Islamic Cairo South: al-Azhar to Bab Zuwayla

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Here is a teeming, commercial area, more typically Egyptian and less geared toward tourism than the Khan area. But if you feel like shopping, you can find all sorts of postmodern "1,001 Nights" gear here, from pierced brass lanterns to Asian spices and teapots to pigeon-feather fans.

Anecdotes abound with regard to Bab Zuwayla, the southern gate of Fatimid Cairo: the severed heads of criminals were displayed there, warning of the perils of breaking the sultan's law; a troll was said to live behind the massive door; and the surrounding area was the center of activity for crafty ladies of the night who sometimes held their customers for ransom. On the way to Bab Zuwayla and beyond is a wealth of monuments. As in Islamic Cairo North, many buildings here are being restored, but there are a few gems that you shouldn't miss, culminating at the Museum of Islamic Arts, at the end of the walk.

There is much to capture the attention in this area, but relatively few monuments are open for visiting. Depending on how long you spend along the way and in the tent-makers' bazaar, this area is worth three or four hours, excluding lunch and the visit to the Museum of Islamic Arts; set aside about an hour for the latter.


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