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Top Rated Attractions in Cairo

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The capital of Egypt for thousands of years, little remains of this once great city to attest to its glory. Memphis was founded by the I Dynasty pharaoh Menes around 3100 BCE and destroyed after the Arab conquest in the 6th Century CE. Most of its treasures were looted or reused in other monuments and the sparse remains hardly warrant a special excursion. Worth seeing, however, is the colossal statue of Ramses II, alabaster sphinx of King Thutmose III and embalming slabs where the holy Apis bulls were mummified. Most of the artifacts have been gathered for display in a garden. A nominal admission fee is charged.

Great Pyramid of Giza

An everlasting symbol of human endeavor and exemplary ancient architecture, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and only remaining intact member of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Every year when the great Nile flooded the golden soils of Egypt, Pharaoh Khufu hired several unemployed civilians to contribute to the construction of this mystical structure, a persevering effort that lasted nearly two decades. Appearing to worship the mighty skies, this colossal pyramid rises from the ground to meet its apex at 147 meters (481 feet), and is deemed to be the tallest structure in the world to be built by human hands. While the pyramid is composed of three known chambers, it was originally intended to serve as a tomb for the reigning emperor. The Great Pyramid continues to shine mysteriously under the gaze of the unforgiving sun, a glorious form built of three million limestone blocks, and years of plentiful toil.

Al-Azhar Mosque

This beautiful mosque is affiliated with Al-Azhar University, one of the oldest Islamic universities in the world and a prestigious center of learning since 970 CE. Centuries ago, lectures were held in the mosque itself. Today, they are held in the university's annex buildings, which are located all over Cairo and attract Islamic scholars and students from around the world. Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the most picturesque buildings in Cairo. Its slender minarets pierce the sky and look absolutely stunning when lit up at night. The architecture is an amalgam of styles built over the ages, all coming together to create one harmonious house of worship.

Museum of Islamic Art

One of the largest Islamic Art museums in the world is the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo with more than a 100000 Islamic artifacts from recent times as well as antique pieces. The museum occupies the ground floor of a Neo-Mameluke building with quiet rooms that contain a good collection of art, ceramics, calligraphy, metalwork and woodwork. Some of the displays, such as heavy wood doors and Ottoman fountains, are quite large.

Step Pyramid of Saqqara

The mighty Pyramid of Djoser is one of Egypt’s most iconic attractions and dates all the way back to the Third Dynasty, or roughly 27th Century BCE. This massive structure located in the Saqqara necropolis represents a turning point in Egyptian burial practices. Up until Imhotep designed this pyramid, which is comprised of six stacked mastabas of decreasing size, pharaohs were entombed in singular mastabas, which were flat-roofed rectangular brick structures. This step pyramid served as the predecessor for such smooth-sided structures as the Great Pyramids of Giza. As the name implies, the pyramid houses the remains of the pharaoh Djoser, though many of the wonders he was buried with were stolen by grave robbers over the ensuing centuries. With special permission, guests can explore the funerary complex surrounding the pyramid, including the hypostyle hall and Great South Court, parts of which have been restored.

Egyptian Museum

Founded in 1858 by French archaeologist Auguste Mariette (whose tomb is in the museum's garden), the giant salmon-colored building was built in 1902 under Khedive Abbas II Helmi. Housing one of the world's greatest collections of Egyptian artifacts, it boasts more than 136,000 artifacts from every period of pre-Islamic Egyptian history. It would be impossible to see everything in one go (allowing 60 seconds at each exhibit it would take nine months to see them all), so it is best to plan several visits if time allows. The exhibits on the ground floor are arranged more or less chronologically, running clockwise with an eclectic sample of Egyptian highlights in the atrium. Don't miss the highly-lauded Amarna collection tucked away at the back. Upstairs are priceless treasures from the Tomb of Tutankhamen, the museum's crowning glory. Also on the top floor is the Mummy Room, which reopened in 1994 after years of controversy, contains the mummies of Egypt's mightiest Pharaohs.

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