dynasty. The Geese of Meidum perhaps the
oldest Ancient Egyptian wall painting discovered.
Statue of king "Montu-Hotep II"
This dark gray sandstone statue, comes from the mortuary temple of the king located
in western "Thebes-Luxor". It depicts king "Montu-Hotep" the founder of the Middle
kingdom (who brought an end to the long-troubled first intermediate period) sitting on
a simple chair as god Osiris "god of the underworld".
Statue of king Thutmosis III
This black granite statues, comes from the Karnak complex, represents one of the
greatest Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt (if not the greatest of all) king Thutmosis III, who
for some, like to call him Napoleon of Ancient Egypt (but, unfair as Thutmosis never
lost any battle). He ruled for some 54 years – leading over 17 successful military
campaigns, he was the hero of Megiddo Battle, establishing an Egyptian empire
extending from the Euphrates to the fourth cataract (Modern Day Northern Sudan).
The statue characterized by a head with delicate features enclosed between the Royal
headdress known as (Nemes) and the heavy false beard.
The Amarna Art
Around the end of the powerful 18 th dynasty, there was a profound transformation in
Egypt, in particular of a religious and in turn artistic nature. Following the death of
king "Amen-Hotep III/Amenophis III" his son "Amen-Hotep IV" succeeded him, all
went wel at the beginning but, the new king frightened by the increasing power of the
priesthood of "Amon-Ra" (the state-god), he substituted the worship of "Amon" for
that of "Aton", the solar disk. Another move was by changing his name from "Amon-
Hotep" to "Akhen-Aton" and then abandoning the capital (Thebes-Luxor) to a newly
founded capital called "Akhet-Aton, meaning the horizon of Aton" which is modern
day Tell-IL-Amarna in Middle Egypt. The new religious creed had a profound
reflection in the art.
Colossal Statue of king "Akhnaten"
This sandstone statue (colossal) represents king "Akhen-Aton" (the monotheist king
who introduced the worship of a single-god represented in his solar disk Aton), it's a
pure example of the Amarna Art. The king is depicted with swollen and protruding
stomach, wide hips, fleshy lips, and oblong head, which are in fact the main features
of the new born art at Amarna, for both the king, his wife and their daughters.
Head of Queen "Nefertiti"
This head of the queen is a perfect example of the Amarna Art, Apart from the
physical beauty of the face. This splendid head, made of quartzite, was never finished
(on the forehead, nose, and eyes, it is still possible to see the guide line for a further
color which was never applied). It depicts "Nefertiti" the great royal wife of king
"Akhnaten". Despite never finished but astonishing, this is evident in her soft mouth,
languid eyes and slender neck.
Treasures of King "Tut-Ankh-Amon"
Almost all the Treasures of the king (nearly 5000 objects) will be displayed in the
Grand Egyptian Museum "Opening Soon".
The discovery of king "Tut-Ankh-Amon's" tomb is one of the most fascinating
chapters in the history of archaeology, as well as the amazing wealth of finds, mostly
of gold. Briefly, the tomb has been uncovered by an English Archaeologist "Howard
Carter" financed by another Englishman "The 5 th Earl Herbert of Varnarvon" in 1922,
after six years of unparalleled story of struggle against almost everthing. The great
discovery occurred on the 4 th of November 1922, Almost at the base of the tomb of
another king/pharaoh "Ramsess VI" , at the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes-
Luxor (where the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom 1550-1080 BC cut for themselves
elaborate tombs), a stone step came into light which led to a second and then a third
descending until sixteen steps were freed, which ended in a sealed door. Few days
later, when the Lord (Carnarvon) came from England the tomb was opened on the 26 th
of same month (the sealed door was broken to lead to a corridor ended too in another
sealed door), which in turn was broken but not entirely (a tiny opening in fact was
made by Carter to see what's inside), as Carter said it was the "day of all days".
The funerary death-mask
This funerary death-mask of king "Tut" is made of gold inlaid in semi-precious
stones, reproduces almost exactly the delicate features of the king. This was placed
over the king's head and shoulders. On the back there is a hieroglyphic inscription
identifies the various parts of the king's face with those of the main gods.
Canopic Naos/little Shrine
This large coffer, is called the "Canopic Naos", as it was intended to house the
Canopic Jars (in fact an alanaster chest containg four miniature golden coffins
contained the four embalmed internal organs) of the king. It is a large gilded wooden
case, with the hieroglyphic inscriptions surmounted by a row of urei sustaining the
solar disk. On the four sides of the case lean four female figures of the four goddesses
(Isis, Nephtys, Neith, and Selkis) giving the protection to the contents, considered
vital for the next world.
These were found in the ante-chamber, Carter says; (these were the most incredible
collection of funeral furnishings he had ever seen). In total, they are three huge gilded
wooden beds, made in the form of animals (the side of the beds). One bed (the sides)
are in the form of lioness, a second in the form of half hippo-half crocodile, while the
last, which is the most beautiful in the form of a cow.
This magnificent piece of gilded wood, shows the king wearing the red crown of
lower Egypt, standing on a skiff of papyrus , holding a harpoon in his right hand and
is about to hunt it. While the other of same material shows him holding a staff in his
left hand and a whip in his right and wearing the white crown of upper Egypt.
The Golden Throne
This splendid wooden throne is entirely covered in gold and mounted with semi-
precious stones and glass paste. Two lion heads are represented on each side, while
the arms are in the form of two winged-serpents giving the protection to the royal
name written inside a cartouch (long oval shape contained names of kings and queens
in ancient Egypt). Particularly striking is the intimate scene on the back of the throne,
the king's consort "Ankh-s-n-pa-amon" tenderly reaches out her arms to anoint her
husband with unguents, while the sun-disk (Aton) sends its beams ending in human
hands on the royal couple.
The small (hunting) coffer
This wooden coffer is decorated with gouache painting on plaster, is considered a true
piece of art because of the details of scenes covering it all. Both sides are painted with
battle scenes, while the lid bears hunting scenes carried out by the king and the front
and the back of the coffer bears scenes showing the king in the form of two sphinxes
trampling the enemies of ancient Egypt.
This throne, quite different in its conception and style from the golden throne, and is
sometimes called "ecclesiastic. The back is encrusted with ivory and semi-precious
stones and at the top the vulture is depicted with wings outspread. On he seat are
encrustations resembling the spotted skin of the leopard, the crossed legs in the form
of a duck's head and are joined at the front by a very elegant wooden fretwork
representing the papyrus and lotus, symbolizing the union of upper and lower Egypt.
