Cairo, as with the rest of Egypt is an absolute treasure trove of history and impressive recollections of imperial powers dating back from the times of the Pharaohs. It is not uncommon to see reminders of Cairo’s impressive history throughout the city and its many bazaars and souks are a great place to experience real traditional Arabic shopping and meeting culture. In particular the Khan El Khalily souk area is of particular importance and impressiveness, with vendors selling everything from gold to spices and handicrafts and everything in between. A must see.
Cairo has impressive historical and archaeological collections in the likes of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo which houses some of the country’s most impressive samples of old Egyptian statuary and mummies. This is a great spot for those who are only in Cairo for a short time and won’t have the chance to hit up the more “open air” archaeological sites of Luxor or Aswan further south.
For a real treat, the Cairo Tower features over 600 feet of climbing with commanding views from the top, including a 360 degree view of the city as well as being able to see the pyramids of Giza to the west of the city. A perfect photo opportunity.
The Pharaonic Village, about 20 minutes from central Cairo is worth a visit, although none of the artifacts inside are real. It’s a good summary of ancient Egyptian culture and showcases excellent examples of culture during the times of the Pharaohs including exhibits on some of the ancient Gods and Goddesses.
Finally, the Pyramids at Giza is undoubtedly both Cairo’s and all of Egypt’s most visited tourist attraction and is the only Wonder of the Ancient World still in existence today. It’s worth a visit to see the pyramids as well as the Lion/Human statue of the Sphinx.
There are a number of other reasons to visit Cairo – from their quirky coffee shops to their strange boat tours up and down the Nile to the private boat tours that you can charter, there is something for everyone here and well worth a trip.
As with many desert nations, Cairo sees little rainfall throughout the year, but the most rainfall is throughout the winter. Despite this small relative inconvenience, winter is the best time to visit the city as the daytime temperatures will rarely be much above 20-22 degrees Celsius, making it an ideal time for exploring and getting outside. Summer temperatures can sometimes exceed 40 degrees, making seeking shelter in air conditioned shopping malls more alluring than exploring the city streets, even if just to sit and have a cold drink.
The winter in Cairo can bring with it some unusual sights, such as the occasional dust storms that come in from the desert and cover the city in a thick layer of dust and sand, sometimes up to a metre deep! They are considered remarkable for foreigners to experience and bring a cooling sensation to the city, a welcome reprieve from the usually high temperatures. It’s important to note that while winter temperatures in terms of daily highs are still around 20 degrees, the night time lows can be under 10, so fairly cool by all accounts and requiring blankets. If not in the city centre the temperatures may be even lower, so bring a light jacket or a sweater for these evenings. Many of the hotels and buildings throughout the city will have air conditioning but no heat, so be prepared for potential chills in the evenings in Cairo. The spring is a pleasant time to visit as well from March to May with temperatures getting up in the high 20s to low 30s and makes for a good time for resort seekers wanting to spend time poolside. The autumn can be stifling still, and mixed with heavy city pollution can be smoggy and difficult to breathe, especially with the humidity before the rains.
Without doubt the best tips for visiting Cairo include tips to do with clothing and how to conduct yourself. It’s extremely important to remember that some people here have very staunch views and adherences to religion, even if they are Christian and they are immensely proud of being Egyptian and of Arabic descent, so speaking your mind on certain issues from a Western perspective may be met with any kind of reaction ranging from mild irritation to outright hostility.
Both men and women should dress conservatively in this predominantly Muslim country. This is not just for the respect of the culture and traditions of Cairo, but it also protects you from the relentless Egyptian sun and helps keep you cool.
Egyptian food is delicious and varied and is a good opportunity to try something new. That being said, however, there are a variety of western influenced restaurants, including a TGI Friday’s that serve the standard western fare.
Taxis are plentiful and buses are cheap to get in and out of Cairo centre. The all-white taxis are more comfortable and almost always use the meter compared to their black and white counterparts. Always negotiate a non-metered fare in advance. Cairo has a good metro system which connects a number of regions of the city and is in good shape. It’s one of the most extensive systems in Africa, but the ticket purchasing may seem chaotic. Egyptians don’t queue, so purchase multiple tickets in one shot to avoid having to navigate people around the ticket window on future or subsequent journeys. Uber and similar company, Careem, are both extremely popular and provide an excellent alternative to using public transport or taxis.
Visas are almost always on arrival. Cairo is well serviced by a number of international airlines and offers flights internally to all of its other main hubs such as Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada and Sharm el Sheik.
Cairo is the capital city of Egypt and is an impressive destination for a number of reasons. It’s population is in excess of over 16 million people and is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It’s position on the Nile River has helped it flourish since antiquity.
Cairo was first the ancient settlement of Memphis which is roughly 15 miles south west of modern Cairo. Founded in 2000BC by King Menes, the area enjoyed relative prosperity through much of ancient history. In the first century the Romans built their Babylon fortress in the city, which remains to this day one of the oldest buildings in the city. In the 10th century the city of Cairo was established as the city of Fustat by the Fatimids, which ushered in the building of many important landmarks such as the Al-Azhar mosque. Cairo was at this time in an important position along the East/West spice trade route and so the streets of Khan el-Khalili became a main centre of trade and commerce of the time.
When Saladin took control in the 12th century, Cairo has many more important and beautiful buildings built. When the Mamaluks took control in the 13th century, they brought in more Islamic based education and Cairo gained prominence as a centre for Islamic education and worship. By the time the Ottoman empire had spread throughout much of the world in the 16th century, Cairo was declining in its importance in favour of Constantinople. Around the same time Cairo was experiencing a large wave of the Black Death which decimated its population and by the 19th century when Cairo managed to stave off Napoleonic Rule, the modern state of Egypt was founded by Muhammad Ali Pasha, who implemented a number of socio-economic reforms and development projects.
In 1882 however, the British seized control of Cairo and ruled it until the revolution in1952, despite Egypt declaring independence in 1922. Eventually under the iconic leader Nasser, Cairo became a bustling city centre which resulted in countless people from around the country seeking opportunity within Cairo and its population bulged. It became the largest city in the Islamic world and one of the largest in Africa.