According to zipcodesexplorer.com, Cairo (Arabic al-Qāhira – “victorious”) is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa. The Egyptians themselves often call it Masr. This is a noisy, eclectic and sometimes very dirty metropolis, which has gained fame as the Arab Rome – for a huge number of ancient monuments and the same number of tourists.
How to get there
Cairo International Airport is located 20 km northeast of the city. Terminal 1 handles EgyptAir’s international and domestic flights, Terminal 2 handles all international flights, including Saudi Arabian Airlines. There is an ATM and an exchange office in the arrivals hall. Air-conditioned bus number 356 runs every 20 minutes from 7:00 am to midnight between the two terminals and Midan Abdel Moniem Riad, a street behind the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo. Black and white taxis to the center of Cairo will cost about 45-55 EGP.
A typical colonial Ramses station (Mahatta Ramses; Downtown) is the main station of Cairo. There is a left-luggage office and a tourist information office (9:00-19:10).
One of the most scenic routes departing from here is the train to Luxor, which reveals scenic views of the life of the Nile along the way.
The overnight train Abela Egypt Sleeping Train leaves at 20:00 and arrives in Luxor at 5:05 the next morning, in Aswan at 8:15. Tickets can be purchased with USD or EUR (cash only). The price includes breakfast and lunch.
In addition to the night train, tourists can use train number 980 to reach these cities. It leaves at 7:00; train number 996 – at 22:00; and train number 1902 – at 12:30. The train to Luxor (10 hours) and Aswan (13 hours) will cost 109 EGP and 135 EGP respectively. It is better to buy a ticket a couple of days before the trip.
The main bus station serves all routes to any part of the city, located on Midan Abdel Moniem Riad. On the corner, opposite the Radio & TV Building, you can find the Maspero River Station. Boats leave from here every 15 minutes between 7:00 and 22:00 to Doqqi, Manial, Giza and Misr al-Qadima (Old Cairo). The journey will take 50 minutes.
The metro is a very convenient mode of transport, and the stations are amazingly clean. A short ticket (up to 9 stations) costs no more than 5 EGP. The first carriage is for women. The prices on the page are for August 2021.
Cafes and clubs
There is a wide range of drinking establishments in Cairo: from cozy traditional ones to ultra-modern plastic and glass ones. Almost every street has traditional ´ahwa coffee shops, a gathering place for Cairo men for many hundreds of years. In addition, you can always find all kinds of fruit shops, pastry shops and bakeries, modern European-style cafes. In addition to traditional Turkish coffee and shai tea, you should try drinks such as hibiscus tea kerkedeeh served cold or hot depending on the season, sahleb – a milky drink usually served in winter, fakhfakhenna (a type of fruit salad), sugarcane juice, mango and tamarind juice (Tamr hindi).
Sheesha, or hookah, is the main attraction of all Cairo coffee houses. Two types of tobacco are commonly offered: mu´assal, pure tobacco, and tofâh, apple-flavored (there are other flavors). The coffee house is easy to recognize by its simple design. These are, as a rule, simple plastic chairs and tables that stand on the street. Foreigners in coffee houses are treated kindly, however, women may feel uncomfortable when visiting such establishments in the outlying, poor areas of the city.
Turkish coffee (´ahwe turki) is served sweet (helwa), medium sweet (masbout), slightly sweet (sukr khafeef) or without sugar (sâda). Sweet means very sweet. Tea (shai) is traditionally served empty (kûshari, not to be confused with the Cairo pasta and rice dish kushari), that is, without everything. But many cafes offer to add fresh mint.
In the hot Cairo summer, it is worth drinking fruit juices (sometimes fruit salads and soft drinks) from special tents. Here they sell freshly squeezed juices from seasonal fruits. Usually they offer orange (bortoqâl), lemon (limon), mango (manga) and strawberry (farawla), guava (gawafa), pomegranate (Rummān). Price and quality again depend on the season. Similar places are scattered throughout the city, especially in tourist areas.
Modern cafes and pastry shops are found throughout the city. They can taste light snacks and sandwiches, coffee, sweets. There are chain cafes such as Cilantro, Beanos, Cinnabon, Orangette, The Bakery and Coffee Roastery. Most of these places offer a standard menu, good Wi-Fi. There are also international chains Costa Coffee and Starbucks in Cairo.