The statue of god "Anubis" on a Chest
This superb chest with Anubis' statue, were found in the opening between the ante-
chamber and burial chamber, covered by a pall with necklaces of flowers around the
neck. Anubis was the guardian-god of the necropolis and in charge of mummification.
The Royal (Ka) Statues of king "Tut"
Two standing superb life-size statues were found before the tomb chamber; represent
the king in the guy of Nubian Guardian. The almost identical statues represent the
king armed with clubs and sticks with the left leg forward (in the typical position of
Egyptian Nobility statues).
These represent the king's Ka (or double) which separates from the body at the
moment of death and to live with the actual body in the tomb, enjoying every kind of
Travelling some 21 KM, south of the famous Giza pyramids, is the modern village of
Mit-Rahina, surrounding the village are the ruins of the (once) the mighty city of
Memphis, according to legends, founded by the legendary king "Menes" - of the first
dynasty - around 3200 BC, and came to be known as (INB-HEDJ/meaning the white
wall, later to be called Men-Nefer, from which Memphis comes from). Capital of
Egypt from 3200 BC for almost 1000 years, and even when the seat of power moved
elsewhere, it remained as an important city, where the Pharaohs' Coronation took
place. The once mighty city filled with palaces, Temples, shrines and gardens, making
it one of the greatest in the ancient world as The Greek Traveller "Herodutes" Said
(Memphis a prosperous city and cosmopolitan center) was finally aboandoned soon
after the Arab-Muslim Conquest in the 7 th century.
Today little remains of the impressive city of Memphis, that once grouped round its
main temple dedicated to "Ptah" patron of artisans and craftsmen in ancient Egypt. Of
what was found hidden in the soil of Memphis, are all on display in a small open-air
Museum, and of great interest, the colossal limestone statue of Ramses II, discovered
in 1820 by Captain Caviglia. It lies on its back and must have been over 10 meters
high when standing. It was intended to be given to the British Museum by Mohamed
Ali, but the offer was denied regarding the over-cost of its transportation. The colossal
was raised to its present position by the Royal Engineers in 1888.
Also in the site are some objects of interest, such as the various granite statues of the
same king, which were found when clearing a space opposite to build a cafeteria and
they lie in the enclosure besides the little building housing the limestone colossal.
Of great importance, as a piece of art, is the un-inscribed Alabaster Sphinx, which
weighs some 80 tons, found by Sir. Flindrs Petrie in 1912, from artistic styles, it may
date back to the 18 th or 19 th dynasty, probably to king Amenhotep II, or III, and some
Egyptologists attribute it to Queen Harschepsut.
Other objects in the open-air museum include sarcophagi and important Stelae dating
back to the 26 th dynast king "Apries". Beyond the village of Mit-Rahina "Petrie"
found the site of the palace of king "Apries", very much ruined but with the plan still
visible, noteworthy only for Egyptologists. To the North of the Museum' site, in 1951,
the embalming temple of the sacred Bull (Apis) was found, confined by a mud-brick
wall, containing immense alabaster embalming slabs/or beds, decorated with lions
(one on each side).
The Necropolis of Sakkara
About 2 KM, to the north-west of Memphis, stands on a plateau at the edge of the
western desert, overlooking the green fields, one of the largest Necropoli in Egypt,
Sakkara, it is a part of the Necropolis of the city of Memphis which extends along the
edge of the desert for about 80 kilometers, from Abu Rawash (at the very north) to
Meidum (at the very south). Sakkara is named after the underworld god of Agriculture
"Sokar" taken as patron of the site. The site extends 7 KM (North-South) and its
maximum width of 1500 meters (East-West). Monuments constructed in Sakkara
cover a span of three thousand years, as the earliest structures date back to the early
dynastic period (3200 BC) down to the Greco-Roman period, and even there's a
monastery (of St. Jeremiah) dating back to the 5 th century. The area includes
monuments of great importance, as the funerary complex of king Zoser (including the
Step Pyramid), the pyramid of king Unas, the pyramid of king Teti, the Serapeum
(subterranean galleries hewn-into the rock containing huge sarcophagi in burial
chambers for the sacred Apis-Bull, the mastabas (tombs) of Teti, Ptah Hotep and
Akhet Hotep, Meri-Ru-Ka, Kagemni, and Idut (all located in Northern Sakkara, the
only opened for visits and In fact worth visiting, as the Northern section is not opened
to public and requires a special permit).
The Funerary Complex and Step Pyramid of Zoser
Dominating the plateau, is the step Pyramid of king Zoser, the central feature of a vast
funerary complex, constructed to the king by the genius Architect Imhotep, a man of
many aspects. It is unique Egyptian architecture, in fact the very first stone-buildings
in the world.
The whole complex is surrounded by a 10 meters high limestone wall measuring 545
meters (north-south) and 277 meters (east-west). The wall is decorated in the style of
palace facades and has fourteen doorways (thirteen are false), the only true one is at
the far south end facing east. From such it enters via a short passage ending in a
vestibule, noticeably is the stone-door in the open-position at the end of the short
passage, followed by a colonnade of 40 non- free-standing columns (yet dawn of
architecture). Most of them restored and reconstructed as well the whole area by
efforts of The French Architect and Egyptologist Late Mr. J.Philipe Lauer. Passing
the colonnade there is the vast open-court of the complex, at its center a two B-shaped
small structures, probably related to the festival of rejuvenation known as (Heb-Sed),
celebrated every thirty years of reign. At the north-east section of the open-court, is
another smaller one flanked by stone-shrines also related to the festival and a podium
at the south end of it for the double back-to-back thrones intended for that event?!
Further north of the Sed-Court are two little structures known as the houses of the
south and north, of the south is the more preserved. The step Pyramid of king Zoser,
began as a square-shaped Mastaba (a word means bench in Arabic) 64 M-SQ and 8
meters high, in successive additions by the Architect (Ii-m-Hotep) in all four
directions especially East-West to make rectangle, he added a layer after the other for
a total of six steps rising to the height of 62 meters. The substructure is accessed via
an entrance at the northern face (another was cut by the southern face around the 6 th
century BC) leads to a 7 M-SQ deep shaft of 28 meters, ending with the tiny tomb-
chamber, around such an extensive network of galleries and corridors of thousands of
meters in length.
Attached to the southern wall of the complex is the so-called (Southern Tomb),
perhaps served as a cenotaph, or a grave to house the kings' internal organs.
