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Travel Packages to Egypt

The monuments of Misr Al Qadema

By Seif Kamel

Misr Al Qadima, or Old Egypt as interpreted in the English language, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Egypt. This was where the Romans have built the huge Babylon Fortress which ruins still remain until today.

Many remarkable Christian structures were built in Misr Al Qadima. This includes the Hanging Church, the Church of Saint Barbara, the Church of Saint Sergius, and the Egyptian government chose it to establish the Coptic Museum as well. All these monuments are often included in many travel packages to Egypt.

This was where Amr Ibn Aas, the famous Moslem army leader, settled when he conquered Egypt and this was where he established the first Islamic capital, Fustat, and the first mosque in Egypt and Africa, the Mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas. Many affordable tours to Egypt can be organized to cover the Islamic monuments.

Today we will explore some of the historical sites of the neighborhood of Misr Al Qadima in Cairo that are interesting enough for many tourists who travel to Egypt to visit.

The Ancient City of Fustat

Although there is too little to be seen for tourists who travel to Egypt in the remaining of this city in Cairo, Fustat represent more than 1100 years of the history of Cairo and Egypt as a whole.

When the Arabs conquered Egypt in 640 AD, they decided not to settle in any of the existing cities at the time like Alexandria, Memphis, Luxor, or Aswan.
They have set up their camp just to the North of the Roman Babylon Fortress near Coptic Cairo.  They started establishing their houses and different buildings out of mud brick stones. The city was named “Fustat” or the tent nevertheless because it all started with a large number of tents that the Arabs stayed in when they first came to Cairo.

When the Fatimids came to Egypt in 969, their ruler, Al Mui’z le Deen Allah established another Capital to the north and named it Cairo, or Al Qahera, the victorious.  When the crusaders threaten the Fatimids, they began to burn Al Fustat fearing that the crusaders would occupy the city and take it as their bases where they plan attacks on Cairo.

During the Mamluks era, the people used the area of Fustat to get rid of waste and so little people lived there at the time. Today Al Fustat is rather an area with very little ruins and a number of handcrafts workshops.

For historians and archeologists, Fustat is still a hidden treasure that is waiting to be explored and they believe the city has many secrets still to reveal about the establishment of Islam in Egypt.

The Mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas

Although many historians, especially the Arabs, have some evidences that the first mosque that was ever built in Africa and in Egypt was the mosque of Sadat Quraish, built in Belqas, 70 kilometers to the East of Cairo, most scalars assert that the first mosque to be build in Egypt is the mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas. Many tourists who spend their holidays in Egypt would pay the mosque a visit.

The mosque was named after the Arab army leader who first conquered Egypt for the Arabs in 641. The mosque, when established, was originally made out of mud bricks, and the roof was made out of palm trees wood supported on palms.

The mosque at the time had no Mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, prayer courtyard, or even a minaret to call for prayer from its top.

However, none of the original mosque survived until today except the same piece of land which it was built. The mosque we view today is the outcome of many rebuilding and restoration processes. A famous saying tells that in the mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas “no two columns are the same”.

The oldest existing sections of the mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas today were constructed in the 9th century in a building process that doubled the size of the original mosque. Some other sections of the mosque were built as recently as in the 1980s in the reign of the former president of Egypt Honsy Mubarak.

The mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas is still operating until today like when it was originally built. It is still one of the greatest Islamic monuments in Egypt that is visited by many travelers who spend their vacations in Egypt.

The Monastery of Saint Mercious

Just to the north of the mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas, there is a Christian complex that consists of three churches and a convent. Surrounded by high walls all over, the complex is entered via a small passageway and entrance door from the main street.

The complex was named after a Roman martyr and it is originally dating from the 6th century. However, the whole complex was rebuilt and restored at least four times until today. Many Christian monuments are included in several tours to Egypt.

The main building of the complex is the church of Saint Mercious and it dates back to the 12th century. It was burned with many other structures when the Fatimid Vizier, Shawar, ordered his men to set fire to all the components of Fustat when the crusaders tended to attack the city.

The Church today is one of the finest examples of early Christian arts with marvelous wood work, impressive wall paintings, and a great collection of icons. Many travelers who go on tours to Egypt would like to visit a number of the Christian monument of the country.

Other sections of the complex include the Church of Virgin Mary and the Church of Saint Shenoda and these sections are opened for public visitors, while the convent of Saint Mercuris is still inhabited by nuns and entrance is prohibited.

The Tomb of Suleiman Al Faransawi

This tomb is a unique piece of art to be present in Cairo. It is an iron cast tomb in a residential square and it is one of the matchless monuments in Egypt although it receives few visitors.  A custom tour to Egypt would include however any monument the traveler would like to visit.

The tomb was built for an extremely unusual man as well. It was constructed for Suleiman the French, originally a soldier in the French Army who had the name Joseph Seves.

Joseph came to Cairo the train the armies of Mohamed Ali under the orders of Napoleon. Joseph later converted to Islam and took the name Suleiman.
He took the title Pasha for his contribution with the Egyptian armies, under the leadership of Mohamed Ali, to conquer Lebanon and Syria.

Suleiman had a statue that stood in a street holding his name, Suleiman Pasha Street, but during the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the statue was transferred to the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo, one of the most visited sites included in many group tours to Egypt.

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