Cairo City Guide
The ancient city of Cairo, which is Africa’s largest metropolis, is a prime vacation destination for tourists from world over. Scores of visitors book Cairo vacations every year to have a glimpse of various attractions that this historic city has to offer, such as the Pyramid complex of the pharaohs at Giza, fascinating treasure filled museums, old world mosques and churches, bustling bazaars and the world famous River Nile.
The busy, noisy and chaotic city of Cairo amalgamates within itself unique culture displaying African, Middle Eastern and European influences. Modern day Cairo, which is located along the River Nile, is home to more than 18 million people offering a landscape that features a beguiling mix of modern buildings, which stand cheek by jowl with weathered, ancient monuments.
Where to stay in Cairo
Cairo’s downtown is a perennially busy area, but many visitors to the city like to base themselves at ‘the heart of all the action’ in Cairo. The visitors usually choose to stay at a hotel located in the midst of the traffic and chaos of Cairo’s downtown, an area which offers a wide array of hotels to suit every budget.
Garden City Hotels
Garden City is a small neighborhood, which lies to the south of downtown Cairo. This neighborhood was built by the British as an administrative center, and it offers stunning views of the River Nile. Garden City is considered to be a posh area of Cairo and is accordingly home to several villas, mansions and embassies. The area also hosts an assortment of hotels that range from luxury hotel properties to the more moderately priced options.
Midan Tahrir, popularly known as Tahrir Square, is the epicenter of modern Cairo. This area hosts a large public square where prominent landmarks of Cairo can also be found, such as the Egyptian Museum, the American University of Cairo, the Arab League, as well as various hotels. Midan Tahrir is well connected by the Cairo Metro to the rest of the city.
Mohandiseen is a neighborhood that lies between Giza and downtown Cairo. The area is connected to the Cario-Alexandria Highway via the vital 26th of July corridor. Mohandiseen is equipped with many mid range hotels, which are popular with visitors who don’t wish to pay the high room rates of downtown Cairo hotels and choose to stay in this area that offers easy access to the city center.
Places to see in Cairo
Cairo, which is known as the ‘City of Minarets’ as it is home to numerous mosques, offers a plethora of sightseeing options catering to all tastes and preferences.
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities is one of the most prominent attractions in Cairo. The museum, which is equipped with 107 halls, displays more than 100,000 artifacts, many of which have been sourced from ancient royal tombs. Star attractions at the museum include the statue of Khafre (Chephren), the Tutankhamen Gallery filled with mind boggling treasures excavated from the tomb of the iconic Boy King, and the Royal Mummy room which showcases the mummies of the most powerful pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
Old Cairo, which is also known as ‘Coptic Cairo’, is the oldest part of the city which was once known as the Roman city of Babylon. In fact, some of the walls of this ancient Roman city are visible in this area until today. Old Cairo is home to Cairo’s Coptic Christian community and hosts five of the original 20 churches that were built here. Also located here is the first mosque that was built in Cairo as well as the oldest synagogue. The area is therefore definitely worth visiting while exploring Cairo.
Coptic Church of St. George
The round Coptic Church of St. George is one of the few remaining round churches in the East. The church building features a relic of St. George and the dragon on the outer brickwork of its tower. The church, which for centuries has featured either Copt or Greek ownership, has ever since the 15th century remained Greek orthodox, though it plays host to the Moulid of Mari Girgis, a major Coptic festival each year in April.
Hanging Church (El Muallaqa)
The Hanging Church of Cairo is so named because of its location atop the southern tower gate of the Old Babylon fortress. This church is the most famous Coptic Church in Cairo which was nicknamed by travelers in the 14th and 15th centuries as ‘the staircase church’ because it features 29 steps that provide access to its entrance.
The Ibn Tulun Mosque
The Ibn Tulun Mosque was built by Ahmad Ibn Tulun, and is the oldest mosque in Egypt dating back to 879 AD. This mosque, also known to be the third largest mosque in the world, is renowned for its stunning architecture featuring a minaret that has a spiral staircase built on the outside of its tower.
Saladin Citadel (Al-Qalaa)
The Saladin Citadel is a large stone fortress that was built by Salah-ad-Din in the 12th century. The fortress is set in a tropical location and provides gorgeous views and is open for viewing by the public. The fortress houses several other attractions, such as the Mosque of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad (13th century), Mosque of Suleyman Pasha al-Khadim, the National Military Museum and the Police Museum.
