Have a taxi or hotel car drop you at the massive Bab al Futuh, one of two remaining 11th-century stone gates of the old walled capital, and walk south along Al Muiz Li’Din Allah Street, Fatimid Cairo’s mile-long main drag, climbing minarets, visiting historic caravansaries, and passing through working souks devoted to traditional kitchen utensils, silver, abayas, and risqué lingerie in equal measure. Among the highlights: Beit El Seheimy, a preserved and fully furnished house that belonged to a wealthy 17th-century merchant; the Egyptian Textile Museum; the 13th-century Qalawun Complex, encompassing a hospital, school, mosque, and mausoleum of a 13th-century sultan; and Bab Zuwayla, a massive 11th-century gate whose twin stone towers afford panoramic views. From Bab Zuwayla, turn left up the Darb Al Ahmer, a street leading uphill past shops and monuments—notably the Blue Mosque, whose beautiful blue tiles decorate the mausoleum of a deposed nine-year-old Mamluk Sultan. Detour via the pedestrian entrance into Al Azhar Park, landscaped by the Agha Khan Foundation, and whose Citadel View Misr Studio Restaurant affords stupendous views of Old Cairo and serves fresh fruit juices, lemonade, just-baked pitas, and Middle Eastern salads and grilled meats. The whole route encompasses dozens of registered monuments encompassing a thousand years of Islamic history and architectural flourishes, as well as the Khan al Khalili bazaar. It’s easy to meander solo (most monuments are listed on Google Maps and are signposted in English as well as Arabic) and hail a taxi for the return ride to the hotel, but should you prefer a guide, contact Ahmed Seddik, whose clients include Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour and her family. (Seddik also does tours of pharaonic antiquity sites). Do the walk Friday morning before noon prayers if you dislike crowds. To see the working souks in their full glory, go any afternoon except Sunday, when many shops are closed.
Bab Al Futuh is the huge set of stone gates at the intersection of Al Hosneya and Al Banhawy Streets. The Citadel View Misr Studio Restaurant is at the northernmost part of Al Azhar Park, on Salah Salem Road.
BAB AL FUTUH: intersection Al Hosneya and Al Banhawy streets
CITADEL VIEW MISR STUDIO RESTAURANT: Al Azhar Park, car entrance on Salah Salem Road; 20-2-2510-9150; no alcohol served
AHMED SEDDIK: +201006768269; email@example.com