Visiting Cairo– A City Guide
Stretching along the banks of the winding Nile, Cairo is an energetic city that seamlessly blends the old and new. Gleaming skyscrapers and shopping malls tower over serene mosques and bustling bazaars, while distant views of the Giza pyramids are a constant reminder of Cairo’s ancient heritage.
Cairo: city layout and top attractions
Sitting on the eastern banks of the Nile, Cairo is Africa’s largest city. In its centre, the Midan El Tahrir district, known as the Paris of the Nile, has 19th-century architecture, modern hotels and the high-energy Tahrir Square. Nearby Islamic Cairo boasts medieval buildings and historic mosques.
The Egyptian Museum in Downtown Cairo is a must-see with 100,000 ancient artefacts, including Tutankhamun’s mask, telling stories of bygone times. Across the river, only 18 kilometres away, the ancient Giza pyramids honour the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. For panoramic views of Cairo and the pyramids, Cairo Tower’s observation deck is worth a visit.
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Eating Out in Cairo
Some of the best culinary delights are served in hotel restaurants in Cairo, but there are numerous fine dining venues and street food vendors, serving Middle Eastern and international dishes. Stuffed pigeon is a popular Egyptian dish, and local sweet treat Om Ali is not to be missed.
In Old Cairo, you can sit in charming cafés sipping mint tea, and the district of Zamalek has many upscale restaurants and international cuisine. You can soak up colourful sights, flavours and aromas at food markets like Bab al-Luq and Tawfiqiyya Souq, or sample fresh falafel and fried liver from street vendors on any corner.
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Shopping in Cairo
Cairo was a main link on the east-west spice route in the 15th Century, and the Nile played an important role in transporting produce. Numerous souks (markets) were established selling local spices and gold, and many still operate today. You can haggle over jewellery and handicrafts at colourful bazaars, or shop for familiar brands at air-conditioned upscale malls and designer boutiques.
No visit to Cairo is complete without browsing hundreds of stalls at the medieval Khan al-Khalili in Islamic Cairo. Charming vendors call you to stalls piled high with clothing, shoes and gold treasures, as you navigate your way through crowded alleys and courtyards. In Downtown Cairo, Shar'a Hoda Sharaawi is lined with antique shops, while Citystars and Cairo Festival City Mall have hundreds of high street stores, restaurants and cinemas.
Speciality shops in Cairo
Culture & Nightlife in Cairo
Cairo’s cultural history blends Arabian, African and European influences. The city’s many museums, art galleries, cinemas and theatres showcase Middle Eastern and western art and history through exhibitions, performances and films.
Alcohol isn’t a big part of nightlife in Cairo, but this doesn’t stop people from having a good time. There’s a mix of western bars and Arabian late cafes in Downtown Cairo, but most nightclubs are attached to luxury hotels in Cairo. For live music, there’s Cairo Jazz Club or El Genina Theatre in Al-Azhar Park, and for contemporary dance performances or classical music, Cairo Opera runs an all-year-round program. The city hosts annual festivals including Cairo Jazz Festival in October, the International Book Fair in January, and the International Film Festival in November.
Best historical sites in Cairo
Leisure in Cairo
Many visit Cairo for its ancient sites and museums, but there are numerous modern attractions, ranging from art galleries to championship golf courses and theme parks. At family-friendly attractions like the Pharaonic Village, you can learn about Egypt’s history through replica villages and live shows. In Fayoum, there’s Tunis Village with Lake Qaroun, Wadi El Rayan waterfalls, and mud-brick houses.
Dream Park in Giza is a great day out with roller coasters, go-karts, fairground rides, water slides and restaurants. For the more adventurous, there are quad-biking desert safari tours on the plateau above Cairo, where you can zoom around sandy terrain near the pyramids.
Sports activities in Cairo