Ramses II Statue
This 3,200 year old statue weighing 83 tons and standing 11 meter high was discovered during archeological excavations conducted in 1882. The statue stood for years in Ramses Square in central Cairo until environmental damage concerns to the statue led the authorities to move it to its new home near the Pyramids and the Museum of Antiquities.
Souq al Gomma (Camel Bazaar)
Another attraction worth visiting on any trip to Cairo is the Souq al Gomma or the Friday Market, which is essentially a camel bazaar. This camel bazaar is held in the oldest part of the city, very close to the Citadel in the mornings until the noon prayers. Camels are brought from great distances to Cairo for this bazaar, and the spectacle here is definitely worth seeing.
Best time to visit Cairo
The city of Cairo experiences a typical ‘desert climate’ with two main seasons, very hot summers characterized by temperatures of 104F (40C), and cool, mild winters which extend from November to April and have amiable climes of 55F (13C) to 66F (19C). Rainfall is almost negligible in Cairo, though the city often experiences high humidity levels and also experiences ferocious dust storms due the Sirocco hot winds during the months of March and April.
Frequent travelers aver that the best time to visit Cairo is during the winters, and if you are currently looking for cheap air flights to Cairo then you should consider connecting with Fare Buzz on the social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook because you are likely to get unbelievable flight deals for Cairo and various other destinations around the world, which are announced from time to time.
Getting around in Cairo
The Cairo International Airport, which is located 14 miles (22km) from the city of Cairo, connects the city well with several international flights arriving from all parts of the world. While in Cairo, you can also reach the airport by taxis, buses and air-conditioned coaches from the city center.
As for public transport, Cairo has in fact an efficient and reliable public transport system that comprises of the metro, buses and taxis. Cairo is also well supplied with a fleet of taxis which are supposed to be metered, but many Cairo taxi drivers try and avoid using the meter. If you are visiting Cairo for the first time, it becomes quite important for you to always try and negotiate a price with the driver before you set off in a Cairo taxi or else you will end up paying exorbitant amount to the unscrupulous taxi driver. You should also be aware that taxis hired on Cairo’s streets often cost less than those hired at the hotel foyers.
To ride a bus in Cairo, you require a working knowledge of Arabic. Moreover, buses and minibuses in Cairo are usually very crowded and are known to be a fertile ground for pickpockets. The city center of Cairo can be navigated on foot, though streets are not usually marked and maps are not of much use.
Most visitors on a vacation in Cairo avoid renting a car and driving on the busy streets of the city as traffic is often gridlocked and streets are also poorly signposted. Moreover, driving rules are also hardly adhered to in Cairo, and you should only consider renting a car on your Cairo vacation if you are confident of navigating the city’s horrendous traffic conditions. Fare Buzz car rental deals portfolio also encompasses affordable car rentals for Cairo which can be booked via its main booking platforms.
Where to shop in Cairo
Any visit to Cairo must include a shopping spree at the city’s most famous bazaar – Khan el-Khalili. This crowded and bustling bazaar dates back to 1382 and has a wide range of stores where you can shop for gold and silver jewelry, veils, perfumes including imitations of most western fragrances, clothes and camel shoes, which make great souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home. Located within the bazaar is the historic El-Fishawi café, an eatery adorned with numerous mirrors, and is a meeting place for local artists. This café has been open 24/7 for the last 200 years.
Where to eat in Cairo
Cairo, quite surprisingly, has a wide variety of restaurants offering diverse global cuisines in addition to native Egyptian eatables. Additionally, the restaurants in Cairo also cater to all kind of dining budgets. These include super-expensive eateries, such as the Revolving Restaurant, along with more modestly priced eateries like Gad (a chain of restaurants which serves Egyptian fast-food fare). Popular restaurants in Cairo currently include eateries, such as Planet Africa, Lai Thai, Kandahar, Don Quichotte, Cedars, Abou El Cid, Spectra and Maison Thomas.
Nightlife in Cairo
Cairo’s vibrant nightlife scene features a mix of neighborhood hall in the wall dive bars, pubs and dance clubs. Popular haunts include establishments, such as Odeon Palace Bar, L’Aubergine, Morocco, Mojo’s Lounge and Bar, Deals, Pub 28 and Absolute.