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Modern Cairo blazes by at 90-seconds-per-minute. Crowds hustle from dawn, traders haggle in Khan El Khalili and melodic calls to prayer reverberate off Midan Tahrir’s storefronts. Yet many are drawn to the mysteries of an ancient civilisation, whose remnants shadow the city at every turn.
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Alice the camel had five humps. The Saharan Desert has six, in Giza at least. See the Pyramids of Giza in the most traditional way possible – set to the sound of camel groans and gargles. Rent a beast and a guide from the dusty township of Giza; it’s home to trinket salesmen, Giza Zoo’s bountiful beasts and the exciting Pyramid Street Cabaret.Accommodation in Giza
High tea in Heliopolis. Heliopolis is home to Cairo’s well-to-do and is known for its upmarket restaurants. Teacups clink at Le Chantilly café, shoppers swipe their cards at Tivoli Dome and Korba erupts with traditional folk beats at sunset. Affluence, wealth and prestige pervade this ancient and architecturally varied district.Accommodation in Heliopolis
Nobody really knows where Dokki ends and Mohandiseen begins. Nevertheless, both areas are known for cafes where men feverishly debate “the big issues” while smoking shisha. Prodigal daughters take their mothers to pricy Abou el-Sid for authentic Egyptian cuisine, or shop for brand-name handbags in the western-style stores along Lebanon Street.Accommodation in Dokki
There’s more to Maadi than neon lights and slick storefronts. Whether or not you’re into strenuous outdoor activity, this district’s a bastion of outdoor living. Lizards scurry and saw-scaled vipers slither across the Wadi Degla Protected Area’s barren landscape. Rock climbers clamber up cliff faces and walkers trek in this desert valley.Accommodation in Maadi
Take your family to Zamalek for a mid-morning shopping jaunt. Breakfast kicks off on 26th July Street, where the restaurant “Left Bank” fills with convivial chatter. The family bonds strengthen at MarketMix over home décor and Mobaco Cottons, which sells fabrics fit for a queen. The malls and eateries here are known for their international flavour.Accommodation in Zamalek
Gardens of prestige. The streets of this well-to-do suburb are lined with fragrant sycamores and cedars that look as ancient as those Queen Hatshepsut brought to Egypt from the land of Punt, millennia ago. Their subtle smell perfumes the air in Beit El-Sennari Museum, where Napoleonic scholars once ran the rule over a mammoth courtyard.Accommodation in Garden City
Fashionable Amir is always dressed to perfection. In his free time, he cooks and plays football.
If you’d like to see Cairo’s nightlife, head on over to the plaza behind Hussein Mosque. Bustling with locals and tourists alike, people watching has never been more fun. Puff on a shisha pipe while drinking shai tea at a local ahwa (Arabic for coffeehouse) like Fishawi’s Coffeehouse.Accommodation nearby
A fan of Abdel Halim Hafez, Samer loves daydreaming about time travelling to 1960s Cairo.
Colourful costumes and lots of spinning, this traditional Sufi dance is an active form of meditation. Still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order, this spiritual dance performed during worship is simply stunning and mesmerizing!Accommodation nearby
Adventurous Jihan is an aspiring Egyptologist who’s fascinated by all eras of Egyptian history.
Galloping over the sand dunes on an Arabian horse with the pyramids in full view … it doesn’t get better than this! Don’t forget to negotiate a good price before embarking on a horse riding tour across the desert.Accommodation nearby
Tony is a Cairo native who enjoys exploring different cultures through travelling.
When in Cairo, a cruise down the Nile in a Felucca is a must. The small, traditional wooden boats are perfect for unwinding, sightseeing or star gazing. Board one from Garden City, Zamalek or Maadi; rates hover around EGP 60–80/hour. Note: the ones at Tahrir Square tend to be pricier.Accommodation nearby
A Cairo resident of 3 years, Mohamed is always looking for ways to escape the hustle and bustle.