The Pyramid of king Unas
South-west of the complex of king Zoser is the Pyramid of king Unas (the last of the
5 th dynasty), badly ruined (from the outside) but of great importance as being the first
to be decorated from the inside with hieroglyphic inscriptions of the so-called
(Pyramid' Texts "a magico-religious spells, intended to provide the deceased king
with everything he would need in the afterlife as well as to ensure a safe passage to
that afterlife"). The entrance is at the ground-level on the North side, from which
starts a 14 meters sloping corridor, ending in a vestibule leads to the ante-chamber
and then the burial chamber (both of them are decorated with the previously
mentioned Pyramid' Texts.
The Mastaba of Ptah-Hotep & Akhet-Hotep
This elegant Mastaba (tomb) of Ptah-Hotep and (probably) his father Akhet-Hotep,
was found by the famous French Egyptologist "August Mariette" in 1898. From the
titles inscribed, we know that Ptah-Hotep was the inspector of priests of the Pyramids
of the 5 th dynasty kings (Djed-Ir-Ka-Re Issessi, Niy-User-Re & Men-Kau-Hor). The
entry and first chamber of the Mastaba are devoted to the father, while the rest to
Ptah-Hotep, like all tombs of the period, this has the picturesque daily life-scenes
covering almost all inner walls, including a very interesting hunting scene in the
desert of hound dogs hunting ibex and oryx, another of a sport-game (a jumping
game), interestingly still played till today, as well as scenes of farming, all intended to
be repeated in the Afterlife.
This was the burial-place of the Apis-Bull, revered in its temple in Memphis, and after
death was interred in a great procession in the Serapeum, The term (Serapeum), in
fact refers to the temple (lost/disappeared) built above the ground, while subterranean
galleries, all cut-into the rock including chambers (where people can visit today) are
serving as the graves. The Avenue of the Sphinxes leading to the Complex-Entrance,
was found by Mariette (who understood that it must lead to an important religious
Building, and then began his excavation of the site), noticeably before entering the
Serapeum is the Semicircle of Statues of Greek Philosophers and Poets. The burial
Site (Subterranean Galleries and their Tomb-Chambers, were found in 1858, the
galleries date back to the reign of the 18 th dynasty king Amenhotep III, to the 19 th
dynasty king Ramses II, till the 26 th dynasty king Pasmatekus (Psamtik I), and from
then to the Ptolemaic era. At the complex-entrance, there is a series of niches once
contained stelae (now in Louvre) recording the names of the visitors (who were then
The tomb-chambers, contained a total of 24 granite, basalt, limestone sarcophagi (all
unfortunately found empty of its contents, except for one was intact with jewellery
and as the norm in the Louvre Museum in Paris), they are so huge and unimaginable
3.4 meters high and 5 meters long sarcophagi.
Mastaba of Ti
Perhaps, this Mastaba of the overseer of the Sun' Temples of the 5 th dynasty kings
(Nefer-Ir-Ka-Re and Niy-User-Re) is the finest in Sakkara. It was found by the French
(August Mariette), it has some of the finest reliefs of the period, of birds such as
(pigeons, cranes, strokes), hunting in the Delta Thickets, workers and craftsmen at
work, offering bearers of the products of Ti's estate, and agricultural scenes.
Mastaba of Meri-Ru-Ka
Opposite to the pyramid of the founder of the 6 th dynasty king "Teti" is the Mastaba of
his son-in law and high official "Meri-Ru-Ka", it is a family tomb, considered the
largest of its kind in the area (33 chambers and corridors, the largest section deoted to
Meri-Ru-Ka, and the other two, for his wife "Sesheseshet" and his son"Meri-Teti"),
full of different stunning scenes of hunting in the marches, hunting in the desert,
jewellery making, farmin, force-feeding of hyenas, and offering bearers. In fact it is
one of few tombs included such varied scenes on a large scale, worth a visit.
About 10 km south of Sakkara is an impressive archaeological site (3.5 km-long), was
one of the many necropolis of the then state-capital Memphis, called Dahshur, it was
the field of royal tombs in the form of pyramids (11 in total) of several kings (from
the Old and Middle Kingdoms), but the two built by king "Senefru – founder of the 4 th
dynasty" worth a day trip and a visit.
The Bent Pyramid
Of the two pyramids built by king "Senefru" the southern one seem to be built first.
The architect of the pyramid began the construction with the steep angle of (54) but
half-way up when it was realized some cracks in the ceilings of the inner-chambers,
the plan was altered to reduce the height and in turn the volume of blocks, he reduced
the inclined angle to (43)
This explain why the pyramid has that unusual shape that gives it its name, however
this pyramid is famous for retaining most of its outer casing of fine quality limestone.
Inside the pyramid (in fact underneath, are two chambers (burial). To the south of the
pyramid there is the satellite pyramid, as well as the remains of a small mortuary
temple to the east. Far by some 1 km to the east, stands in ruin in the cultivation, the
Valley Temple, which keep some of the finest reliefs of any valley temple.
The Red Pyramid
The northern pyramid of king Senefru (father of king Cheops) is the world's first true
pyramid, better known as the Red Pyramid.(perhaps the comes from such red graffiti
and construction marks scribbled on its masonry in ancient times). The pyramid is the
first geometrically shaped from the beginning, with an angle of incline of 43 it rose
high up 99 meters. This probably, as the architect has learnt from his experiences in
building the south-pyramid. The entrance of the pyramid (high up – the northern
face), followed by a steep descending passage of 63 meters long, leading to two ante-
chambers with impressive 12 meters high corbelled ceilings.