For a Muslim capital, Cairo is reasonably tolerant of alcohol. There is a wide choice of clubs and bars that are open at good hotels and work around the clock 7 days a week. High-quality 24-hour establishments can be found in the Zamalek area.
The Khan Al-Khalili (or simply “Khan”) market in Cairo is considered one of the best in the world. This is one of the oldest bazaars, which opened in Cairo back in 1382. Since then, the number of shops, buyers, curious tourists and, of course, goods has significantly increased here. But, perhaps, the most successful assortment at Khan al-Khalili is represented by glassware, copper, perfumery and jewelry, which are handmade by local artisans.
A cynical traveler will say that Khan al-Khalili is a real tourist trap, and in some ways he will even be right. Huge tourist buses bring here every day crowds of naive, constantly shaking their heads suckers who do not know how to bargain and do not watch their bags and cameras vigilantly. But in vain.
Entertainment and attractions in Cairo
Islamic Cairo is one big market, cheekily spread over almost the entire medieval city. The most “tourist” quarter is the Khan al-Khalili bazaar near the Al-Azhar mosque: shoe shiners, cats and fake gold. The most popular mosque is Sultan Hassan.
The Cairo TV Tower (Burj Al Qahira), with a restaurant on the top floor, is Cairo’s funniest attraction. All the waiters here wear pharaoh costumes.
Other attractions: the mosques of Amr, Ibn Tulun, al-Azhar, al-Hakim, al-Guyushi, al-Akmar, as-Salih at-Talai, Sultan Baibars, al-Mu’ayyad, Kait Bey, Sinan Pasha, Muhammad Ali. Also: the mausoleum of ash-Shafi’i, the mosque, the mausoleum and madrasah of Sultan Qalaun, the mosque, the mausoleum and madrasah of Sultan Hasan, the houses of: al-Guriyya, Zainab-Khatun, Gamal al-Din al-Dhahabi and Emir Ridvan Bey.
Pyramids of Giza
Giza (al-Gīza) is an area on the western outskirts of the capital of Egypt, known for the largest concentration of tourists per square meter. It is here that one of the main attractions of Egypt, if not the whole world, is located – the ancient pyramids and the icy calmness of the Sphinx.
5 things to do in Cairo
- Try not to get under the wheels and hooves, maneuvering in the stream of vehicles on the streets of Cairo.
- Try non-alcoholic and very tasty drinks: hibiscus, sakhleb and tamarind juice in one of the traditional coffee houses.
- Buy the “necessary” item for your home, for your family at the colorful Khan el-Khalili market.
- Look into the eyes of our distant ancestors in the Hall of Mummies of the Pharaohs of the Egyptian Museum.
- Go on a date with eternity in the Giza Valley.
On the outskirts of Cairo, there is an unusual quarter known as the “City of Scavengers”. It is inhabited by Egyptian Christians – Copts, who collect garbage from all over the city and sort it for recycling. Waste is everywhere: among houses, on rooftops and in yards. This is a family business that brings its participants quite decent income by local standards. At the highest point of the quarter, a modern temple and religious complex was built. The cathedral, which is located in a cave in the thickness of the rock, can accommodate up to 20 thousand parishioners.
The quarter itself, oddly enough, is divided into the ancient Northern and Southern cemeteries of the city. Among the luxurious Sultan’s mausoleums, these Coptic families look more than exotic.
Museums in Cairo
Cairo Egyptian Museum (tel.: +20 (0)2 578 24 48, Midan El Tahrir, opening hours: Monday-Sunday – 9:00-18:45, website) and Tahrir Square – the very center of semi-European Cairo (mansions 19-20 centuries). The museum itself (opening hours: Monday-Sunday – from 9:00 to 16:30) is better to inspect in several visits, otherwise everything will mix up in your head from the abundance of attractions. You should definitely go to the hall of the mummies of the pharaohs (separate ticket).
- Coptic Museum (tel: +20 (0)2 363 97 42, website)
- Museum of Islamic Art
- Modern Art Museum
- Military Museum
- Ethnographic Museum (tel.: +20 2 794 5450, 109 Kasr el-Aini Street, Geographical Society Building, Monday-Thursday 9:00-13:00)
- Al-Gezira Museum
- Postal Museum
- Railway Museum