There is no city in the world like Cairo. It has been the largest city in Africa and the Middle East for 750 years and has been attractive to tourists throughout the ages.
For most people Cairo is the first point of call when arriving in Egypt. The city is large, populous and can be daunting to the first time traveller, but once you settle into the rhythm, the city comes to life with something of interest around every corner.
Cairo was a grand city when many of the world’s huge metropolises were but babes, and now has the highest population of any city in Africa and is growing all the time. As a result the traffic is constant and chaotic, and you’ll see people everywhere – working, carrying goods to and from the markets, and sitting drinking tea & coffee, chatting and smoking sheesha pipes on nearly every corner. Many of the main 5-star hotels are located on the banks of the Nile in the middle of the city and there are several modern shopping districts. As a contrast though, the city retains some excitement and mystery with narrow winding streets and bazaars, historic buildings and mosques which are all great to explore. Touring highlights include the pyramids of course, located on higher ground on the outskirts of the city, the famous Egyptian Museum, the Citadel, and some beautiful mosques. Dinner cruises on the Nile and felucca sailing boat trips to see the city from a different angle are a popular option.
Whether you are in Cairo for just one night or over a week, the bustling city has something to offer everyone. Religion plays an important part in the city but does not overwhelm. A visit to one of the beautiful mosques is a great way to get an insight into the history of Cairo since The Middle Ages. Coptic Cairo also has its own area to visit which helps to understand more about the role of the land of Egypt during biblical times.
Giza and the Pyramids & Sphinx
Back in the day of Haeddeker, it was the done thing to climb the pyramids, some local Egyptians even used to run up and down them in what can only be described as a maddening race. These days, tourists have to put up with just viewing the incredible pyramids, although it is possible to spend a few hot and stuffy minutes clambering into one. A trip to the Pyramids and Sphinx is a must do tour while in Cairo and all our tours include a trip to the Pyramids and Sphinx as standard.
If you are travelling on one of our standard tours then you will most likely be staying in Giza, just west of the Nile. If you are on a superior tour then the first part of your tour will be spent at one of the 5-star hotels situated right next to the Pyramids in Giza. If your tour returns to Cairo at the end we always try and book you a room at one of the city centre’s 5-star hotels.
Many believe that the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is one of the finest museums in the world. In it there are over a million individual items as well as some of the finest treasures discovered in the country. The interior feels as if it is part of some dusty old university. You can end up thinking that Indiana Jones is just about to come round the corner.
There is an ambitious project being undertaken in Cairo to open a new museum near to the Pyramids, though this is still a few years away from completion but all the signs point to this being yet another must visit site to add to the list.
A trip to the Pharaonic Village living museum is a great option for kids and there are lots of other smaller museums dotted around the capital that deal with more specific genres.
Away from the Pyramids, Cairo becomes less touristy and the medieval streets seem to hold some surprises around every corner.
All of tours (except our Classic Nile Cruise) spend at least some time in Central Cairo. As well as a trip to the Pyramids, a lot of tours feature a city tour that takes in the Citadel, Mohammed Ali Mosque, Egyptian Museum, Khan-el-Khalili bazaar and Coptic Cairo.
A visit to the Citadel is a fantastic way to get your bearings in Cairo and to see some stunning views of the capital. From high up above the old city of the dead you can see the teeming metropolis far and wide. A visit to the citadel would not be complete without a trip inside the Mohammed Ali mosque.
Cairo is truly on the world stage when it comes to culinary skills. The wide range of options available means you need never go hungry. Whether, it’s a quick kebab in Khan-el-Khalili market or a five course meal at one of Mena House’s fabulous restaurants, the food in Cairo is second to none. Wining and dining on the river Nile is also a great way to experience Cairo, whether this is one of the permanently moored boats, on a dinner cruise or in one of the many hotel restaurants facing the Nile.
Cairo is an incredibly large city, and often difficult to navigate. If you are only in Cairo for a few days then by far the easiest way to get around is by taxi. Not all taxi drivers can understand English and few can read it so, if possible, it is always best to ask your hotel to write the address of where you want to go in Arabic. You are only likely to see street names written in English or French in Central Cairo and Zamalek (home to the Cairo Marriott).
Cairo’s Metro service is relatively easy to use. It is clean and efficient with a ban on smoking and littering. Trains run from 5.30 am until midnight and the front train of every carriage is reserved for women only. If looking for a station, keep an eye out for large ‘M’ signs. Route maps appear in Arabic and English and tickets cost 1LE flat fare.
Moving on from Cairo
Most people will fly into Cairo at the start of their trip, but if you are moving on in Egypt before going home there are various transit options. You can leave either on plane, train, bus, or private car. If you are looking to do a cruise then you will more than likely take the overnight train down to Luxor or Aswan to begin your cruise from there.