The Pyramids of Giza
The Plateau of Giza, is without doubt, the most famous monumental place in the
world. Comprising pyramids three gigantic pyramids built for three Monarchs of the
fourth dynasty, respectively ( Khufu "Cheops", Khafra "Chephren, and Menkaure
"Mycerinus). Members of the royal family as well as high officials built their
Mastabas lined up around the pyramids (mainly cheops'), and far, facing east at the
foot of the plateau is the Sphinx.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops
The second king of the fourth dynasty Cheops, built the largest ever pyramid in
history, which was the first of the ancient world' seven wonders, till today it is still a
wonder and Miracle of Engineering due o the perfection of its building. 230 meters
long each side of its square base, rose up to 146.5 but lost some nine meters of its
original height, so now is 137. High up the northern face of the pyramid at some 17
meters is the original entrance, leads to a descending passage of 102 meters long and
1.2 meters high, ends at a short horizontal one of 5 meters opened to the unfinished
first burial chamber, abandoned after deciding of building such burial chamber high
up inside the pyramid itself, so the plan was altered, at the ceiling of the descending
passage (from its first part) it was cut another ascending passage (37 meters long),
ending at a horizontal one (36 meters long), ends at the second (also unfinished)
burial chamber (erroneously called the queen chamber). the plan once again altered,
and at the beginning of the 36 meters long horizontal passage it was built up the
stunning grand gallery, which is in fact a miracle of architecture recorded to an
Egyptian Architect lived 4500 years ago, the Grand Gallery of 46 meters long anf 8
meters high, leads up to the actual tomb chamber, measuring 10x5 meters, covered
entirely of Aswan pink-granite, its ceiling of nine heavy slabs of granite (45 tons
each) supported five smaller chambers to relieve the weight over it. At the western
side is the one ton-single block lidless granite-sarcophagus (found empty- since the
pyramid was robbed in antiquity).
To the east of the pyramid, are the ruins of the mortuary temple, nothing left except
for its Basalt floor, and further south is the plan of what was the satellite pyramid.
Around the pyramid (from the east and south) five boat-shaped pits were found, three
proved empty at the east, while two at the south proved to house two dismantled
wooden ships, one found in 1954 during clearing work, repaired and restored, thanks
to the painstakingly work of Hajj "Ahmed Youssef Moustafa", who was able to
restore it to its original state, and a modern museum was designed to house the 43
lomg cedar-wood boat, erroneously called the Solar-Boat, opened in 1982, remained
there till 2022 when was decided to be transferred and to be exhibited in the Grand
Museum (to be opened soon).
The Pyramid of Chephren
Further south-west of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, is the second Giza Pyramid, built
by Cheops' son "Chephren, having a square base of 215 meters long (each side), with
an angle of incline of 52, it reaches high up to 143 meters, still retaining some of its
original outer casing at the very top of the pyramid. From the now only used entrance,
that cut in the ground (few meters before the pyramid itself, it enters through a sloping
passage ending in a short horizontal one, which leads to the tomb-chamber centrally
beneath the pyramid, with a corbelled ceiling, containing an empty sarcophagus at its
western section. In modern times the first to enter the pyramid was the Italian
Giovanni Batesta Belzoni, who wrote the date on the southern wall in black ochre
To the east of the Pyramid are the ruins of what was the mortuary temple, in better
preservation compared to the one of his father, and has the main feature of ending in a
five recesses into the western wall before the pyramid itself, probably to house five
statues for the king.
The pyramid of Mycerinus
Further south-west of the two great pyramids of Cheops and Chephren, is third one
built by grandson of Cheops "Mycerinus", debate about its smaller size in regard of
the other two pyramids, could indicated to a lack of resources. However the 66 meters
high pyramid (now 62), is distinguished by the seven meters high outer-casing of
granite ashlars. The tomb chamber beneath the pyramid contained a Basalt
sarcophagus and a wooden coffin, both were found by two Englishmen in 1827, who
tried to transport them to the British Museum, fortunately in two separate ships, as the
one carrying the sarcophagus sank near to Beskay Gulf in spain, the second arrived
safely and now in the British Museum.
Further to the south of the Pyramid are three small pyramids of ten meters high each,
belong to the Chief-Queens of king Mycerinus, whose name was found written on the
celing of the tomb-chamber of the middle of the three.
Perhaps it is the largest standing statue, cut out of the natural rock, which one as many
believed was source of limestone blocks required for the Great Pyramid, later on was
fashioned as a recumbent lion with a human head, by the architect of the second Giza
pyramid, and probably the face represent king "Chephren" himself, 72 meters long, 20
meters high, he received many names through the ages, among them and the most
famous was "Hor-Ma-Khis" or Horus in the Horizon ( a Solar God). Just in between
the forelegs is a 3 meters high granite slab, recording how one Thutmosis (later to be
king Thutmosis IV), once asleep at the shade of the head, during a time the desert-
sand was covering up to the neck of the Sphinx, when he saw Hor-Ma-Khis speaking
to him in dream promising him the Double Crown of Egypt, only if he cleared the
sand away, and as the story (which inscribed on the face of that granite slab) says it
The Valley Temple of "Chephren"
Of all the valley temples of the period, the one of king "Chephren" is the most
preserved, the core of limestone rose up to 14 meters high, and veneered in Aswan
Pink granite. Via two entrances in the south and north, leads to a vestibule, contains a
pit, once kept the finest Diorite statue of the king (now in the Egyptian Museum in
Cairo), and was found b "August Mariette" in 1859. Th vestibule leads to the massive
T-Shaped hall, once was partly roofed, supported by 16 square-granite pillars, with 23
pits, once housed 23 statues of the king.
The Citadel of Saladin
Known in Arabic as Qalaet IL Gabal (The Citadel of the Mountain), commanded all
Egypt's Capitals in the Islamic Period (Fustat, Askar, Qataii, and Cairo of the
Fatimids) from the highest point between the river and the Muqqatam hills, but its
obvious significance as a defensive fort was never realized as never attacked. Viewed
as a suitable site to defend the Capital by the Saladin, who ordered his Vizier
"Karakoush" to set up a non-such fort, which was completed by his nephew "AL-
Kamel" who took it as seat of power, and it remained so till 1863, when the seat of
power moved to the nearby palace (Abdin) during the reign of Khedive Ismael.
The Citadel as constructed by Saladin, consisted of two great enclosures, being
divided into two sections, the Northern (the military area for the troops), and the
Southern (the Residential area, with palaces and administrative offices). The walls
built of limestone, had an internal gallery along its lengths, and were beset every 100
meters or so by defensive half-round towers and pierced by several gates. Many of the
successive Sultans and Rulers altered and modified the interior arrangements and
buildings, in particular "Mohamed Ali" in the 19 th century.
The Harem' Palace (The Military Museum)
It was built during the reign of "Mohamed Ali" in 1827; it is a fine example of the
dynasty's European taste in architecture and decoration, clearly viewed by the superb
painted ceilings. The palace was once a military hospital during WW II, then the
function remained militarily as it was converted into a Great Military Museum,
showing the art of warfare in Egypt, from the Country's dawn of history, through the
various periods, down to the 1973 War, objects on display include (Swords, Firearms,
Canons, Some Air-Crafts "Outdoor" etc), also there is a section devoted to Costume
Mosque of Sultan IL-Nasser Mohamed
The mosque of Sultan IL-Nasser Mohamed was founded in 1318, and was enlarged
later by its builder in 1335. The exterior of the Mosque, is almost plain, but of
particular interest, the green faience covering its huge dome and top of the Minaret.
