Cairo: Guide to Egypt Capital and Things to do in Cairo
Truly one of the greatest cities in the world, Cairo, also known as Greater Cairo, is famous for so many of its ancient civilization monuments such as the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.
But Cairo’s best-kept secrets are yet not known by many of those who visit this fabulous city, so in order for you to really make the most of this ancient modern fusion city, here are all the places you should check it out when visiting the great city of Cairo. Learn all about the magic and charm about the city of Cairo, the largest city in Egypt, and the great Egyptian capital, full of historical and cultural attractions.
Where is Cairo located?
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and is located in the northern part around 165 km south of the Mediterranean Sea and 120 km west of the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal.
What's Cairo’s population?
Cairo has a population of around 20.9 million people distributed in a total area of 3,085 km². Cairo is a very busy city and traffic can be chaotic and crazy at rush hour.
What are Cairo’s best districts?
Cairo is a city that boasts of energy all the time. Here are some districts that are ideal to stay at or at least take a walk in. They are favored by tourists and Egyptian alike.
An Island in the Nile, Zamalek is one of the very best districts in Cairo, with a very high population of expats and a number of embassies, Zamalek is great for a walk and it also has some of the best restaurants in Cairo
Overlooking the gorgeous Nile River, Garden City is a few minutes away from Downtown Cairo and the Egyptian Museum. With a high number of trees and beautiful villas, Garden City is a gorgeous place, and it's the location of some of the best hotels in Cairo.
With the highest numbers of expats in Cairo, Maadi district is a great place to walk around, with lots of big villas and beautiful trees, Maadi also has great international schools and amazing restaurants too.
Best Places to Visit and things to do in Cairo
Cairo is where you really get a feel for the real Egyptian local life. It’s so easy to fall in love with this city, especially with its unique history and culture. No trip to Egypt is complete without a stay in the city Egyptian and Arabs call Umm al-Dunya Dunya – ‘the Mother of the World’. Experience the energy of this buzzing metropolis and find the best places to visit and interesting things to do in Cairo.
The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx
The number one activity in Cairo is by far the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. Dated to almost 5000 years ago, these monuments and its great conservation state are one of the greatest things you can experience at naked eyes.
Located in the Giza Complex on the west side of the Nile River banks, the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx are Cairo’s best-kept treasure.
Khan El Khalili Bazaar
Located in the famous historic center of Cairo, the Khan El Khalili is one of Cairo’s best attractions and markets for tourists in Egypt. With thousands of stands of local art, shoes, clothes, and restaurants too, a visit to Khan El Khalili Bazaar is like a walk back in time.
The Egyptian Museum (Cairo Museum)
Founded in 1858, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities also known as the Egyptian Museum is home to most of the ancient Egyptian antiquities, with a collection of over 120,000 items, The Cairo Museum is a must-stop for any tourist visiting Cairo.
Egyptians refer to Downtown as Wust El-Balad, or in other words ‘the heart of the city’. The reason for calling it so is because the Downtown area is the part of the city that is full of life and activities. Cairo is sometimes called ‘the city that never sleeps’ of Egypt, and so for Downtown. It is not only the heart of Cairo, but also the center for every life activity and facility, and the hub for different cultures. Downtown is famous for Talaat Harb Square and Tahrir Square.
Downtown was built in the 1880s as part of Khedive Ismail’s massive building project to modernize Cairo and other Egyptian cities. The Khedive’s goal was to make it like a European city. Museum of Islamic Art is one of the main attractions in Downtown. It contains a well-curated collection of artwork and architectural features from the era after Islam arrived in Egypt (641 AD).
Al-Muizz Al-Deen Street
Located in the area of the greatest concentration of sights in Islamic Cairo, Al-Muizz Al-Deen Street was the main street through the city when it was built back in the 11th century.
Shorted to Al Muizz Street, the northern section of the street (between Bab El-Fotouh and Al-Azhar Street) was recently restored. This is one of the most picturesque parts of Cairo. The Qalawun Complex here is one of the impressive in the city and if you love Islamic architecture then this part of town will for sure become your favorite part of your Cairo Tour.
