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Egypt: Bab Zuweyla

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Bab Zuweyla | Egypt | Africa

[Visited: October 2005]

Cairo is an enormous city now, and an ancient one. While the city spreads out in all directions, the old city is a confined area which can easily be explored on foot. This was the royal enclave, which was approximately one square kilometre. Cairo, or Al Qahirah, was a walled city with some sixty gates, protecting the city from outsiders. Some of these gates have survived the onslaught of time pretty well. Before entering Islamic Cairo, I decided to visit Bab al Zuweyla, the former southern gate. The two minarets could not be missed from a distance. The chaotic traffic of Cairo passed right in front of the gate, while pedestrians, tradespeople, bicycles, motorcycles, and even small vans all squeezed through the gate into Al Muizz Il Din Allah, one of the main streets of the old city.

Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla: minarets towering over the gate

The gate doors are enormous, wooden monsters strengthened by metal nails. Formerly in use to protect the city, they were closed in the evening until late 19th century, sealing the city off from the rest of the world. Directly outside the city gate was a gathering place, and often used for public executions. Walking through them, I found the entrance to the minarets, paid my entrance fee, and started climbing up the stairs. It took me to the roof of the gate, where I walked around the bases of the minarets, looking up at the slender towers and down at the bustling street life below me.

Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Skyline of Cairo seen from one of the minarets of Bab Zuweyla

I walked up to the narrow second minaret and climbed the stairs, high stone steps leading me always higher. At one point, there was a possiblity to step outside and enjoy the view. A little higher up, though, the stairs finished. Instead, I found a metal construction with narrow steps leading further up in a spiral. The top of the minaret was irresistible and I went up on the shaky ladder, spiralling higher up. I had to squeeze myself through a narrow opening and then found myself on a narrow space, with a superb view over the city, and also a dizzying view right down.

Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Metal steps leading up to the top of the Bab Zuweyla minaret
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): View from Bab Zuweyla with several minarets sticking out of the skyline
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): View from Bab Zuweyla towards Cairo Citadel
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla seen from outside the old city
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla: detail of minaret with skyline in the background
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla: chair and shadows
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla: part of the enormous door and the ceiling of the city gate
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Minaret of Bab Zuweyla
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla: detail of one of the minarets
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): Bab Zuweyla gate door seen through the iron trellis
Picture of Bab Zuweyla (Egypt): View on Bab Zuweyla seen from inside the old city

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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