advertisement

The Best Islamic Sites

  • Al Azhar Mosque (Cairo): This mosque has undergone a number of changes since it was built in A.D. 972 and has been the centerpiece of the Islamic world's most prestigious university since A.D. 988.

  • Bab Zuweila (Cairo): This huge gate, which rises out of the thick-packed confusion of a local souk, was one of the original entrances to the Fatimid city of Qahira (Cairo). Its colossal shoulders bear witness to the architectural and military power of the 11th-century founders of this dynasty.

  • The Madrasa of Sultan Hassan (Cairo): This massive example of Mamluke self-aggrandizement casts a massive shadow over the rundown neighborhood that surrounds it. Yet, from inside, the 14th-century domes and courtyards are gracefully proportioned and somehow human in scale.

  • Mohamed Ali Mosque (Cairo): Its high Ottoman dome gives this mosque a tremendous sense of calm and space, and the view across old Cairo from the courtyard is second to none.

  • Mosque of Ibn Tulun (Cairo): Unique, Iraqi-style decorations set this 9th-century mosque apart from others in the city. The enormous courtyard is a reminder that there was once a time when you could build a mosque big enough to hold every man in the surrounding area.

The Best Christian Cultural Sites

  • Al Bagawat Cemetery (Kharga): One of the largest ancient Christian cemeteries in the world, al Bagawat in the Western Desert is still comprised of more than 200 domed mausoleums, some of which contain exceptional wall paintings depicting biblical scenes.

  • Church of St. George (Cairo): This small, domed, Greek Orthodox church in Coptic Cairo is built on top of the ruins of the Roman Fortress of Babylon. With the lights low and the lines of candles flickering beside the altar, this is one of the most atmospheric spots in all of Cairo.

  • Monastery of St. Anthony (Red Sea): Set in the middle of the magnificently stark scenery of the remote Red Sea coast, this ancient monastery was built on the site near Anthony's cave where his followers established a camp. The chapel where they buried him is decorated with some of the richest Coptic art in the world.

  • Monastery of St. Paul (Red Sea): This is a high-walled compound, fortified against attacks by local Bedouins, that is still a functioning monastery not far from the Monastery of St. Anthony. St. Paul is said to have been fed every day by a crow that brought him bread.

  • Monastery of St. Simeon (Aswan): This monastery is still massive and imposing despite having been abandoned for centuries. It stands like an abandoned fortress on the edge of the desert on the west bank of the Nile at Aswan.

  • St. Catherine's Monastery (Sinai): The oldest continually working Christian monastery in the world, St. Catherine's is uniquely steeped in tradition. It's also rich in religious art, having neglected to take part in the 8th- and 9th-century destruction of iconographic art.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.