There are few destinations on earth that can claim to have hosted the likes of both Plato and Beyoncé, but when a city is as timeless as Cairo, anything is possible.
Cairo has graced the banks of the river Nile for millennia and time has produced a place unlike any other, a bustling metropolis of almost 20 million people where the ancient and the modern collide. Travellers seeking a trip they will never forget would do well to consider Cairo: its crowded, winding streets hold an endless number of things to see, do, and taste.
As the second-largest city in Africa and one of the most important centres of the Arab world, Cairo has more to offer than just the pyramids of Giza. Cairo may be overwhelming at first for visitors – the near-constant cacophony of traffic and calls to prayer is a good reminder that the city may be old, but it hasn’t stopped evolving quite yet.
Once visitors fly into Cairo International Airport and make their way into the city proper, the ever-changing nature of the place becomes evident. Travellers looking to experience the city’s vast history don’t have to search very hard: much of Cairo’s architecture dates back as far as the 10th century, and the city’s past is never far from one’s mind as you make your way through Cairo’s streets.
Discover the city of the pharaos and book a flight to Cairo now.
What is a good time to visit?
The best time of year to visit is generally between late October and late February, as temperatures will be more comfortable and air pollution more manageable in the cooler weather. Also note that during the month of Ramadan, Muslim Cairenes will be fasting between dawn and dusk. This means that many cafes and restaurants will close during daytime, and some services or tours may be suspended for the month. That said, some travellers feel that the joyous atmosphere that emerges at sundown is worth the inconvenience.
How do I get around?
There are many options for travel within Cairo. Its metro is reliably clean and efficient, providing affordable access to much of the city. City buses also offer a cheap option for travel within the city, although some travellers may find them crowded and intimidating. For longer journeys aboveground, taxis or collective service taxis known as servees offer a more comfortable option (do prepare for haggling over the fare) and for shorter journeys, travellers may find that walking offers the best experience of all.
What currency should I bring?
The Egyptian currency is known as the Egyptian pound, and it is the preferred means of payment, as many vendors will not accept foreign currency. Most larger restaurants and hotels will happily take major credit cards, but be sure to carry some banknotes for tips and emergencies. Note that larger bills may not be accepted by smaller merchants due to a shortage of change, and also that particularly ragged or dog-eared bills may not be accepted at all.
Attractions in Cairo
A visit to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, only steps from Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, will also help to put the magnitude of the country’s history in perspective. And for those seeking a more contemporary Egyptian experience, don’t fret – Cairo is also home to many excellent art galleries, restaurants and music venues.
Whether you’re in the mood to marvel at the grace of baladi dancers, peruse the latest Egyptian art or just nosh on some koshari and watch the world go by, Cairo has you covered – so let an airline take you to Cairo today.
Though Cairo has many things to see, some attractions simply cannot be missed. The pyramids of Giza, for example, are the only of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that remain standing, and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities houses the largest collection of Pharaonic artefacts anywhere on earth. Here are some of the most incredible sights that Cairo has to offer:
- The Pyramids of Giza
- The Museum of Egyptian Artefacts
- Islamic Cairo
- The Hanging Church
The Pyramids of Giza
Without a doubt, the great pyramids are among the most iconic attractions on earth. Visiting later in the day rather than first thing in the morning, when many tour groups make their stops, may help you avoid the crowds.
The Museum of Egyptian Artefacts
With 120,000 items from ancient Egypt in its collection, the museum (commonly referred to as the Egyptian Museum) is one of a kind. Even casual travellers may find themselves spending hours marvelling at the museum’s many displays.
Discover Cairo's rich religious history
Islamic Cairo: designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area known as Islamic Cairo (and sometimes referred to as Historic Cairo) was founded as far back as the 10th century and is no less breath-taking several centuries later. Incredible architecture, including the world’s oldest surviving mosque, awaits travellers here.
The Hanging Church: with its name derived from its position suspended above two Roman gate towers, this Coptic church is one of the oldest in Egypt. Though the centuries have reduced its distance from the ground slightly, its architecture and ornate decoration make it well worth a visit.
See more information of the city of the pharaos in our Cairo guide.
What to eat in Cairo
Delicious, fragrant and rife with legumes and vegetables – one benefit of visiting Cairo is being able to take advantage of Egypt’s delicious cuisine. With several thousand years of tradition and a lot of input from Africa as well as Europe, the foodies can have a great time in Cairo.
Eat like an Egyptian
The most typical dish of Cairo is koshary, a dish made of rice, macaroni, and lentils which are topped with chickpeas, onion and a tomato-vinegar sauce. There are many places serving nothing else but koshary, the most famous is Abou Tarek. The typical breakfast is ful, fava beans cooked with spices and various ingredients and put into pita bread. The seriously hungry will want to try fattah, a rice dish made with fried pieces of bread, lamb or beef and a garlic and tomato sauce. More exotic is hamam, a grilled pigeon, and fseekh, a fermented mullet fish.
Shopping in Cairo
Shopping in Cairo, to a large extent, means becoming familiar with its many bazaars. Start out in the famed Khan-al-Khalili, in the heart of Islamic Cairo, with its goldsmiths, jewellers and souvenir shops. At Souk-al-Sagha, the Goldsmiths’ Bazaar, you can have a pendant made with your name in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Oum El Dounia store is a centrally located favourite for handicrafts and all manner of high-quality souvenirs. For English-language guidebooks, Egyptian literature and more, the American University in Cairo Bookshop has you covered.