There are two entrances in the North-East wall and the North West wall. The interior
of the mosque, consists of a central "Sahn" (Open Court), surrounded by "Riwaqs"
(Galleries run parallel to its wall), the South-West, the North-West, and the North-
East Riwaqs are composed of two Arcades, while the Principal against the "Qibla
Wall" (the wall facing Mecca) is the deepest of four Arcades.
The marble columns and their capitals all were taken from older buildings (churches),
the columns support semi-round arches with pierced openings on which rests the
superb decorated wooden ceiling, in form of octagonal panels. The dome over the
Mihrab (a Niche facing the direction of Kaaba in Mecca) is supported on ten gigantic
red-granite (ancient Egyptian) columns.
The Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali
Perhaps, the most famous mosque in Egypt, which was taken to be the official Icon of
the City of Cairo, is Mohamed Ali Mosque, famous for its name, the Alabaster
Mosque. It has been built according to the imperial Ottoman Style, of a forecourt,
with an Ablution fountain, and then the Sanctuary, a square covered building for
saying the prayers. The Architect was "Youssef Bushnaq" from Istanbul, and the
mosque modeled after the "Yeni Mosque" in Istanbul.
The main material used for the construction is limestone, with Alabaster covering up
to 11 meters high. The forecourt is 50 M.SQ and is surrounded by single arched
Riwaqs (Galleries) raised on pillars and roofed with small domes, covered in lead
from the outside. At the North-Western side of the forecourt, is the Clock-Tower (A
Clock was given as a present to Mohamed Ali by the French Emp. Louis Fhilippe in
1845. In the center of the forecourt is an octagonal ablution fountain covered by an
eight pillared large canopy.
The entrance to the Sanctuary (is S.W) of the forecourt, and via an elegant doorway, it
enters to the House of Prayers (where Muslims perform there the prayers), the main
feature is the ceiling of the Mosque, in form of a central Grand-Dome of 52 meters
high, surrounded by four semi-domes, and four-small complete domes at the four
corners. The domes are painted and covered in Medallions bearing The name of
Allah, that of His Prophet, and the central dome's Medallions bearing the names of the
four Caliphs (Rashideen) followed Prophet Mohamed after his death (Abu Bakr,
Omar, Othman, and Ali). Of great interest inside is the gilded-wooden Minbar
(pulpit), and to the right-hand side passing the Entrance is the three-tiered tomb of
Mohamed Ali (died in 1848) of white marble carved with floral motifs and painted
and gilded inscription.
Islamic Cairo-Walls' Gates
Bab IL-Nasr (The Gate of Victory)
It is situated at the far North-Eastern limit of the Fatimid Cairo, came to be realigned
by the Armenian General and Vizier "Badr IL-Gammali" (who was the governor of
Acre in the second half of the eleventh century, was summoned by the Fatimid Caliph
"AL-Mustansir" to put an end to the unrest occurred in Egypt due to the different
troops' fighting in Cairo, surprisingly and admiringly, upon his arrival he restored
order in just a single night, therefore he gained the title of Amir IL-Giyush
"Commander of Armies" as well as Vizier of unlimited authority), together with Bab
IL-Foutouh, they represent the Northern Gates of the walled city, while Bab Zwueila
(Zwueila Gate) marks the southern gate, the only three gates remained of the stone
wall built by "Badr IL-Gammali.
In fact this (Bab IL-Nasr Gate) replaced an older one of mud-brick built by The
Fatimid Commander "Gawhar IL-Siqili" but the older was slightly further south of the
The Portal is flanked by a massive three-storyed, flat-fronted towers of 21 meters
high, dressed in limestone over a rubble core. The entrance of this is on the right-
hand-side, the wooden gates are not original but similar to the 18 th century gates of
Bab IL-Azab (A Portal Gate in the N-E Corner of the Saladin Citadel, and facing the
Sultan Hassan Mosque).
Bab IL- Foutouh (Gate of Conquests)
This gate, is also built by "Badr IL-Gammali", and like the Bab IL-Nasr replaced an
older on built of mud-brick by "Gawhar IL-Sikkili", it is different in style and form
from Bab IL-Nasr, as this Bab IL-Foutouh of 23 meters high, flanked by two rounded-
fronts towers, each is decorated with an arched panel on the front and and on the
sides. There are eight decorated brackets support a stone ridge running in between the
towers, inside each tower is a long vaulted room, and there is too a long covered
passage linking the two gates of the Northern wall (IL-Nasr and IL-Foutouh).
Bab Zwueila (Zwueila Gate)
Named after a Moroccan tribe settled nearby, and it is known to the locals as Bawabet
IL-Metwalli (The Accountant Gate). It marks the southern wall of the city, initiated
by Gawhar, then reconstructed in stone (like the Northern Gates of IL-Nasr and IL-
Foutouh) by Badr IL-Gammali (putting into consideration that the site of the older
one was further to the north and also it was reconstructed by IL-Gammali five years
after the Northern counterparts). The round-fronted-towers almost have the same style
and form of its northern counterpart (IL-Foutouh). The towers, which are solid for
almost two thirds of their height are joined by a 5 meters wide round-arch, upon it is a
platform. Above is another arch forming a portico and the base of a second platform.
The total height is of about 20 meters high, and between the towers is a passage under
the arch leads after the now opened doorway to AL-Mwueizz Street. Opposite is the
dome and minaret - less Fatimid mosque of Salih Talaiaa, a very ood example of the
Cairene suspended mosques, and just few meters is the so famous tent-makers
market, of the long-aged hand-made cloth-fabric of the most ever skillful craftsmen, a
skill inherited from a father to son through the ages.
