Spread across a sprawling area of 30 hectares, the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo is another place which is going to leave you spellbound with its beauty. The park is surrounded by some of the most historic and significant districts of Cairo city, and is a must visit place for tourists as well as local residents of the city.
Initially existing as a vast dumping site for the city’s garbage back during the 1980s, the city, as well as the Al-Azhar Park has undergone significant transformation. Present day, the park is playing a crucial role in amplifying the panorama of the place.
Apart from this, there are multiple parks designed and developed within the Al-Azhar Park. These small parks are home to more than 325 species of plants. Some of these species are native to the soil of Egypt, while some are exotic plants grown and maintained at the park’s nursery.
On closely observing the design and landscape planning of the Al-Azhar Park, you will see that the park has been designed in the shape of a tree, with the roots grounding into the Darb al-Ahmar neighborhood nearby. Pinch of modern cultures and traditions blended with the ancient Islamic history is what makes this place a true masterpiece in all senses. All in all, the park is yet another marvellous sight one can get to witness in Cairo.
History of Al-Azhar Park
Today, the reason behind the existence of Al-Azhar Park is Agha Khan IV. Moving back to the year of 1984, the present day park used to be a sight of garbage dumping from over half a millennium. Hence, in order to develop a synonym of an oasis in the heart of Cairo city, Agha Khan IV laid the idea of Al-Azhar Park with a whopping budget of around USD 30 million for the same.
This challenging task of designing the park was assigned to a local team of architects. That time, they had no idea that what they were going to design would become one of the major tourist attraction of the city, vibrating its popularity across the globe. With the movement of tons of debris out of the park and for landfilling purposes, the park was finally opened for sightseeing to the general public in the year 2005.
Since then, the Al-Azhar Park has been fascinating people from all over the world with its beautiful plantations, terraced gardens, water fountains, Mamluk stonework comprising of multi-coloured stones, bold geometry, sunken gardens and what not.
The Architecture of the Park
Intriguing architecture is another thing to be observed apart from the magnificence of the park. The Al-Azhar Park is originally situated on the location of garden dating back to the 10th Century AD, i.e. during the Fatamid reconstruction period.
One of the marvels of architecture which you will witness while strolling through the park is the ‘spine’, which gets its name because it runs through the centre of the park. The ‘spine’ is a walkway space which follows along the entire length of Al-Azhar Park. While walking along the ‘spine’ walkway, you can easily observe the attractions of the park, which are no less than a visual treat for your eyes.
Charming fountain bowls, chadar waterfalls, ground level fountains, rills and small canals, the visual attractions of the place are bound to give you wonderful memories of visiting this park. In addition to this, informal plantations and lush green lawns can also be observed surrounding the ‘spine’ walkway.
Not only this, the park has been designed in a manner such that the ponds situated within the park can derive their continuous source of water from the River Nile flowing a few kilometers away from the place. This truly makes the park an architectural marvel in all forms.
The overall intent of the designing architects was to integrate the conventional Islamic landscape designing traditions and display it to the world through the greenery and architecture of the park.
Out of the many challenges faced during the development of the park, one of the major challenges was the unleashing of around 1.5 km long section of the ancient Ayyubid Wall of Cairo. Dating back to the 12th and 13th Century AD, the excavation works for the wall were processed by workers personally trained by AKTC experts. This further added to the magnetism of Al-Azhar Park.
Hence, you are bound to fall in love with the hypnotising beauty and hints of Islamic architecture showcased now and then throughout the Al-Azhar Park. Finally, you can get a 360-degree panoramic view of the ancient Cairo city through the gardens and hilly topography of the Al-Azhar Park.
Ancient districts of Cairo surround the Al-Azhar Park. To the west of the park lies the Fatimid City and the extensions of the place. Along with this, the park is also covered by Darb al-Ahmar serving the tourists and local people its abundant collection of mosques, mausoleums and madrasas.
Further, the Al-Azhar Park is covered by the Sultan Hassan Mosque and its nearby localities along with the Ayyubid Citadel. The eastern boundary of the park lies in close proximity to the Mamluk, also known as the “City of the Dead”.
Sunday to Thursday: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Friday and Saturday: 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM
How to Reach Within the City
You can visit the Al-Azhar Park by either of the modes of transportation mentioned below:Car
Either you are a local resident of the place or you are a tourist, you can hop on to a car, or hire a taxi to drive to this beautiful place. To avoid your confusion regarding the entrance of this huge park, you can drive straight to the Salah Salem Street, where the main entrance of the Al-Azhar Park is situated.Subway
This happens to be one of the cheapest modes of transportation, especially if you are a tourist and are doubtful about the streets of the city. To reach the place by subway, you can board the metro from any part of the city and get down at Bab El-Shaaria metro station.
Once you have reached there, the park is at a stone’s throw of roughly 3.6 Kms. to the west of the metro station. You may reach the park from the metro station by booking a taxi or by local transportation modes.Bus
To reach the park by Bus, you need to get down at El Darrasa Bus Stop. Once you have arrived there, the main entrance gate of the park lies at a walking distance of 1.3 km to the south of the Bus Stop. This mode of travelling can undoubtedly prove to be a feasible one if you wish to travel via road.
Best Time to Visit
Considering the fact that Egypt is an Islamic country, there are chances that the timings of Al-Azhar Park may get changed during major Islamic festivals. In this regard, we would recommend you to avoid going to the park on festival days like Eid.
This is because there are chances that the timings of the park may get changed considering the festive season, and we definitely don’t want you to visit the park and find that it will open at a different time that day. Talking about the best time of the year to visit the place, you can go there during the Spring season or the Autumn season, so as to witness the true colours of the place.
So that you can enjoy the beauty of this park, we suggest you pay a visit to Al-Azhar Park during early morning hours, i.e. before noon. This is because the park gets overcrowded with people after 5:00 PM, and hence you won’t be able to enjoy your visit.
The Al-Azhar Park in Cairo has been included in the world’s Sixty great public spaces by the Project for Public Spaces.