Crossed by the longest river in the world and defined by a fascinating history, loved by some and maybe hated by others, Cairo is a city like no other. The capital of Egipt will redefine the term “chaotic” for you. Because the over 20 million souls that live here are extremely loud and active. The crowd is so dense that you will need at least 4 days to get to know the city. That is because of the infernal traffic, especially during peak hours, which will make it difficult to move from one place to another. Of course, you can opt for the subway, but I personally avoided it, knowing about the major accident that had happened there just a few days before my arrival.
Although the main reason why tourists want to come here is represented by the antic pyramids, Cairo has a lot more to offer, and it can turn out a pleasant surprise. Only if you leave the prejudices at home, and you also manage to ease the cultural shock. For example, the city is home to the second oldest university in the world, after the one in Fes, Morocco. Interesting, right?
I spent almost 5 days in Cairo, during which boredom did not take place in the program. Here is what I’ve been able to visit, and what I recommend to you:
Best 8 things to do in Cairo, Egypt
Visit the Egyptian Museum
I wanted to start with the Egyptian Museum because you really should visit it when you are in the capital of Egipt. It’s an old building of over 100 years old that contains the largest collection of artifacts from the Pharaonic era. Basically, everything inside this building is around 5000 years old. The location is somewhere downtown, in Tahrir Square and it’s not so crowded as you would expect.
The museum consists of the ground floor and first floor. On the ground floor, you can see statues, coins, papyrus and other objects of this kind, while on the first floor you will discover more surprising elements. One of the most attractive rooms is the one dedicated to the famous king Tutankhamun, who died at the age of 19. Although his body is not inside the museum, the riches discovered inside its tomb are exposed and will impress you. From the 11 kg pure golden mask to the smallest hair clip. Also, I definitely recommend you to pay the separate ticket and access the Royal Mummies rooms. You will be stunned by how well the mummies are preserved and you will be super curious to know as much as possible about them. In this case, maybe you will think about paying for a guide as well.
I must warn you from now. The visit to the museum can last from a few hours up to a whole day, given the impressive collection of over 120 000 pieces, each of which has an old and interesting story to tell.
💰 Price: 160 EGP (≅ $ 10). Foto: 40 EGP (≅ $3 ). Royal Mummies: 100 EGP (≅ $6 )
Ride on the Nile
Either you choose a felucca or a bigger, more modern boat with an engine, a ride on the Nile is a must when visiting Egypt. They have been used since the Pharaonic era and wandered the Nile for millennia. So don’t miss the opportunity to balance on the same waves as Cleopatra did, thousands of years ago. If this is not a good reason for you, then maybe the thought that you are on the longest river in the world will make you change your mind. The Nile crosses 11 African countries and stretches on a distance of over 6000 kilometers. I recommend you choose the sunset as the best time of the day. The sun will decorate the sky with beautiful pastel colors, and your ears will enjoy some very nice Arabic music.
💰 Price for hours for 2 people: 600 EGP (≅ $35)
Try the Egyptian cuisine
Aside from the rich antic history, Cairo has no shortage of delicious gastronomy. Don’t leave the Middle Eastern hectic city without trying foul, falafel, koshary, Egyptian shawarma, and especially the tasty Egyptian pancakes. I can still remember their taste while writing this article. Given that I’m not sure you are reading this on an empty stomach, I won’t post any photo of them. However, I will post 2 photos from one of the best restaurants that I’ve tried in Cairo, Beit Ward. Bonus: it’s super Instagrammable, and the staff is super kind and polite.
📔 A very famous dish in Cairo is the stuffed pigeon. I wanted to warn you because I was a little bit shocked to see it on the menu for the first time.
Admire the panorama of the city from the Citadel
For the privilege of admiring the city from above, we must thank sultan Saladin. The one who had the brilliant idea of rising a fortification on top of Mokattam hill, right in the center of the city. Hundreds of years later, other sultans and governors had contributed to the look of the Citadel, by adding mosques and palaces. The view looks like this:
Visit the most beautiful mosque in Cairo, Muhammad Ali Mosque
If once you arrived here. you instantly remember Istanbul, then you must know that it’s not a random feeling. The mosque is very similar to the one in the Turkish city, also known as the Blue Mosque. The official name is Muhammad Ali and had been built as a tribute to one of the sons of Muhammad Ali, Pasha. It’s a very big and beautiful mosque, super visible thanks to the location.
💰 Price: 50 EGP (≅ $4). To enter, you must first remove your shoes.
Get lost in Khan el-Khalili bazaar
The construction previously started with the purpose of serving as a mausoleum for the Fatimid royal family but turned into a bazaar many years later. Here, you can find basically everything that goes through your mind from decorations to clothing, souvenirs, spices, perfumes, oils, gold, silver, semi-precious stones, handmade objects, fabrics, food, narghile, and the list can go on forever. I don’t necessarily recommend to come here for shopping but rather for the experience itself and to admire the architecture that it’s still well preserved in some places.
📔 In Khan el-Khalili bazaar it’s all very chaotic, and the vendors can get pretty annoying while trying to sell you stuff. Also, I advise you to be extremely careful with your belongings. If you wish to buy something, don’t hesitate to negotiate the final price.
Go see the pyramids
Undoubtedly, the main purpose of your trip to Cairo is visiting the three pyramids, undeniable proofs of the hypnotic past of Egypt. After all, who doesn’t want to see them at least once in a lifetime? I have been warned repeatedly that I will be disappointed by their appearance. So I’m glad I didn’t have big expectations before coming here. Because I had a huge surprise to discover the enormity of these constructions of over 5000 years by still unclear procedures. I was amazed by their greatness and by the stories that hide behind the eroded huge stones. There are many legends concerning the pyramids, but one thing is certain. The Great Pyramid is the only of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that we still get to see nowadays. Therefore, Giza Plateau must be on everyone’s bucket list!
The tallest and the oldest among them, Khufu (Cheops in Greek) was initially measuring 147 meters, but because of the meteorological phenomena of the past millennia, it was shortened by 8 meters. For a few millennia, no other construction on the entire planet has managed to overcome it in terms of height. Approximately 2 million blocks of stone were used to build it. Which is WOW!
Another symbol of Egypt very much worth mentioning is the Sphinx, situated right in front of the Great Pyramid. The construction portrays a mythological creature with the body of a lion and head of a woman. There are many uncertainties that surround the Sphinx. Some of them refer to the date of construction, others to the face that it represents. The only sure thing is that the Sphinx is the largest construction in the world built from only one piece of limestone.
💰 Price: 100 EGP (≅ $7).
Shopping at Cairo Festival City
If you wish to be away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, then a visit to Cairo Festival City is exactly what you need. Not necessarily because here you will find peace, but because it’s much cleaner. And you will also discover a modern Cairo, with beautiful fountains, shows, lots of restaurants and plenty of cafes. Take into consideration that it is located 30 km away from the city center. Therefore, it will take you a while to get here, given the traffic.
Hotels in Cairo
For the best experience, I recommend you choose accommodation with a view of the Pyramids or of the Nile. Find all accommodations here.
Transport in Cairo
For the whole period of our stay in Cairo, we hired a driver. His name is Mohammed, a very good man, extremely kind and very good driver and connoisseur of the city. If you want to use his services, this is his number, and you can communicate on Whatsapp +20 106 5103746