Cairo Tours and Travel Guide
Cairo Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Along the banks of the Nile sits Cairo, the historic capital of Egypt is an essential stop on any Egypt tour. Any introduction to the city city would be remiss not to visit the famous Egyptian Museum, with its hallways upon hallways of antiquities. Many day tours to see the pyramids and sphinx leave from Cairo as well. It's a hub of both ancient and modern culture.
Is it safe to travel to Cairo?
Many tourists have heard about a Cairo travel warning, or if you’re from the U.S., you may know the government has instituted a Level 2 Travel Advisory for Egypt. This warning essentially lets travelers know there is some risk to be expected when traveling to Cairo, particularly due to terrorist activity and political discontent.
Despite these threats, the Egyptian government has made concerted efforts to protect tourist areas, even creating a tourist police force. As a result, traveling within these areas is generally safe.
A traveler to Cairo should still exercise some caution, however. There is a great deal of pickpocketing and some petty theft that happens in Cairo, as well as a decently high risk of scams. Female travelers, especially solo female travelers, should also expect some sexual harassment and avoid traveling alone at night.
Cairo Travel Advice
- Book a guided tour. If you’re here considering Cairo tour packages, you’re already headed in the right direction. One of the most well known pieces of advice for those traveling to Egypt in general, especially in Cairo, is to do so on a tour. There’s several reasons for this: the language barrier is especially prevalent, there are many opportunities to get scammed, and since 2011, tourism is still down and there are still some safety issues surrounding terrorism and political discontent.
- Bring along your own toilet paper in case you have to use a public restroom. They often don’t have any of their own.
- Prepare to haggle, street hawkers will not be offended if you try a lower offer!
- Wear closed toe shoes. Not only are these more comfortable than flip flops, but Cairo’s streets are notoriously dusty, and your feet will be black by the end of the day!
- Don’t drink the tap water, even the locals don’t.
- If you want to take photos in the Egyptian Museum, bring some cash along, since it costs an additional fee to buy a photo pass.
Things to Do in Cairo
1. The Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx - These two structures are just outside of Cairo’s city limits, the most popular tourist attractions in the area, and are by far the best known symbols of Egypt. The pyramids are one of the seven wonders of the world, and the Sphinx is the world’s oldest monumental sculpture, so visiting these two should definitely cross off a line on your bucket list.
Furthermore, going on a guided tour is the really the best way to experience these two ruins as there won’t be any plaques explaining the in depth histories and mystery surrounding these Egyptian icons. Only 300 tickets are sold each day, so your tour guide will make sure you are able to visit.
2. Egyptian Museum - This museum, located in the heart of Cairo, will blow away the Ancient Egypt exhibits at any other museum. The building is full of tens of thousands of artifacts, ranging from mummies to sarcophagi, to jewels from King Tut’s tomb.
3. Explore Old Town (Coptic Cairo) - This fascinating section of the city is a labyrinth of winding stone streets, buildings that are 1,000s of years old, and dozens of attractions. Be sure to visit Africa’s first Christian church, the Coptic Museum, the Ben Ezra Synagogue (apparently the site where the Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses floating in his basket), and multiple mosques.
4. Salah El-Din Citadel - This is the most popular non-pyramid related attraction in Cairo, and not without reason. This impressive feat of architecture is a fortress built by Salah al-Din, who opposed the Christian crusaders in the early 1000’s. Inside the towering walls are a series of impressive attractions, including a palace, three mosques, and several museums.
5. Khan el-Khalili - This is largest market in Cairo, and its crowded, winding streets, filled with people and items, is an experience in and of itself. The market is the best place to buy a souvenir, and practice your haggling skills! Assume everything is marked up, and try to get whatever you’re buying, be it jewelry, a hookah pipe, or spices, down by at least 20%.
10 Interesting Facts About Cairo
- Cairo means “The Victorious.”
- It is the largest city in Africa.
- It was founded in the year 969 A.D.
- The current currency is the Egyptian Pound.
- Cairo was hit by 50 separate plagues between 1349 and 1517.
- It is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Azhar University.
- Cairo’s metro system is only one of two systems in Africa.
- It is home to the only remaining ancient wonder of the world, the Pyramid of Giza.
- There are over 4.5 million cars in Cairo, so traffic can get bad
- Although Nile crocodiles once swam the entire length of the river, they are now rarely found outside southernmost of Egypt, so you won’t find any in Cairo.
Things to Know Before You Go
What to Wear in Cairo, Egypt
- Bring a scarf for mosques, and be prepared to take off your shoes
- Cover your shoulders and legs whenever you can in the main city. Men will be able to get away wearing shorts, but should still avoid tank tops. You will be able to wear less conservative clothing, along with bikinis and bathing suits if you go to very touristy areas, such as Red Sea resorts.
- Wear lightweight, breathable materials. In particular, synthetics and linen, and cotton will be your best friends.
- Ditch your flip flops at home. Long walking distances and dirty streets mean that you will be more comfortable in a pair of breathable sneakers, or another comfortable closed-toe shoe.
- Sunglasses are a great way to keep the sun out of your eyes, and if you’re a woman, avoid unwanted attention from men. Making eye contact can be seen as a sign of flirtation and encouragement, so sunglasses can prevent it from happening.
Weather and Climate in Cairo
In the summer months (from May to September), Cairo can be quite hot, with the high generally remaining in the low 90’s. For this reason, make sure to dress appropriately, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sun cap if needed. The temperature does drop a little at night, often into the high 60’s, so bring a light sweater if needed.
In the winter, temperatures are cooler, though they remain warm. The coolest months are from December to February, where temperatures range between mid-to-high 60’s. At night, this can drop to the high 40’s, so be sure to bring a light jacket in preparation.
One thing you don’t have to worry about, regardless of the season, is rain. Although it does rain slightly more in the winter, the climate in Cairo is generally very dry and averse to precipitation.
Egyptian Food and Food in Cairo
Sampling Egyptian specialties she be a major component of your trip to Cairo. Egyptian restaurants are pretty uncommon in most of the Western world, so sampling the country’s food in its capital is sure to be an adventurous experience. In particular, you should try Egypt’s street food -- the homeland of shawarma, falafel, and kebab.
Some of the most important dishes to sample include Koshary (the “poor man’s” dish that has captured Egyptian hearts, it is made with macaroni, chickpeas, garlic, and a vinegar tomato sauce), Fiteer Baladi (a buttery filo dough round that can be made with savory or sweet toppings), and everything with a side of torshy (pickled vegetables).
There is also dessert: baklava, Um Ali, rice pudding, and basbousa are all worth their hype!
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