Cairo Travel Guide

Explore Cairo

Cairo: a name symbolic of ancient Egyptian kingdoms, historical wealth and Arabic heritage. And it truly lives up to its name with thousands year-old pyramids, resplendent mosques and museums that tell of its glorious past.

But modern Cairo can also be overwhelming over 22 million people live here, amidst crazy traffic and pushy touts, creating a chaotic urban sprawl that will intimidate even the most seasoned traveler.

But remember to breathe in deep, take it slowly, and let the city’s layers of history sink in. Believe me, Cairo will grow on you.


Top Things to Do

Egyptian Museum

This is usually the first stop for every visitor to Cairo: Home to the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, this museum has over 120,000 items on display and is one of the largest museums in the Middle East. If you want to learn more about ancient Egyptian history, this is the place to go to gain some knowledge and insights to empires of yesteryears.

Giza Pyramid Complex

The only one of the Seven Wonders of the World that still exists today, the Giza Pyramids are easily the most historically rich attraction in the world. Constructed around 2560-2540 BC, these majestic pyramids complexes have been around for thousands of years and withstood the test of time. Located at 13km outside Cairo’s city centre, the complex includes the three Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers’ village and an industrial complex.

Mosque of Muhammed Ali

Imposing and grand in architecture, this iconic mosque is famed for its stunning Ottoman design that dates back to 1830-1848. Situated on the summit of the Citadel of Cairo, the mosque features a central dome surrounded by four small semicircular domes as well as twin minarets that can be seen from almost anywhere in Cairo.

Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan

One of the largest mosques in the world, this place of worship measures 150m in length and covers an area of 7,906 sq meters. First built between 1356 and 1363 by Sultan Hassan, the mosque is regarded as the finest piece of early-Mamluk architecture in Cairo. The extravagant architecture boasts of four swans (vaulted halls) surrounding a central courtyard.

Khan el-Khalili

Cairo’s biggest souk is a dizzying jumble of souvenir stalls, antique shops, goldsmiths, and traditional workshops. In addition to shops, there are several restaurants, street food stalls and small, traditional coffeeshops that serve Arabic coffee and shisha. One of the oldest and most famous coffeehouses in Cairo, Fishawi’s, is found here.

Where to Eat and Drink

Rich with history and flavours, Egyptian food has strangely been under-looked by culinary experts around the world. With more modern Egyptian restaurants and cooks appearing in the gastronomy world, Egyptian fare deserves to be in the limelight now more than ever. Those seeking halal cuisine will have no problem feeding themselves here in this Muslim country.


RECOMMENDED PLACES TO EAT

Osmanly

Embark on a culinary journey to the Ottoman empire at this fine dining restaurant located in Kempinski Nile Hotel. The hand-crafted menu that specialises in ancient Turkish royal cuisine will make you feel like a Sultan. Perfectly grilled beef and lamb dishes are accompanied by wines from different regions of Turkey as well as savoury snacks such as sarma and dolma.

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Fasahet Somaya

Tucked amidst the narrow alleys of downtown Cairo, Fasahet Somaya is a name often whispered amongst local foodies who prefer to keep this place a secret. The small and cozy eatery serves up traditional home cooked Egyptian fare you won’t find in tourist-packed restaurants. The menu varies every day so you won’t get the same thing twice.

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Zooba

A funky and fresh-faced chain, Zooba is revolutionising Egyptian street food and making it cool again. Its branches have a casual look, decorated with recycled and multi-coloured furniture and industrial lightbulbs. On the menu you’ll find typical Egyptian staples like koshari, tahini and basterma.

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Just Falafel

With several branches in Cairo, this hip fast food chain offers cheap and healthy halal as well as vegetarian options. Besides their signature falafel, their menu also includes Japanese and Mexican sandwiches, quinoa salads and nutella desserts.

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Recommended Places to Stay

Four Seasons Nile Plaza

Occupying 30 storeys of the prestigious Nile Plaza, this five-star hotel offers the best panoramic view of the Nile River. Their 365 luxury hotel guest rooms and 100 suites offer not just vistas but also regal interiors that are fit for Egyptian kings.

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Pyramisa Suites

As part of a trusted hotel chain, the Pyramisa Suites is well positioned in the heart of Cairo, overlooking the Nile and within a few minutes walk from the Opera house.

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Nile Ritz-Carlton

One of the best hotels in Cairo, the Ritz-Carlton stands in the heart
of downtown Cairo, between the iconic Nile River and Tahrir Square. A landmark on its own right, the luxury hotel has a storied past, that includes hosting celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor

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Havana Hotel

This simple three-star hotel is run by an Egyptian-English family and prides itself as a home away from home. Offering great value for money, the budget hotel is centrally located and within walking distance from most museums.

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Best Time to Go

Because of its proximity to the desert, Cairo experiences hot, dry and sunny weather all year round. The peak tourist season is in winter (from December to February) when the average daily temperature is at a comfortable 15°C; days are warm and sunny, while nights are cool and breezy.

However, expect to be swamped by tourists and charged high hotel and tour rates. You’ll find the best deals in summer, but battling the extreme heat (with temperatures around 30 to 35°C) is not worth the savings.

The best time to visit Cairo is in spring (March to April) and autumn (October to November) when temperatures are perfect, at around 20 to 23°C, and there aren’t too many tourists. Notice that these shoulder seasons are short, so make the full use of this limited time to come visit Cairo at its best.


Getting There

Many airlines fly from Saudi Arabia to Cairo, including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Saudia ,Egypt air and Gulf Airways. Direct flights are available for many cities. Riyadh offers the most flights, with a minimum journey time of 3 hours. Jeddah also offers many direct flights, with a minimum journey time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Getting from Airport to City
  • By Bus

    Several public bus routes serve the Cairo International Airport with Midan Tahir or Midan Ramses in the city centre. Buses run every 30 minutes and can take between 60 to 90 minutes depending on traffic. A single fare costs 2 EGP.

  • By Private Shuttle

    The Cairo Shuttle Bus provides 24/7 door-to-door transfer in comfortable vans or cars. This can be a good deal if you’re traveling in a group. Prices are fixed and a journey to the city centre costs around 100 to 150 EGP depending on the car category.

  • By taxi

    White meter taxis are readily available at all the terminals. Traffic in Cairo can be chaotic, so be prepared for the journey to take between 45 to 60 minutes. A single journey costs around 50 to 60 EGP. Insist on using the meter.



Extra tips
  • In Cairo and the rest of Egypt, Arabic is the official language. English is the most common foreign language.

  • The currency in Cairo is the Egyptian Pound (EGP). The current exchange rate is 1 SAR to 2.37 EGP.

  • Egypt uses 220 voltage.

  • The two-pin European plug is commonly used in Egypt.