Visiting Cairo – A City Guide
Egypt’s largest city stretches along the winding Nile River, an energetic metropolis seamlessly integrating the old and new. Gleaming skyscrapers and shopping malls sit alongside serene mosques and lively bazaars, while distant views of the Giza pyramids
are a constant reminder of the city’s ancient heritage.
Cairo’s city layout
Wherever you stay in Cairo, the city’s pleasures and history await.
The downtown area, Midan El Tahrir, has 19th-century architecture and a concentration of modern Cairo hotels. The district’s heart is Tahrir Square, site of festivals, events, and protests. East of downtown, Islamic Cairo’s warren of twisting streets is home to medieval buildings, historic mosques and lively souks (markets).
Zamalek, on the Nile’s Gezira Island, now offers boutique hotels, fine dining and nightlife. South of downtown are the embassies of Garden City, plus Old Cairo, with many Coptic Christian sites.
Cairo’s top attractions
Apart from the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum
is Cairo’s biggest attraction. More than 120,000 artifacts here span 5,000 years of Egypt’s history, and include Tutankhamun’s life-size gold funerary mask. You can redeem IHG®
Reward Club points for a stay at the InterContinental®
Cairo Semiramis, right on the Nile, a short walk from the museum and Tahrir Square.
Zamalek’s 613-foot Cairo Tower
resembles a lotus flower; its observation deck offers panoramic views of the city and the pyramids. On Muqattam Hill, the Citadel of Cairo
was home to Egypt’s rulers for 700 years. Within the fortified complex is the 19th-century alabaster Mosque of Muhammad Ali
. Another favorite pastime is to drift along the Nile on a traditional felucca sailboat.
Visiting the Pyramids of Giza
Only 11 miles from downtown, the Pyramids of Giza honor the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Guarded by the Great Sphinx
, the structures date to 2,584 BC. You can tour the site on horseback and watch the pyramids glow at sunrise or sunset. An ideal Cairo hotel for exploring Giza is the Holiday Inn: Cairo Maadi, which sits beside the Nile in suburban Maadi, with panoramic pyramid views across the river.
Eating in Cairo
Cairo’s hotel restaurants are among the city’s best dining options, but fine-dining spots and street vendors alike offer high-quality dishes. Zamalek is the spot for trendy, upscale food and international cuisine. In Islamic Cairo, you can sip mint tea at a café after taking in the sights and aromas of the local fruit, vegetable and spice markets.
Cairo’s favorite specialties include: hamam mahshi, roast pigeon stuffed with rice, wheat and herbs; koshary, a blend of spaghetti, rice, black lentils, chickpeas and garlic topped with spicy tomato sauce (a popular street food); and taamiya, Egyptian falafel made with fava beans.
Shopping in Cairo
Cairo was a key stop on the 15th-century spice-trade route. Many souks selling local spices and gold still operate today. In Islamic Cairo, browse hundreds of stalls at the famed medieval souk, Khan al-Khalili
. Charming vendors in crowded alleys beckon you to colorful stacks of clothing, jewelry and spices.
For a more modern shopping experience, the Citystars
megamall has more than 600 stores, indoor theme parks and a multiplex. We offer three hotels in this sprawling Cairo complex: the spa-like Intercontinental: Citystars Cairo; the family-friendly Holiday Inn: Cairo Citystars; and the apartment-style Staybridge Suites: Cairo Citystars.