The Museum of Islamic Art
History of the Museum's foundation dates back to the 19 th century, when the first
collection was brought to be exhibited in the Msque of AL-Hakim at the northern end
of AL-Mwueizz street (in fact the collection was exhibited in a limited area in the
Mosque, at the South-eastern Riwaq of the Mosque), later on when the number of
objects increased a true small museum was built in the Sahn (open courtyard) of the
mosque which at that time called the Museum of Arab Art. Finally, after the donation
and purchasing many objects, in addition to the ones from excavation, it was decided
to build the present-day museum of Arabesque style and opened in 1903, housing the
largest collection of Islamic art together with the donated library of Khedive Abbas
(kept in an adjacent separate building known as Dar IL-Kutub (lit; house of books, to
be moved to another modern-building in the district of Boulaq overlooking the River
Nile). The collections of the museum which exceeds more than 75,000 objects, cover
all Egypt' Islamic periods (from the Ummayyad, Abbasside, Fatimid, Mameluk,
Ottoman, and down to the 19 th century). The valuable objects of several materials,
including, Stucco panels, glazed-decorated plates, copper trays, the finest glassworks,
arms throughout the whole Islamic Period, Carpets, Wooden Panels, and Even an
elegant Wooden-Minbar (Pulpit), Chandeliers, The Finest Ceramic-works, and many
others. Together with the contents of the museum, the beautiful garden of the museum
contains also, large stonework of doorways, pillars, fountains etc.
Mosque of Sultan Hassan
In the square of the Citadel, and built between (1356-1361), stands majestically the
unrivaled Islamic Mosque of Sultan Hassan, with its unprecedented size in the whole
Islamic World. It is known as Egypt' Prominent Islamic Pyramid.
The mosque was built on the site of two palaces o two Mameluk Amirs (Princes), its
construction began in 1356 and completed five years after, (surprisingly shortly after
the disappearance of the Sultan, probably and sure killed by the rival Amirs).
Four elegant minarets were intended to crown its roof, one at each of the southern
corners, and two above the immense portal, but only three were built, that sadly that
one over the entrance (the Western one) fell in 1361, killing over 300 people. And
another (Eastern Minaret) fell in 1659 and was reconstructed in 1671.passing via the
Immense Portal-Gate, it Enters to a Domed-Vestibule , then via an inclined
passageway it enters the Superb Sahn, which has an ablution fountain covered by a
canopy, and the whole is surrounded by 4 Iwans, the largest is the Qibla Iwan, the
four Iwans served as well a place for saying the prayers and as Schools for Islamic
teachings of the Koran, The Hadiths (Prophet's Says), and the Four Islamic Laws, had
the Dekka (a high Platform on which the reciter of the Holy Koran sits)., and opposite
is the elegant marble Mihrab decorated and ornamented bearing verses of the Holy
Koran, and next to it is the wooden-Pulpit. Next to each Iwan is door leads up to a
multi-storyed buildings for rooms of students and teachers (Sheikhs). At the extreme
ends of the Qibla wall are two wooden doors (covered in Copper and gold works
bearing the titles of the Sultan) lead to the domed Mausoleum, which has one of the
finest decorated domes ever, with a strip of gilded wooden panels around the four
corners of the Square-Shaped Mausoleum, bearing Verses of the Holy Koran, of the
Ayat AL-Kursi, the Mausoleum has in two recesses the cupboards of the clothes of
the Sultan, the Kursi of AL-Mushaf (a high up wooden cUbic chair, inlaid in mother
of pearl, with the top divided into two sections, one for the Opene-Holy Book of
Koran and the second for the reciter.
Mosque of IL-Rifaii
Opposite to Sultan Hassan Mosque, and rising high up to the same height, is the
impressive Rifaii Mosque, built six hundred years later by "Khushiyar Hanm"
(Mother of Khedive Ismael) on the site of the Zawiya (Small place for saying the
prayers) included two tombs of two Muslim holy-saints (Sidi Ali Abu-IL-Shibak-IL-
Rifaii – a Sufi Sheikh) and (Sheikh Abd-ALLAH-AL-Ansari). The whole surrounding
area of the Zawaya was purchased by The Princess who wished to build a Great
Mosque incorporating tombs for her and the Sheikhs (Saints), and her descendants.
Task was delivered to the then most famous Egyptian Architect Hussein Fahmy
Pascha), but work didn't go properly well due to lack of financing, that the princess
died in 1885 as well as her son Ismael in 1894, and both buried in the then incomplete
Mosque. But year 1905 witnessed the project revival when Khedive Abbas II ordered
that it had to be completed, and it went under the supervision of Hertz Pasha as a chief
architect, and the mosque finally completed in 1911.the mosque follows the Mameluk
style mosques architecturally and in decoration, with high up entrance reached by
flight of steps it enters the mosque, facing the mausoleum of the holy saints before
delving into main Sanctuary of saying the prayers, beautifully and richly decorated,
on the walls and ceiling in form of long-gilded wooden beams, the wooden roof
bearing the central chandelier is resting on four massive pillars with pointed arches.It
houses the Dikka and the superb Mihrab. Via the western door at the back of the
sanctuary in long walled up corridor having same height as the mosque, it enters to
the tombs of king Fouad, his wife "Feriyyal, and his son king Farouk (died in Italy in
1965 but transferred I the mosque ten years later), further to the west is the superb
marble tomb of the last Shah of Iran "Mohamed Reza Pahlavi (died in Cairo in 1980).
By the rear Eastern side, is a vast arcade with four pavilions containing further tombs,
of the Mosque; founder "Khushiyar", her Son "Ismael and his three wives and
daughters. The two elegant minarets crowning the roof are built according to
Mameluk style minarets.
Treasures of AL-Mwueizz Street
Mosque of AL-Hakim-Be-Amr-ALLAH
At the very north end of AL-Mwueizz Street, within the city walls and adjacent to
Bab IL-Foutouh is the mosque which was built between (990-1013), by The Fatimid
Caliph "AL-Aziz", and completed mainly by his son "AL-Hakim" (the Sixth Fatimid
Caliph/Second in Egypt). Originally, the Mosque was situated outside the City-Wall
(N) built of brick by Commander "Gawhar IL Sikkili", but after the works of
strengthening of the walls by Commander "Badr IL-Gammali" it came to be enclosed
within the Northern Wall of Cairo. The Mosque in recent times (starting from 1980)
underwent major plan of restoration and renovation, by (the Buhra Sect – A Shii
Ismaili Group based in India, claiming direct descent from The Fatimid Imamis).
