The Ibn Tulun Mosque and Gayer Anderson Museum are inside the same walls not too far from the Citadel. Both are worth a visit and it is easy to do both on your own or with a guide.
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is the oldest surviving intact mosque in Cairo. The oldest mosque in Cairo is the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As near Coptic Cairo. However, while the site is original and the location of the oldest mosque in all of Africa, only a small part of the structure is original as most was destroyed and later rebuilt. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is also the only remaining part of the citadel from the Tulunid period.
It was built in 876-879 by Ahmad ibn Tulun and covers 7.4 acres. It was designed by a Christian architect and is made with red brick covered with stucco. The center of the square courtyard contains a found for ablutions (from late 1200s). Three sides of the courtyard have a double row of covered arches and the fourth side features the sanctuary with the mihrab (decorated niche that faces Mecca) and minbar (pulpit). The minbar is from 1296 and is from finely carved wood. Around the mosque is an empty space between the mosque walls and further out walls.
The side opposite the sanctuary has a spiral minaret made of stone. This shape with the stairs spiraling along the outside is unique to Cairo, so Ibn Tulun probably got inspiration from the Great Mosque at Samarra, Iraq.
Like with all mosques, expect to take off your shoes when you enter. There is shoe storage and, at least when we visited, a very pushy shoe attendant who insisted on money for watching the shoes AND money for Allah. I gave 50le for the three of us and told him to figure out what was for him and what was for Allah. Once past the pushy shoe attendant, we had a pleasant time walking through the arches and soaking in the peacefulness.
When we left, a man asked if we wanted to go up the minaret. As a note, anytime someone suggests doing something extra, be prepared to tip. I hadn’t been up the minaret before, so we said sure. The gentleman had some English and found the keeper of the keys and led us up. It is definitely a bit of a climb up (and we went in July!), but the views were great! Definitely worth it if you can find the right person and your knees are good.
Our next stop was the Gayer Anderson Museum, which is within the same outer walls as the mosque and near the mosque’s entrance. Major Gayer Anderson was in the British Army and collected many Islamic objects during his time in Egypt. The house itself is fascinating as it is actually two houses that were later combined. One side was built in 1631 and named the House of the Cretan Woman (Bayt al-Kritliya) and next to it is a house from 1540 called the House of Amna bint Salim al-Gazzar.
Gayer Anderson lived from 1881 to 1945 and earned the title of pasha for merit. He lived in the House of the Cretan Woman until 1942. The house is filled with his treasures and furniture and gives an interesting glimpse into the time period and the man. We did not arrive with a guide, but the museum provided them (free, but with a tip) and he was full of information.
I found the little rooms for women to look from discretely fascinating. There’s even a hidden door in one room!
Location: Ibn Tulun Mosque is fairly easy to find, though you need to enter from this side: https://goo.gl/maps/UJUufdx7nrR2
Parking: You can most likely find some street parking right near the mosque, though not guaranteed and the streets of Islamic Cairo can be tricky. However, it’s not too far from the main roads.
Taxis: Getting here via taxi is easy. We couldn’t find one nearby that was willing to take us back to Maadi afterwards though. We walked to the traffic circle by Sultan Hassan Mosque and then finally found one willing.
Combine With: Walking distance to Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan (about .5 miles). You could also walk from Citadel (1.7 miles). Or both are easy taxi rides.
Costs: Ibn Tulun Mosque is free, though expect to tip the shoe guy and minaret guy if you use either. Gayer Anderson Museum was 60le with a 50le camera charge in July 2018 (plus tip for guide). I did the camera charge, but honestly, the lighting is really dim and the spaces are fairly cramped so it’s only worth it if you really love photographing old furniture.
Food/Drink: There are little cafes and shops all around the mosque where you could buy water or a snack.
Bathrooms: Gayer Anderson Museum has bathrooms
Stroller Friendly: No. Gayer Anderson Museum has many stairs and small spaces. The building is skinny and tall with many floors. The mosque itself is up some stairs and the minaret is many stairs.