Al Azhar Park is a green oasis in the middle of Cairo – and a great resting place from sightseeing and the bustle of the city.
Al Azhar Park boasts gorgeous restaurants with Citadel views, green rolling hills, fountains and sweeping views over the old city and its many minarets.
This sprawling 30-hectare public park is right next to Islamic Cairo and Khan el Khalili. And it makes a perfect resting point in your Cairo sightseeing itinerary.
As an expat living for many years in Egypt, Al Azhar Park is one of my favorite spots to unwind, have a leisurely lunch with friends and take a breather from the city noise.
Al Azhar Park is surprisingly green with blossoming hibiscus, frangipani trees and lawns for lounging in the grass. It’s also beautiful in the evening when the nearby Mosque of Muhammad Ali (at the Citadel) is illuminated and the upscale restaurants with city views come to life.
Al Azhar Park was build atop a mount of city rubble and ruins. The $30 million-dollar project was a gift to Cairo from Aga Khan IV, a descendant of the city’s Fatimid caliphs (who built much of what’s now known as Islamic Cairo and Khan el Khalili, which run right alongside the park).
The park is now a local favorite for family gatherings and picnics. Many of the landscape and architecture features are inspired by historic Islamic gardens.
Insider tip: Avoid weekends and national holidays, when the park gets packed with noisy crowds and family picnics. The Eid holiday (right after Ramadan) is especially crowded and not recommended.
Don’t miss the observation point atop the hill equipped with coin-operated binoculars. It has views over Islamic Cairo and its many historic minarets.
A restored Ayyubid wall – built by Saladin some 800 years ago – stretches across one side of the park.
For a leisurely lunch with a view, head to the Lakeside Restaurant for waterside dining.
This restaurant sits on a small lake with cascading fountains and has seating in a mashrabiya-style wooden pavilion or in a shady pergola surrounded by palms. It’s a great spot for lunch with staples like pizzas, shish tawook and burgers on the menu. It’s a pretty quiet spot too surrounded by the sounds of flowing water.
Citadel View Restaurant
Citadel View Restaurant (aka Studio Misr) is a beautiful restaurant with views of the towering Mosque of Muhammad Ali – with lots of Egyptian classics on the menu.
The restaurant has a beautiful oriental-style seating area with mashrabiyas, tall columns, brass platters and mosaic fountains. There’s also a sunny terrace that overlooks the park lawns and the mosques off in the distance.
The views are especially magical in the evening when the Citadel and the minarets are illuminated and the park grows more quiet.
Nestled inside a Fatimid-style building that overlooks the gardens, the restaurant is a great spot to sample some Egyptian cuisine amid panoramic view of Islamic Cairo. There’s also a small shop with English-language books about Egypt and local handicrafts.
The menu includes classic Egyptian baladi bread, falafel (aka ta’amiya), grilled meats and the usual array of regional dips like hummus. Lots of dishes are great to dip into and share.
Need to know:
Tickets: 25 EGP per adult and 30 EGP per adult on weekends (Fridays and Saturdays).