Offering various dining options, the Platform is the perfect river-side food court/hangout. Enjoy breakfast under the soft morning rays or grabbing dinner with friends after a long day of work. Panoramic views of the Nile awaits!Accommodation nearby
Ahmed has photographed many of Cairo’s monuments throughout the 14 years of living in the city.
Named in honour of novelist Abdel Moneim El Sawy, El Sawy Culturewheel is a comprehensive cultural centre where you can learn about social issues while enjoying live music, shows, exhibitions, seminars and a lot more. Check their website for upcoming events.Accommodation nearby
Creative Reem is a master of arts and crafts, especially painting.
Located in the heart of Heliopolis, the beautiful Korba area is more than 100 years old. Founded by a Belgian baron, the unique architecture features a blend of Islamic and Art-Deco styles. Here you’ll find lovely shops, cafes and restaurants. The Basilique Church is a must-see.Accommodation nearby
A Cairo resident for 35 years, Beshoy knows where to find the best of everything – even nightlife.
An open stage, vibrant graffiti work, and stunning views of the Nile: Graffiti Bar and Lounge has it all! This part lounge, part restaurant and part bar offers live music and DJ performances, making it the perfect place to grab an after-work drink or hang out with your friends.Accommodation nearby
Cairo-born Mohamed knows all about the exciting nightlife that this sleepless city offers.
If you love live music and delicious food, then Cairo Jazz Club is your place. Enjoy watching the hottest bands in town perform while noshing on a pizza or juicy cheeseburger. If you’re not busy, pop over for their happy hour (from 19:00–21:00 daily).Accommodation nearby
Born and raised in Cairo, Jenny loves travelling and seeing new destinations through local eyes.
Candles and patchwork cushions, anyone? Located in the heart of the Zamalek area, Home and Beyond is a little shop brimming with fine Egyptian home products. Whether you’re shopping or just browsing, you’re bound to find cool and colourful things that you absolutely love.Accommodation nearby
Born and bred in Cairo, Marie enjoys drawing in her free time.
This cosy ceramic café in Heliopolis is the perfect place to let your creativity run loose. At Il Pennello Ceramic Café, you can paint your favourite ceramic piece while enjoying some cake and hot tea. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a child – just be ready to have fun!Accommodation nearby
Mostafa loves living right in the heart of Cairo.
Tucked away in the centre of Islamic Cairo is this 100-year-old market of light fixtures. In this narrow corridor, you’ll find more than 1,000 shops specializing in lights. Whatever shape or style you seek, you shall find – whether it’s a festive paper lantern or an opulent crystal chandelier.Accommodation nearby
A Cairo resident of 3 years, Hesham loves reading and watching movies.
The 6th of October War Panorama is a memorial to 1973’s October War. Inside the stately cylindrical building are four halls. The entire panorama takes about an hour to view (three 20-minute shows); shows are presented in Arabic, English, German, Italian, French and Japanese.Accommodation nearby
Born and raised in Cairo, Saad knows all the best places to go.
Boasting views of old ancient Roman architecture, this café is nestled right in the heart of Old Cairo. For a typical experience, enjoy puffing on a shisha pipe while treating yourself to some delicious zalabia (fried fritter balls).Accommodation nearby
A true Cairene, Nesma loves the atmosphere and vibes of the Zamalek district the most.
If you’re craving some mouth-watering Cairo street food, visit Mahroos in Garden City. This simple food cart with a few tables and chairs outside offers some of the best fool (baked fava beans) and tameya (Egyptian falafel) in all of Cairo.Accommodation nearby
Booking.com asked travellers...How can you get the most authentic cultural experience in Cairo?
Visit the pyramids in early morning to escape the crowds, don't forget how overpriced everything is for tourists and lower the price. Head to downtown for some hustle and bustle, Khan al Khalili and Old Cairo for souk shopping and street food, Al Azhar park for the most magnificent sunset views over Cairo, Zamalek for some boutique shopping and lunch. City Stars for a shopping mall experience. Neighbourhood Korba in Heliopolis to taste the golden old times-observe the architecture and enjoy a shisha. Later enjoy an evening along the Nile, on a Corniche, head to one of the hotels' bars for a drink (look for rooftops) and go for a night of live music in Cairo Jazz Club.See all 6 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...What is it in Cairo that makes history come alive?