Salah El Din Citadel
Salah Al-Deen (known as Saladin to European historians) overthrew the Fatimid dynasty in 1171 AD, establishing the new Sunni Ayyubid Caliphate. Given the threat of invasion by European crusader armies, Saladin decided to improve the fortifications of the city. In 1176 AD, he began construction of a wall that would encircle both Al-Qahira (today Islamic Cairo) and Fustat (Old Cairo). Saladin’s Citadel served as the seat of government in Egypt for 700 years until Khedive Ismail moved into Abdin Palace in the newly constructed Downtown Cairo in the 1870s.
The Citadel looks very different today than it did in its original capacity as a fortress the Crusader armies. It has been expanded and remodeled by many different rulers. In the 14th century, Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammed built a mosque there that still bears his name and the Southern Enclosure of the fort next to Saladin’s original walls. The most noticeable changes came in the 19th century.
The Coptic Museum holds the largest collection of Coptic Christian artwork and artifacts in the world. Founded in 1910, the museum records Coptic history from the arrival of Christianity in Egypt up through the Ottoman era, displaying a mixture of artwork influenced by Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman traditions.
Located in the area known as Coptic Cairo, the Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as The Hanging Church, is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, dating back to the third century.
The Cairo Tower located in Zamalek is a great way to see the whole city from a spectacular angle. Sitting at 187 meters high, the Cairo Tower has been the tallest building in North Africa for the past 50 years. At the 62nd floor, tourists can enjoy the gorgeous view of the city of Cairo during the night and day. A cafe is also available up there and food and coffee are served for those who get hungry.
Grand Egyptian Museum
The latest addition to the Cairo touristic scene the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), also known as the Giza Museum, is a museum of artifacts of ancient Egypt. Today, the Grand Museum is recognized as the largest archaeological museum in the world, the completion of the museum is planned to be done in en.
Muhammad Ali Mosque
Located in the area of Cairo known as Citadel, the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848 and it is today one of the main touristic places in Cairo.
Located in the area of Islamic Cairo, Al-Azhar Mosque, also known as Al-Azhar, is a very famous Egyptian mosque in Cairo. Its construction was commissioned during Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah of the Fatimid dynasty in 970.
Cairo Opera House
Located in the Zamalek district of Cairo, the Cairo Opera House is part of Cairo's National Cultural Centre, and it is the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital. Home to Egypt's finest musical groups, the Cairo Opera House is a great visit for those passionate about music and the arts.
Where to buy souvenirs?
Classic souvenirs such as figurines, key chains, and other decorative items can be purchased at Khan El Khalili. As for the original papyri, you can find them at the Papyrus Institute or shops that work exclusively with this product. There are several stores around the country, mainly in the vicinity of tourist areas. The same goes for Egyptian cotton, perfumes, silver and gold - there are specific stores that work with each type of these products. When in doubt, always ask your guide for advice on the best place to purchase the products you want.
Is it possible to customize any of the products?
Yes, papyrus and jewelry stores personalize products according to the taste of the traveler. They can add names in Arabic or hieroglyphs, resulting in beautiful and memorable pieces.
Cairo Street Food
Cairo is an amazing place for local food and it is very common to find little trucks on the streets selling some of the best street foods such as the famous ful and taameyas cart and liver and sausages sandwiches cart.
Another famously unique dish is Koshary. Koshary is made of a mixture of rice, spaghetti, lentils and chickpeas, covered with tomato sauce and fried onions.
Cairo has amazing restaurants all over and the Nile offers great options for BBQ and international foods too.
How to get to Cairo?
If you are outside Egypt, you can come to Cairo by plane. But if you are in Egypt, you could easily reach Cairo by bus or train.
When is the time to visit Cairo?
Since Egyptian summer is extremely hot, the best time to visit Cairo should be from September to April. December and January can get a little cold, so you should pack accordingly.
Interesting Facts about Cairo
The Greater Cairo area covers around 500 sq. km, with an estimated population of 21.9 million, making it the largest city in Africa and the Middle East.
It is believed that there are over 4.5 million cars in the city of Cairo.
Al-Ahly and Zamalek football club are the biggest soccer teams in the country, and even though their rivalry is intense, yet they share the same stadium.
Sunday is the first day of the week in Cairo; making Friday and Saturday the actual weekend.
Cairo is the only city that still has a remaining ancient wonder of the world, the Great Pyramids of Giza.
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Duration: 3 hours
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