The large square enclosure Mosque is considered one of Egypt's largest Mosques (the
second after Ibn Tulun Mosque). The Mosque Impressive Door, leads to The Sahn
(Open-Courtyard, surrounded by Riwaqs (Galleriesone of two Aisles, and the other
two on North-East and South-West of three Aisles, while the Qibla (Direction of
Mecca) of five aisles. Little remains of the two domes at either side of the Qibla
Riwaq. The Mihrab (Niche indicates direction of Mecca) is plain but probably, once
contained a carved wooden lining. The two massive Minarets of the Mosque of the
style famous in North Africa (where the Fatimids originated), and each rests on a
huge square tower, both of them are decorated with beautiful bands of ornament and
Mosque of AL-Aqmar
In the middle of the AL-Mwueizz street, in the area called Bin IL-Qasrayn (Between
the two palaces), is a small, but very elegant mosque, was built in 1125, underwent
several restoration works. The name of the Mosque (Aqmar) means Moonlit, after the
coloring of its stones. The street level having risen considerably, the mosque is now
reached down via flight of steps. The entrance-door is flanked each side by a square-
headed recess containing for layers of stalactites, and directly in the center, above the
gate is Pierced stone Medallion (where there are the names of Prophet Mohamed and
Ali "one of the 4 Rashideen Caliphs).
Via the entrance passage it enters to the nearly square-shaped Sahn (open-courtyard)
of the mosque, which measures 9.7 meters x 10 meters, entirely surrounded by single
archaded riwaqs on all sides, except for the Qibla which is three arcades deep. The
Mihrab (the Niche) has a keel-arched outline, but the marble facing and engaged
columns are pious restoration of the 14th century.
Madrasa, Mosque and Tomb of Sultan AL-Nasser Mohamed
Walking S-W Direction, are successive Massive Complexes, Of different Mameluke
Sultans, one of them is This complex which was started by one Kitbugha (interim
Sultan) in 1295 and completed by Sultan "AL-Nasser Mohamed", when restored to
the throne for the second time in 1304. It is of a cruciform plan, surrounded by four
Iwans (Arcaded open-Face Hall) serving as four Schools of the Islamic four
Sects/Laws. The interior is much ruined, but bearing traces of the once lavish
decoration. The tomb of the Sultan is against the 21 meters-long façade wall (but the
Sultan was not buried here, but rather with his father Sultan Qalaoun in his nearby
complex), above which is the elegant Minaret, once over the tomb there was a dome
fell in the 19 th century, and never rebuilt or replaced.
Madrasa, Mausoleum, Bimaristan, Sabil and Mosque of Qalaoun
Perhaps, the crown of Islamic structures of the street, is the Massive complex of
Sultan "Qalaoun" which consists of Madrasa (Theological School of th four Islamic
Laws), Mausoleum (where the Sultan is buried in A Tabut "Coffin" under an elegant
Dome), Sabil (Public Drinking Place), and Mosque for saying the prayers.
The Bimaristan (hospital) of the complex, once a renowned one, stopped during the
Ottoman period, but in 1910 an Ophthalmic Hospital was built on the site, working till
today and counted as one of the best, and seems as if giving the site a usage of 700
The Entrance, facing the North leads to the interior of the complex, via a covered long
corridor dividing it into two halves, the tomb on the right-hand side, and the Madrasa
on the left-hand side, while at the rear is the Bimaristan.
The tomb chamber has a nearly square plan of 21 meters x 23 meters. In the center of
which are four arched-pillars and four columns arranged in an octagon, supporting the
arches which in turn raise a high drum and then the huge Dome
From the style and material of the pillars (granite with Corinthian capitals) we
understand that they were brought from older buildings (Coptic).
The recesses in the North-Eastern wall are the cupboards in which some of the
Sultan's clothes were kept. The Tabut/cenotaph over the grave (Huge wooden coffin)
has columned sides (the four corners), and the grave beneath ground, contains the
bodies of the Sultan and his son Sultan AL-Nasser Mohamed.
The Madrasa on the right via the long 10 meters high great corridor, the steps lead
into a vestibule opened directly into the nearly square-Shaped Shan (20 meters x 17
meters), unusual of having two Iwans against the norm of four, with the students'
rooms, distributed in three storeys building attached. The Minaret of the Complex
rises to the height of 56 meters high, composed of three storeys, the first two of square
shape, while the uppermost cylindrical.
Perhaps the most famous Medieval Souq (Market) in the Middle East, if not the whole
world, is Khan IL-Khalili Bazaar/Market Area, a large complex of narrow lanes and
alleys, full of hundreds of shops and mini factories, of local crafts in wood,gold,
metal, leather, glass, and others. Originally, the site of the Fatimid Cemetery, removed
by Amir (Prince) J. IL-Khalili of the Mameluk period, who built there a Khan (Inn)
named after him, with shops of the then principal crafts and lodge of skillful
craftsmen of the period, after the death of (J. IL-Khalili), the place partly abandoned,
but, later in the early 16 th century, The last Sultan of the Mameluk period but one
(Sultan AL-Ghoury), reconstructed much of the place, thus remained the principal
place for high quality crafts in Cairo, but in the 20 th century, with the increase of
Tourism Business in Egypt, the area had been directed to become Tourist Market
rather than a local Market.
Mosque and Mausoleum of Sultan IL-Muayyad Sheikh
This mosque situated adjacent to the souther city wall of Cairo and its only Gate of
Zwueila was built between 1415-1420 by Sultan N.Sheikh, on a ste know as Khazanet
Shamayel (once served as a prison, and the then Prince Muayyad was imprisoned
there, vowing if being freed, he would build instead a mosque, and after became a
Sultan he fulfilled). The façade of the mosque runs along the road facing south, ad its
basement housed by little shops, while its two elegant minarets rest on top of the two
stunning towers of the Southern Fatimid-Period Gate built by Badr IL-Gammali
(Zwueila Gate). The tomb of the Sultan and members of his family (including sons,
daughters and wives is incorporated within the complex). The huge portal gate
originally set for the Complex of Sultan Hassan, and usurped by Muayad, it is one of
the finest in Islamic Cairo. Of great interest in the mosque is its Qibla Wall of colored
marble and the beautiu Mihrab (Niche) flanked by two porphyry columns with gilded
Old Coptic Cairo
Just few kilometers to the south of modern Cairo, stands majestically the historic part
of Coptic Cairo, a holy place, according to tradition, was one of the sites where the
Holy Family once been during the Holy Flight into Egypt. It is unrivaled historical
site rich with the most historic churches in Egypt, including (the Hanging church of
Virgin Mary, The Abu Serga Church, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, and
many more. In addition, the site is home of the historic-Roman fortress of Babylon (of
the 1 st century), the Coptic Museum and the age-old Synagogue of Ben-Ezra.