Cairo is an ancient city and although a poor city that still has many governmental issues, it offers a look into a third world country trying to progress in the 21st Century and become something new. The Pyramids, the antiquities, along with its rich cultural heritage has soon the test of time. It is a mix of old and new thriving together.See all 16 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...Describe what other people like you would like about shopping in Cairo.
There are a number of different places to shop in Cairo, all offering a variety of products ranging from souvenirs, designer clothing, shoes, food/spices, antiques, and jewelry. The best places to shop are City Stars Mall and Khan el-Khalili.See all 4 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...Describe the best ancient landmarks to take in when in Cairo.
Pyramids and the Sphinx. Coptic churches. Mosques. Museums.See all 8 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...What did you discover about the museums in Cairo that wasn't in the guidebooks?
Hiring a guide is the best way to maximise your time.See all 4 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...What should you avoid to make the most of the nightlife in Cairo?
Taxi driver Only take a limousineSee all 5 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...What makes the people from Cairo so friendly? Tell us your story.
It is nice place for shoppingSee all 4 answers
Booking.com asked travellers...How can you enjoy the sights in Cairo while avoiding the crowds?
keep walkingSee all 7 answers
Cairo International Airport is approx. a 45-minute taxi ride from downtown Cairo, but set aside more time during rush hours (between 07:00–09:00 and 16:00–20:00). Grab a white or black-and-white taxi from in front of the main terminal; fares cost around EGP 100–120. Always negotiate the price in advance or ask the driver to use the meter. As an alternative, you could book in advance a door-to-door Cairo Airport Shuttle Bus. Fares range from EGP 50–400.
Egyptian Railways provides a quick mode of transport between Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria and Port Said. Tickets can be purchased through travel agencies or at the station’s ticket office. Train stations also have services such as food courts, money exchange and ATMs. Signs are all written in both Arabic and English.
Featuring 3 lines, Africa’s first and most extensive metro system is efficient and cheap. Tickets are available for EGP 1 at each station’s ticket counter - just navigate through the crowd to buy your ticket. Trains run every 5 minutes and operate daily between 05:15–00:30. There are two carriages in the middle reserved for women and children. Look for the distinctive star-shaped metro signs with a big red ‘M’ in the middle. All signs are in Arabic and English.
Several types of buses operate in Cairo between 06:00–00:00, but travelling on one is not recommended – especially during rush hours. If you must take a bus, opt for the safer and air-conditioned CTA buses. When taking the standard bus or the minibus, beware of pickpockets. Tickets cost under EGP 2, and can be purchased aboard. Signs are all in Arabic, and route maps don’t exist. When in doubt, ask the driver for the bus’s destination – or take the metro/taxi.
Outside of peak hours, taxis are readily available in Cairo. Hail one by simply waving your hand. The newer white taxis are often metered and air conditioned. Rates start at EGP 2.50/3.50 and cost EGP 1.40 for each additional kilometre. Older black-and-white taxis are usually not metered, so always negotiate the fare in advance. As taxi drivers often don’t have change, it’s best to have small bills and change handy. Note: a 10% tip is highly appreciated.
Driving in Cairo isn’t an easy feat. Heavy traffic, limited parking and unpredictable drivers can be stressful – even for experienced drivers. If you must drive during your stay, rent a vehicle at the airport and stay alert while on the road. It’s free to park on the streets … if you can find a spot. Note: it’s definitely best to stay off the roads during rush hours (07:00–09:00 and 16:00–20:00).
One of the oldest means of transport in modern Egypt, the river bus was first introduced in the 1960s. The Nile Bus, with 8 different routes and 14 stops, operates between 06:00–17:00 daily. On Fridays, Sundays and national holidays, special morning cruises from Al Tahrir to the Nile Barrages and Giza Zoo are available. Bus tickets cost EGP 0.50 and can be purchased at the river bus stations.
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