Restored Historical Sites to Visit in Egypt

Restored Historical Sites to Visit in Egypt

Updated On: May 14, 2024 by   Dina EssawyDina Essawy

Over the past few years, Egypt has undertaken significant projects to restore and preserve many of the historical landmarks around the country to restore them to their former glory. Many of these landmarks are well-known and have attracted tourists from all over the globe, so it was only natural to ensure they were well-preserved and looked after in keeping with the architectural styles of the eras in which they were built.

Some of these landmarks are located in Cairo, specifically in the district of Old Cairo, where many ancient monuments are located.

The Egyptian government is undergoing a major project to renovate the entire district, creating a magnificent tourist attraction and preserving these fantastic landmarks that have stood the test of time. The project was explained during the grand inauguration celebration of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Here are some of the locations you can visit today.

Ain el-Sira Lake and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat

Egypt
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization which hosts the Golden Royal Mummy Parade (Image Credit: egypttoursportal.com)

In the district of Old Cairo, the Ain el-Sira historic area was turned from a slum to a beautiful lake area surrounded by cafés and one of the most prominent museums in Egypt, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which was inaugurated on 3 April 2021, in a grand celebration witnessed by the entire world that included the transfer of twenty-two royal Egyptian mummies of Kings and Queens from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir to this new museum. The mummies now rest in a unique hall explicitly created for them, resembling ancient Egyptian tombs, similar to those in the Valley of Kings in Luxor.

The museum displays 50,000 artefacts from Egyptian civilization from prehistoric times to the present. It is divided into grand halls; the Main Hall displays Egyptian heritage from prehistoric times to the Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic eras.

The Ain el-Sira project spans 63 acres and includes a restaurant, an open-air theatre, green landscapes, wooden pergolas, fountains, and a lake water purification plant.

Ain el-Sira lies in Old Cairo, part of Fustat, the ancient capital of Egypt that is now part of Greater Cairo.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is open from Saturday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tickets for Egyptians and Arabs are EGP 60, and EGP 30 for students. Tickets for foreigners are EGP 200, and EGP 100 for students.

Djoser Step Pyramid (Saqqara) in Giza

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Djoser Step Pyramid (Saqqara) stands tall in Egypt (Image Credit: egypttoursportal.com)

The Djoser Step Pyramid is named after Djoser, the first king of the 3rd Dynasty in ancient Egypt, and designed by Imhotep, a brilliant architect, physician, high priest of the sun god Ra and grand minister, who was so ahead of his time that he later became glorified as the god of Medicine. It is the last remaining landmark from the Saqqara Necropolis, an extensive system of cemeteries spanning the modern cities of Dahshur, Giza, and Abusir that were built in 2700 B.C. The construction is the first and oldest surviving complete stone building in history.

The Saqqara pyramid was again reopened to the public in March 2020 after major restoration work had been carried out to restore it to its former glory.

The area is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and tickets are 60 EGP and 30 EGP for students.

Kom el-Shoqafa Catacombs in Alexandria

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Photo of the interior of the catacombs in Egypt (Image Credit: united guides travel)

The groundwater lowering project at Kom el-Shoqafa, which was completely submerged underwater, is one of Egypt’s most intricate projects recently undertaken. This significant area in Alexandria is a well-known archaeological site and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. It contains several tombs and antiquities dating back to the Pharaonic era, with infusions and influences from the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

A circular staircase leads down to the tombs, where you’ll find a burial chamber dating back to the 2nd century to the 4th century, before being rediscovered in 1900 when a donkey accidentally fell into the access shaft. 

In 2019, the monument reopened after archaeologists successfully prevented rising water levels from destroying the endangered tombs. Now, you can enjoy the beautiful location and marvel at the vivid inscriptions decorating its walls.

The area is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria

Front Entrance of Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Egypt
Front Entrance of Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Egypt (Image Credit: wmf.org)

The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue is on Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria. It was built in the 1850s by an Italian architect on the site of a former 14th-century synagogue destroyed during Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1798. 

The synagogue is one of the largest in the Middle East, accommodating 700 worshipers. In 2017, a project was announced that intended to restore the synagogue to preserve Jewish heritage in Egypt. The project had a budget of 40 million EGP, and it was reopened in January 2020.

The synagogue’s interior features massive marble columns and original brass nameplates on the seats of the regular male worshipers. At the front of the building, a closed chamber holds 30 Torah scrolls. 

(Saint Virgin Mary Church) in Cairo

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The gorgeous church with twin pillars immersing from its rooftops stands tall in Egypt (Image Credit: stevesheriw/Flickr)

One of the most important attractions in Cairo, the Hanging Church earned its name from how it was built: over a passageway between two turrets adjoining Babylon Fortress, a Roman fortress dating back to the 2nd century AD. It is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, having been built in the 5th century AD. It contains the remains of several saints, as well as 110 rare icons hanging on its walls.

The church was the first official seat of the Pope of Alexandria after being relocated from Alexandria to Cairo. The church was renewed several times during the Islamic era, once during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, then the Fatimid caliph’s al-Aziz Billah, and in the era of Al Zaher le-Ezaz Din Allah.

