There are many things Cairo is famous for. This charming city brings together many cultures in one place, and so moving through it is like visiting several different countries at the same time. You will be enchanted by the concoction of ancient palaces and humble huts, modern villas and dusty markets, gigantic shopping malls and barefoot street vendors all in the same intriguing city. While the Giza Pyramids are not to be missed, we also wanted to give credit to the less exposed parts of Cairo, where you can engage in activities that are a little more low-profile. We put together 10 unique experiences to do and see in Cairo, in no particular order:
This unique place in Zamalek is a large venue with a stage area right on the Nile corniche. El-Sawy Culture Wheel was established in 2003, to encourage local and international art, by providing the necessary venue, stage and equipment to host all kinds of performances and exhibits by both established and new artists. There’s a list of events on their website: www.culturewheel.com where you will find all upcoming events. El-Sawy Culture Wheel brings together people of all ages and all social classes in one place to bond together through their love for art. You will be charmed by the general atmosphere and Nile View, and you will find yourself engaging and developing different ideas about modern Egyptian culture.
This museum is by no means a hidden gem. It’s Egypt’s oldest and largest museum, and currently holds around 120,000 Ancient Egyptian items; however, not all of them are displayed. The most interesting part of the museum is the mummy room, which displays the mummified remains of some Ancient Egyptian royal families. Upon entering, you will be undoubtedly amazed at the several millennia-old corpses, and the hushed respect they command from visitors. Make sure to schedule your visit on a weekday if possible, where it is less crowded. Keep in consideration that the Egyptian Museum security policy forbids photography.
Khan al-Khalili, one of the oldest markets in Cairo, is one of the biggest as well. Designate an entire day for this unique experience, as you are sure to get lost amid the endless displays of souvenirs, spices, handmade silver and oriental clothing. It’s a good idea to have a local guide with you, in order to help you get a fair price and find your way around.
Cairo is named ‘the city of a thousand minarets.’ While Cairo definitely has more than a thousand mosques, many of which are important historical landmarks, al-Azhar mosque stands out as one of the oldest and most important landmarks of Islamic history. Al-Azhar is considered the center of Islamic Studies in Egypt, and its Sheikh holds the highest religious authority for Muslims in Egypt.
This magnificent medieval building mesmerizes visitors with its typical fortress-type architecture that seems to have withstood the changes of many civilizations throughout the centuries. Salah el-Din’s citadel holds several museums and historical mosques; however, the real experience is going to the top to take in the enthralling view of Old Cairo.
Having dinner at the revolving restaurant is a truly unique experience. While the food is a bit on the pricey side, expect impeccable quality and service in this 5-star gem. While eating, you will be taken away by the panoramic view that will definitely make for a different dining experience. This restaurant requires reservations and has a dress code.
While in Cairo, you definitely need to try the Egyptian national dish: koshari. If you’re only planning to have koshari once, then going to Abou Tarek will give you the full experience. It is located in Cairo’s charming downtown area, an experience in itself with its elaborate buildings and antique atmosphere. Abou Tarek’s restaurant is far from fancy, however, it’s huge. Several floors high, with fast service and crowds of hurried diners, you will find yourself mixing with locals, expats and if you’re lucky, a celebrity or two!
This vast park has magnificent views of the citadel and Mohammad Ali mosque, along with a large portion of the scenic Old Cairo. It’s rarely crowded and is perfect for a sunset stroll among its majestic Islamic themed passageways. The combination of greenery, beautiful architecture and scenic views is enough to take your breath away.
Taking a Felucca ride along the Nile river is one of the most soothing experiences you can have in the middle of Cairo’s busy streets. You can take a felucca with a limited number of people for a quick trip south to enjoy the wind and have a glimpse of Cairo’s fascinating corniche buildings. The best time for a Felucca ride is during sunset when the weather is cooler.
As the tallest structure in the capital, you cannot really miss it. You will probably pass by it a few times as you wander the streets of Cairo, however, taking in the view from the top is something else. There’s an elevator available to take you the 187 meters to the highest floor, so you can really experience the city from a different perspective.