Historic Ottoman House in Cairo, Egypt

If you are looking for something of a hidden gem while visiting Cairo, then we would suggest putting Bayt Al-Suhaymi on your list of places to visit. On our final day in Cairo, we made a last minute decision to book an “Islamic Cairo” tour through our hotel and we were certainly not disappointed. We saw several ancient mosques, but just as interesting was wandering the narrow streets of the Old City of Cairo. Just wandering the streets is quite exhilarating, but the highlight was taking a tour of an Ottoman era house that was built in 1648 and is in excellent condition as it was refurbished in 1997 as part of restoration project for the entire area.

The Streets of the Old City of Cairo
Colorful Tiles and Plates
Amazing Architecture in the Old City
Chandelier in Bayt Al-Suhaymi
Looking Down from a Window
One of the Rooms in the House
Standing in the Courtyard

To enter the Old City of Cairo, you go through the Conquest Gate (Bab el Fotouh), which is one of three remaining gates through the walls of the city. As we entered, we were joined by a tourism police officer to ensure our safety in the area, although we didn’t feel that it was particularly needed. We passed by several shops and restaurants on the busy streets with many children on their way home from school. Shortly we arrived at Bayt Al-Suhaymi or House of Suhaymi in order to tour the building that is one of the first Ottoman houses built in Cairo. At the center of the house there is a courtyard called a sahn that features a small garden and some trees. Looking over the courtyard is one of the many beautiful mashrabiya windows that we saw during our tour of the Old City of Cairo.

Conquest Gate
Old City Wall
Just After Walking Through the Gate
Shops in the Old City


Our Escort
Intricate Detail
Showing Its Age

We were able to walk through many of the rooms as we worked our way up through the several floors of the building. Some of the rooms had traditional furniture still inside of them and there was even a sauna in the house that has a colorful ceiling with geometric designs. The house also featured an area in the back with a mill for grinding grain. The architecture is truly what is fascinating when you visit the house. From stained glass windows, many chandeliers, and colorful tile work, it is well worth visiting.

Sitting in the House
Colorful Ceiling
Garden Area in the Back
Sink in the Sauna and Bathroom Area
Dome Inside of the House
Dramatic Chandelier

After leaving the Bayt Al-Suhaymi, we continued on to the Sultan Qalawun Complex, which features more amazing architecture. Afterwards, we wandered through the Khan El Khalili Bazaar, which can be quite crowded as locals and tourists flock to purchase crafts and items in stalls on the narrow streets. The sights, sounds, and aromas can be overwhelming, so take your time to fully absorb everything that you see around you. There are many tours that feature going to the bazaar, but we found the historic Ottoman home to be something very special that few people get to visit.

Walking the Bazaar
Overwhelming Sights
So Much Architecture to See
Protection from the Sun
Dome in the Old City
Beautiful Mosque
Another Minuet


The Alhambra in Granada, Spain

We really enjoyed traveling around Southern Spain and one of the highlights of our trip was staying a couple of days in Granada and visiting the Alhambra fortress and palace. Before traveling to Spain, we weren’t aware of how much of influence the Moors had on the region. The Alhambra is a magnificent example of Moorish architecture and the colorful details are amazing.

Open Courtyard
Garden in Alhambra
View from the Fortress Walls
Looking out from the Palace

In the late 15th century Ferdinand and Isabella used the Alhambra as their royal court. During that period, there were some changes to reflect the Renaissance tastes of the time. What is amazing is that they found the original beauty of the Islamic palace so beautiful that they didn’t destroy most of the existing structures, but just augmented it. The gardens that were added are still absolutely breathtaking and you could literally spend the entire day just walking around them.

One of the Many Gardens
Beautiful Garden
View of One of the Gardens
Another Courtyard

One of the most interesting features of the Alhambra is its use of water and the unique delivery system. Water is brought from an aqueduct and then runs down, even along the stairs, to feed the various fountains and ponds on the palace and fortress grounds. We enjoyed all of the fountains, but the Court of the Lions, with its fountain surrounded by stone lions is one of the most interesting.

Another Fountain in Alhambra
Water Coming Down One of the Chutes of the Aqueducts in Alhambra
Lion Fountain
Looking over the Complex

You will definitely need a full day to see everything that the Alhambra has to view. There is the palace itself with its stunning mosaic walls and the fortress walls with the spectacular views of Granada. No matter what time of year that you visit the Alhambra, you will want to purchase your tickets weeks in advance or you won’t be able to get them. In order to maximize our time in the Alhambra, we ate lunch at the Hotel America that is actually located on the grounds of the Alhambra. The food and atmosphere was amazing and was well worth the somewhat higher prices.

Enjoying Lunch
Restaurant Courtyard
Looking Up at the Outside of the Alhambra
Moorish Architecture

No visit to Granada would be complete without a visit to the Alhambra. Washington Irving made this palace and fortress famous in his book Tales of the Alhambra and it is definitely deserving of the notoriety. The history of the Alhambra is so fascinating that we definitely recommend getting a book on it as there are so many interesting facts to learn about the wonderful place. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely worthy of the honor.

View of One of the Towers at Alhambra
Looking out over Granada
Fortress Walls
Walking the Fortress Walls