The place where the church was built also served as a shelter for the Holy Family as they escaped from Herod, the King of Palestine. Inside the church, several icons date back to different historical periods, including the painting dubbed the ‘Christian Mona Lisa’, featuring Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist. Looking at it from any angle, Mary’s eyes follow you.

There are many legends and miracles related to this church, the most famous of which is the moving of the Moqattam Mountain. It is said that the Fatimid Caliph Al-Mu’izz asked Patriarch Abraham (975-978), the 62nd Patriarch, to move the Moqattam Mountain to prove the words of the gospel: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence to yonder place, and it shall remove“ (Matthew 17-20). The Patriarch spent 3 days praying in front of the painting of the Virgin Mary until she appeared to him in a vision and told him what to do. 

The church’s lower shrine and infrastructure underwent major reconstruction, and it reopened to the public in October 2014.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) in Cairo

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Interior dome of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church in Egypt. (Image Credit: GD/Facebook)

The church’s importance comes from the fact that it was one of the stops on the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt in a cave that can be found beneath the church, which means it is also one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt as it dates back to the 4th century. 

It is a Basilica-style church where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected. The church is dedicated to soldier-saints Sergius and Bacchus, who were martyred by Roman Emperor Maximian in Syria during the 4th century

The church has undergone many restorations throughout its history, first when it burned down in 750. The most recent restoration occurred in 2016, after which the church opened again to the public.

Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo 

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Al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt is decadent in design and detail (Image Credit: egypttoursportal.com)

Al-Azhar is one of Cairo’s oldest mosques, built in 970 AD and opened in 972 AD during the Fatimid era. It is now located in the district of Old Cairo, and the mosque’s architecture presents a harmony between different styles due to several expansions over 1000 years.

The oldest section of the mosque is the central courtyard, while the minarets date back to the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

An early university was established and attached to the mosque in 988 AD and is considered the world’s second-oldest educational institution. At one time, it was one of the world’s leading learning centres, drawing students from Europe and all over the Islamic world. 

The mosque is so unique and historically significant that it was visited by multiple foreign dignitaries over the decades, including Barack Obama, Princess Diana, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, and the President of Portugal, among many others.

The mosque’s restoration project took place between 2015 and 2018, after which it was inaugurated in March 2018.

Museum of Islamic Arts

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Sun sets over Museum of Islamic Arts in Egypt. (Image Credit: learningreligions.com)

The Museum of Islamic Arts contains the world’s most significant Islamic treasures and antiquities collection. Although the museum houses more than 100,000 objects, it only displays 4,500 artefacts in 25 Halls, including rare manuscripts of the Qur’an, an extensive collection of Arabian carpets, various intricate wooden objects, Islamic ceramics, a lamp collection, and much more.

The Museum has also conducted excavations in the Fustat area and has organized several national and international exhibitions. 

The museum has two entrances and a beautiful garden with a fountain. Port Said Street’s entrance has a luxurious facade, with decorations inspired by Islamic architecture in Egypt from different periods. The museum has two floors: the lower floor contains the exhibition halls, and the upper floor contains the general stores. 

The museum was attached in 2014, and its façade and 170 artefacts were damaged. After this, it was restored and reopened in 2017.

The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every week, except Fridays, when it opens from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo

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Landscape shot of Al-Fath Mosque in Egypt (Image Credit: travel4all.org)

Al-Fath Mosque lies in the Abdeen district and is attached to the magnificent Abdeen Palace. It was the mosque where the Kings of Egypt living at the palace used to pray. Founded by Prince and Major-General Abdeen Bek, it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture and art. 

The main facade of the Al-Fath Mosque overlooks the Abdeen Palace gardens. The royal entrance is on the western side of the mosque.

The mosque underwent a complete restoration process, costing 16 million EGP, to restore it to its former glory. The restoration included the interior of the mosque, the marble floor in the courtyard, the mihrab, the marble and granite columns, and the interior domes. After three years of renovations, it reopened in 2020. 

The Royal Chariots Museum (Royal Vehicles Museum) in Cairo

Egypt
Image Credit: egypttoday.com

The Museum of the Royal Chariots is located in Boulak in Cairo. It displays the royal vehicles previously owned by the family of Muhammed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt and its rulers for hundreds of years until 1952. 

Khedive Ismail established The museum in the late 20th century to display the royal carriages and horses and the expensive cars and automobiles owned by the family from different world-class brands like Citroen, Ford, and Cadillac.

The museum is divided into different halls. The first is the Antikkhana Hall, which showcases the carriages and vehicles that were gifted to the royal family. The second is the Gamallon Hall, an open-air hall in which the rarest types of vehicles are displayed, such as the Alay chariot, a horse-drawn carriage manufactured with certain specifications to transport kings and senior officials.

The third is the Royal Events Hall, which includes the carriages used by members of the royal family during various official occasions and various beautiful oil paintings of members of the royal family. The fourth hall (Hosan Hall) exhibits the clothes of stablemen and a set of special accessories used to decorate the horses in the fifth hall. There is also a Reception Hall with a display screen that plays documentaries on the history of Egypt and its last royal family. 