The Hanging Church
AL-Moalakkaa Church (or the Hanging Church) is one of Egypt's oldest churches,
and dates back to the early fourth century. It is named after its construction being on
top of two towers of the Roman Fortress of Babylon, that's why it has no ceiling-roof,
but a wooden ceiling resembling the Ark of "Noah" symbolizing salvation. Via a
flight of steps it enters the open-courtyard, followed by two doorways, lead to the
church proper, which has the most valuable collections ever of Icons (one of them is
called the Coptic Mona-Lisa, representing Virgin Mary and Lord Jesus Christ as a
Child on her lap, and b them is St. John the Baptist). The Marble pulpit is supported
by thirteen marble columns; the single-front one is representing Lord Jesus while the
other twelve represent th twelve apostles. The wooden screen wall separate the body
of the church from the three Hykals (Shrines) the middle is dedicated o Virgin Mary.
Through a stunning small wooden door inlaid in Ivory and mother of pearl, it enters to
the southern section of the church housing another three shrines and the room of
Baptism, while a seventh shrine is upstairs reached by a wooden stairway (now
reserved as a school of theology for children).
The Abu Serga Church (Church of St. Sergius)
Via long narrow alley, similar to those in Jerusalem, surrounded by churches and s
superb convent and nunnery (of St. George),it leads to one of the most important
churches (not only in Egypt but Worldwide), it leads to Abu Serga Church (the Arabic
name of St. Sergius), named after two roman Martyred Soldiers (Sergius and
Bacchus), and it dates back to the fourth century. It enters through a flight of
descending steps, where the main body of the basilican-style church, containg two
rows of columns (of six columns each) dividing the main hall into three parts. One of
the columns is of different color (black granite) to represent "Judas" who betrayed
Lord Jesus. The marble pulpit is situated close to the northern wall has seven steps,
symbolizing the seven degree of clergy in the Egyptian church. Of great importance
are the icons of the church depicting "Adam and Eve", the "Last Supper" and many
other topics. The wooden screen wall inlaid in ivory and mother of pearl, separate the
body of the church from the shrines (the central one housed the oldest Altar, today in
the Coptic Museum), and directly behind is the Crypt, which according to tradition
was the safe place where The Holy Family sheltered in, during Their Holy Flight into
The Synagogue of Ben Ezra
At the far end of the main narrow alley of Old Coptic Cairo, stands one of the most
historic buildings in Cairo, the Synagogue of "Ben Ezra". According to traditions
(Jewish Community), the site of the present Synagogue was a place where "Moses"
use to go to worship the God, and before he left Egypt he left some Mark-Signs,
indicating that he was once there, later on at the time of the Jewish Exile, "Jeremiah"
who was exempted from, headed to Egypt, where he found the Mark-Signs of
"Moses" at the Site, remained there till his death, moreover, traditions ascribe that he
was buried there. Whatever the traditions say, historians refer to the writings of
"Benjamin De Tudel" who came from Spain and mentioned that in a place called Old
Cairo, where he visited an old synagogue and there, he found "Torah" of "Ezra the
Scribe" who probably was the one built the old synagogue. Also the 14 th century Arab
Historian "AL-Maqrizi" mentioned in his Book known as (the Khetat) that he visited
the place where the old "Torah" of Ezra was put. Traditions adds also that when the
Arab Muslim General Amr, conquer Egypt, the Copts, claimed that the site of the old
synagogue was them, and therefore the land was handed to them, where a church was
built instead, with the name of (Angel Gabriel) by the Arabs, and the church of (St.
Michael) by the historians. Two centuries later, during the reign of Ibn Tulun, who
taxed the Copts of 20,000 Dinars (Golden Coin), as they couldn't afford, the land was
once sold back to the Jewish Community who built again a Synagogue. Stood there
till 1115, when the Rabbi "Abraham Ben Ezra" came to Egypt, and rebuilt a newer
one (the present-day Synagogue) decorated in Arabesque, consisting of two floors, the
upper one dedicated for women. In 1894, the American historian Professor "Schchter"
came to Egypt, visited the Synagogue where he found the Gueniza (a secret
place/room) in which the old Torah had been kept, in addition to 100,000 scrolls of
everyday activity of the Jewish community in Egypt, carried them all, and today could
be seen in England, the States and elsewhere.
The Coptic Museum
Thanks to the Coptic-Notability Markus Semeka Pascha, the founder of the Museum
of Coptic Art in Cairo. Realizing that two National Museums already opened in Cairo
at the start of the twentieth century (The Egyptian Museum of Pharaonic Art and the
Museum of Islamic Art), thought of a third was necessary for Coptic Art to fill a gap
in Egypt's Civilization of a very Important Era.
The Coptic Museum houses the largest collection of Coptic artifacts in the
world and was inaugurated in 1910. The museum was established through
the efforts of Marcus Simaika Pasha, a prominent Coptic figure who was
vested in the preservation of Coptic heritage. Simaika Pasha bought and
collected Coptic antiquities and various architectural elements from older
churches that were undergoing renovation, and used them to built the
museum and establish its collection.
The collection represents Coptic history from its earliest beginnings in Egypt
through to its rise as a leading center of Christianity in the world. Coptic
Christianity traces its origins to a visit by Saint Mark in the city of Alexandria
in the 1 st Century A.D. The artifacts on display in the museum show the merge
of Coptic art with the prevailing cultures including Pharaonic, Greek, Roman,
Byzantine and Ottoman, and its evolution in developing its own character and
Magnificently decorated manuscripts, icons, delicately carved woodwork and
elaborate frescos with religious scenes recovered from ancient monasteries
and churches are among its extensive collection.
The Fortress of Babylon
The Roman-Fortress of Babylon is believed to be built soon after the conquest of
Augustus in 30 BC, but historical records attribute its construction to The Roman
Emperor Trajan. Due to its location between the boundaries of Upper and Lower
Egypt, facing the First Capital of Egypt "Memphis" on the Other Bank of the River,
the Fortress without doubt was the main garrison for Roman Troops in Egypt. Within
the Fortress, are the Coptic Museum and many churches and convents as well as the
Jewish Synagogue of Ben Ezra.
The fortress walls and towers were built of limestone and mud brick, the height of the
towers 18 meters each (today the ground level rises 6 meters). Facing the rivr was the
Nile Gated Tower and slightly to the south another two, were used as the foundation
(the top of each) of the 4 th century Hanging Church.