In the Egyptian capital there is plethora of things for travelers and tourists to explore, from the dusty archeological digs to the golden halls of five star hotel luxury. The city may have the reputation for doing things big, but that comes with a massive population, a long history and so many diverse things to see and do. One might be put off by the events of recent years, protests, upheaval etc. but assuredly the city has continued life as usual and tourists come and go without hassle. It is a city to be experienced with all of its lively activity.
Certainly it is a place to avoid when protests are ongoing. Being one of the largest gathering spaces in the downtown it has a reputation in recent years. However when there are no protests it is a lovely spot, built as a roundabout one can soak in some of the city’s skyscrapers with the incessant flow of traffic which looks like an orchestra in motion. It is a good spot from which to launch a day of exploration or to meet up with friends or groups.
Arguably the most iconic pyramids of all, Giza is a suburb of Cairo and so getting there requires use of public transportation (Giza Metro stop) and walking or a direct taxi ($12USD from downtown). In either case both are affordable, just be aware of any scams. Insist that the taxi agree to a price, don’t have the taxi wait for you, there will be plenty on site to negotiate for the return trip. Once out exploring I recommend to do it yourself, guides are tedious and things like camel rides are overpriced scams. The presence of tourism police has reduced the risk of these scams, but just be attentive to any services you pay for.
The museum is unlike any you are likely to encounter elsewhere on earth. It holds the treasures and mummies of the pyramids. It is a bit disorganized and having to pay twice (around $10USD for general admission and $16USD for entrance to the King Tut exposition/Tutankhamun exhibit) is a bit of an annoyance. It has more wonders than you can spend a day on, so get a look at the highlights and plan on getting in early. Museum is open from 9am-7pm daily and its closest access point is Sadat Metro station.
Khan al Khalili Market
The market is a free place to wander ancient alleyways interwoven with modern streets and boulevards. It is a true labyrinth so don’t be afraid of getting lost, get used to getting lost in it. It is an experience unlike any other a true bargain shopper’s paradise where one needs to barter and walk away to get the best deal possible. It takes some real fortitude so don’t get into a price discussion unless you are pretty sure you want the product. Everything from gold, precious stones, woodwork, jewelry boxes, clothing and spices is up for bargain.
The Hanging Church
Pulpits, frescoes, icons and ornate wood and metalwork define this historic coptic church. The attraction comes in part from its ornate interior, part of its historic legacy and its unique name comes from the fact that it is built over and on the side of an old roman fortress and city gate. It may be off the beaten path for the typical tourist, but it is an essential wonder in coptic cairo, also one of the oldest sections of the city. Mar Girgis is the best Metro stop to use.
Cairo is very attractive because it possesses a great number of five star luxury hotel chains from around the world. Even better the rates are some of the best one will find the world over. Combine that with the hospitality the Middle East is known for and the over the top style of decoration and design and you are destined to stay in some true palaces. Places like Kempinski, JW Marriott, Intercontinental, Le Meridien, Conrad and Sofitel.
Salah El Din Citadel
It is considered a day trip in itself and one of the most popular attractions in town. Taxi is the best way to get here and most drivers just go by the term “citadel”. Entry cost is around $8USD and the hours are 8am-5pm daily. The complex is massive and it houses three main institutions: mosques, museums, and the Gawhara Palace. The mosque is open to visitors except on Fridays when it is used for formal prayer. The museums feature an exhibition of gardens, carriages and military implements. The entire citadel offers panoramic views of the city and the towers and turrets are open to exploration by guests. The Gawhara place was a residence and it survives today with a collection of extravagant gifts like furniture, rugs and chandeliers that were acquired over centuries of trading and diplomacy.