The central city and heart of Egypt, Cairo, is the buzzing capital with 9.5 million residents and counting. Cairo is a city which was once called Memphis, named after a pharaoh who unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Cairo is a city where the traffic never dies and there is always a new development under construction. It’s a place where the souks are just as busy as the roads themselves and a place where modern culture meets traditions (women wearing false lashes and perfected eye makeup under their Niqab).
My experience in Cairo was a busy one. As I was in Milan, minutes away from boarding my flight to Cairo, there was an attack which was aimed at Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday. Both the South of Cairo and Alexandria were targeted and lives were unfortunately lost. To hear such devastating news, especially when I was hours away from touching down, was heartbreaking. To see the way in which the Egyptians remained positive and welcoming to their tourists, was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t know what to do or where to start your adventuring once you land in Cairo? Here is a list I have created to help first timers make the most out of their time in Cairo.
The Great Pyramids of Giza + The Sphinx
The Great Pyramids of Giza is a show stopper. The pyramids is one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World and once you see them in person for the first time there is no second guessing why. The entry fee is 200 Egyptian Pounds for an adult, and I would advise all travellers to go to the Pyramids with a private or group tour. This is advised as the harassment and intimidation by local Egyptians trying to sell a camel ride, water or a souvenir is bound to happen, which can put selected tourists off resulting in them having a bad time. A guide is there to protect you against this so you can have an easy breezy time at the Pyramids, the guides also get cheaper water, that they will purchase for you, and camel rides, otherwise you will be paying far more than you are suppose to.
My mother and I were told by our guide that going inside the Pyramids isn’t worth it and we would be disappointed if we were to spend extra money going inside. If I had not gone inside, I would have been disappointed, regardless of what he said we couldn’t miss out on our opportunity. Entry of the Pyramid is not recommended if you are claustrophobic as it is dark, damp and there are parts where you have to crawl on you hands and knees.
The Sphinx, as you can tell in the photo below, is in the same area as the Pyramids and you do not need to pay extra to see the Sphinx. Also where the Sphinx is, is an Ancient mummification room, for me one of the most mesmerizing parts out of my entire trip to Cairo.
The Middle East is known greatly for their souks, and it simply wouldn’t be a trip to the middle east, or Africa for that matter, without visiting one. Khan al-Khalili is the most prominent souk market in Cairo, offering it’s visitors endless mazes of spices, silver, clothes and collectables. Not only here will you find tourists alike, but locals flock to the markets to do their shopping and to be amongst one of the most social hot spots in Cairo. Lonely Planet compared Khan al-Khalili to a medieval style mall, with skinny walk ways, courtyards filled with market style stalls and leaving shoppers having to guess where one shop ends and another starts.
Step back in time to a place where mummification was destined and a time where each person worked towards their time in the afterworld. With an entry fee of 75 Egyptian Pounds, the Egyptian Museum carries the largest Ancient Egyptian display in the world, with the British Museum being second on the list. Home to Tutankhamuns mask and the oldest piece of colour ever recorded, this museum is a must not only for the die hard Museum fans, but for everyone visiting Cairo. With over 100,000 objects, some people spend days going through everything in detail. However if you do not have time to look at everything and are overwhelmed on where to start, join a private tour of the museum. A private tour is more so recommended than that of a group tour as you are able to tell the guide what you are interested in and what you would like to see.
When visiting an Islamic region, it is a must to visit a Mosque. Unfortunately, my mother and I did not visit this mosque as we were in Egypt at the time of the attacks on Christianity and we did not want to risk anything visiting a mosque. If there was no attacks we would have visited the mosque, but at the time we were there, it was too much of a danger. From research that I have conducted, all non practising muslims are allowed to enter the mosque as long as dressed appropriately (covering knees and shoulders) and respect others that may be inside praying.
Try a Speciality Dish
Kushari is a traditional Egyptian dish that was first made in the 19th century. At first glance, this dish may not seem like the most appealing, but I assure you I enjoyed it, and I hardly ever enjoy any type of food. This dish is made up of rice, macaroni and lentils, chickpeas mixed together topped with crispy sauces of your choice.
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Please feel free to leave any comments below asking me any questions about Cairo that you may be curious about.