The museum exhibits around 78 valuable royal vehicles, 22 of which are carriages that were gifts from kings and emperors of Europe presented to the rulers of Egypt since the reign of Khedive Ismail and until the ruling period of King Farouk, such as the carriage gifted by Napoleon III and Queen Eugene to Khedive Ismail on the occasion of the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869, as well as the Cuban carriage that was used by the Queen of Egypt and other notable family members during the opening conference of the Egyptian parliament.

The museum building’s most recent restoration, which took place in 2017 and cost an estimated EGP 63 million, was inaugurated again in 2020.

The Museum of Royal Carriages is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Tickets are EGP 100 for adults, EGP 50 for students (foreigners), EGP 20 for adults and EGP 10 for students (Egyptians).

Baron Empain Palace in Cairo

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Baron Empain Palace lit up at night in Egypt (Image Credit: egypttoday.com)

The Baron Empain Palace is a well-known Hindu-style palace in the district of Heliopolis in Cairo. The architect Alexandre Marcel designed it with a rotating base to access the sunbeams at all hours of the day. Georges-Louis Claude decorated it, and it was built between 1907 and 1911.

Baron Empain, a Belgian industrialist and colonial entrepreneur millionaire, came up with the idea to build this palace in the then-empty district of Heliopolis. He was inspired mostly by the Hindu temples of Orissa in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia that he saw on his travels. 

The exterior features statues of Hindu deities, mythical creatures and elephants. The interior was decorated with frescoes, gilded doors, and Belgian mirrors. Empain lived in the palace’s central tower, built on a revolving base to allow a 360-degree view and constant sunlight. 

After being closed for two years for restoration that cost about 175 million Egyptian pounds, the palace was officially inaugurated as a tourist destination and a venue for exhibitions on the history of Heliopolis. 

The project included restoring the marble columns and frescoes above the main entrance, the statues and sculptures, and the shoring up of doors and windows.

The palace tour takes 45 minutes, and visiting times are from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The ticket is EGP 100 for foreigners, EGP 50 for foreign students, Egyptians pay EGP 20, and EGP 10 for Egyptian students. All Egyptian visitors who are 60+ years old will be exempted from the entry fee.

Tahrir Square in Cairo

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Aerial view of Tahrir Square in Egypt. (Image Credit: egypttoday.com)

Tahrir Square is perhaps the most famous square in Cairo. It is located at the heart of the city, surrounded by the Nile on one side and the Egyptian Museum on another.

The area where the square is located was initially developed in the 19th century during the reign of Khedive Ismail. The layout of the square has changed many times over the years. Still, it went through the most recent renovations in 2021 until it was unveiled during the Golden Royal Mummies Parade as the 22 royal mummies were transferred from the nearby Egyptian Museum to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. The parade went through the square as it was brilliantly illuminated, along with the building surrounding it, to welcome the oncoming parade and pay respect to the ancient Kings and Queens of Egypt. 

An obelisk erected in the centre of the square, surrounded by statues of sphinxes transferred from Luxor, gave the square a distinct ancient Egyptian vibe.

Sphinxes Avenue in Luxor 

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Sunsets over a row of sphinxes in Egypt (Image Credit: discoveringeqgypt.com)

The Avenue of Sphinxes is a well-known 3-km passageway connecting the temples of Karnak and Luxor in the city of Luxor in Upper Egypt. Ancient Egyptians used this special road every year during the Opet festival, paraded along it carrying the statues of Amun and Mut in a symbolic re-enactment of the marriage of the two gods. 

The construction of the Avenue of Sphinxes began during the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt and was completed during the reign of the 30th Dynasty. At one point, there were around 1,350 sphinx statues on either side of the avenue. 

The avenue was renovated by the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra in ancient Egypt, and the Romans later used it. Recently, 850 sphinx fragments have been discovered along a section of the Sphinx road built by Amenhotep III in the 14th century B.C.

Now, visitors in Luxor will be able to enjoy this spectacular avenue in all its glory after extensive renovations have been carried out to repair the damage that had been inflicted on it over the years. 

Egypt has not only restored previous landmarks and antiquities but many other constructions have also been added to display its vast treasures, such as the new Sharm El-Sheikh Museum, Hurghada Museum, the Giza Pyramids Plateau which now includes restaurants and cafes to welcome guests enjoying the Pyramids of Giza, the Grand Egyptian Museum which is one of the most significant cultural projects in the world and is expected to open in 2021, as well as Egypt’s Capitals Museum which displays the history of the different capitals of Egypt throughout its history.

Many archaeological discoveries have been made recently as well, some of which have been covered by a Netflix Documentary titled Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb. The documentary recounts how a team of Egyptian archaeologists discovered the never-before-explored tombs in the Saqqara necropolis, including the tomb of Wahtye, a high-ranking priest who lived during the 5th Dynasty. It hails it as one of the most important ancient Egyptian discoveries in history. 

Egypt never ceases to amaze us with its long and rich history and its vast antiquities collections, which fill hundreds of museums around the country. We recommend exploring some of the aforementioned locations and enjoying all they offer.

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