Cairo, the largest city in the Sahara Desert, is known as the “City of Thousand Towers” because it has thousands of unique mosques associated with the legend of illustrious Kings in the history of the Arab world. This capital was once the center of ancient Egypt due to its strategic location just upstream of the Nile Delta. This fortress, called Babylon, is currently the oldest structure in the city, as the heart of the Coptic Orthodox community.
Cairo’s climate is dominated by a mixture of the Mediterranean and the desert so it’s quite hot in summer. Sand storms hit Cairo in the spring, causing the air to become extremely dry. In winter the average temperature is around 15oC and 20oC. Although Cairo has rained in winter, the amount of rain is not much l. Overall, tourists should visit Cairo between November and March.
Where to go in Cairo
1. Pyramid of Giza
One of the first places you need to go when coming to Cairo is Giza. The pyramids are located right on the edge of Giza, which is 13km far from the center of the city and to the west of the Nile. The Pyramids of Giza is a complex consisting of some great pyramids, sculptures of the Great sphinx, and some other satellite structures.
There are three largest pyramids: Khufu (Great Pyramid of Cheops), Khafre, and the smallest - Menkaure were built over 3 Pharaohs in the period 2560 to 2450 BC. These are considered to be the first stone skyscrapers in the world. These trios of pyramids create a pattern of three stars in the Orio constellation- the absolute embodiment of Osiris, the god of life and death in ancient Egyptian.
If the pyramids are on your bucket list, you should stay in Giza for a night or two instead of central Cairo to make the most of your time there.
2. Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar
In the bazaar, Khan Al-Halili is one of the biggest markets of the Middle East, selling a lot of real gems, exquisite handicrafts, elaborate silver items, or fragrant aromas. You can find beautiful souvenirs from antique shops to workshops that make leather-bound notebooks.
The key to finding the best stuff is to let yourself get lost in this bazaar for a few hours, and don’t forget to haggle, cutting the first price you’re offered by at least half. Then treat yourself to a cup of the most delicious coffee at El Fishawy, the oldest café shop that has opened for more than 250 years.
3. The Old Cairo
This area is located in the south of the city, with the largest concentration of Islamic buildings in the world. Old Cairo is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Almost all mosques, churches, and synagogues were built from the 10th to the 17th centuries. This is a tourist attraction in Cairo, with a bold Arab impression. It is easy to see mosques everywhere with diverse architecture and different sizes.
Among them, the most prominent works such as the Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church, Coptic Museum, Roman Babel Tower, Amr Ibn El As Mosque, and the Ben - Ezra Synagogue. You will take a journey through the narrow street of Old Cairo when you walk through all these historical buildings.
4. Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum (or Cairo Museum), founded in 1908, is one of the most important museums in the world. This place houses Coptic art from the earliest day of Christianity in Egypt right through to early Islam. The museum was completed in 1902 and stored about 250,000 artifacts from different periods, including a lot of 5,000 years- old antiques. The funerary stelae from Kom Abou Billou, dating from the second to fifth centuries, clearly show the transition between Pharaonic and Coptic art, with the first crosses shaped like the ankh, or key of life.
The area displays mummies of nobles, mandarins, children, or animals… is free to visit and take pictures. But if you want to visit the Royal mummies, especially 11 famous Pharaohs of different dynasties of Egypt, visitors must buy a separate ticket for about 20USD/person, and it is not allowed for video recording and photography in this place. Allow at least a couple of hours to explore 12000 or so pieces on display. The opening hours of the museums in Midan Tahrir Square in the city center are from 9 am to 7 pm.
5. The Nile
The Nile is the longest river in the world, flowing through 12 African countries. It has influenced the cultures, economies, and even religions of civilizations built around.
Agriculture has been practiced around the Nile since ancient times, and there is a mechanism on Rawdah and Roda Island called the Nilometer that calculates the river tides. The river is the sacred God for the people here. Make sure that you get a boat trip and enjoy the magnificent Nile River.
Festivals in Cairo
- Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (March - April)
- Cairo International Film Festival (December)
- Cairo Belly Dance Festival (June)
- Cairo International Book Fair (January)
- Cairo International Theater Festival (September)
- Cairo International Music Festival (August)
What to eat in Cairo?
Cairo cuisine, which combines African and Mediterranean flavors, offers diverse delectable dishes ranging from world cuisine to regional cuisine. The food here is very diverse, from meat and fish to meat products, in addition to rice and some grains, and vegetables. There are many restaurants spread all around the city specialized in traditional food as well as world cuisine.
1. Ful Medames
Ful Medames is a fava bean stew flavored with olive oil, cumin, and optionally chopped parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, chili pepper, and another vegetable, herb, and spice ingredients. According to some documents, the Ful Medames have existed since ancient times of Egypt.
Falafel, or Tamiya as it is called in Egypt, is all-time favorite street food. In most parts of the Middle East, Tamiya is made with ground chickpeas. However, in Egypt, they make it with dried fava beans. The best way to serve this dish is with pita bread, tomatoes, onions, and tahini sauce. You can find it at any local restaurants or street food vendors everywhere in Cairo.
Molokhia, a traditional stew with a lemony broth, is considered a national dish in Egypt and is thought to have been prepared for royals and Pharaohs. If you want to ensure the taste, you must cook this dish with chicken or braised chicken. Besides, it is served with steamed rice and served with lemon or lime.
The term ‘mahshi’ in Arabic means stuffed. Vegetables are stuffed with rice stuffing seasoned with crushed red tomatoes, onion, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, and spices. They're then placed in a pot with chicken or beef broth on top. Mahshi is typically served with molokhia or linansa Asfour soup, as well as fried chicken and beef.
People usually gather at Mahshi with friends and family to go to Iftar on Sunday, as it is considered a center of Egyptian holidays, especially during the days of Ramadan.
5. Feteer meshaltet
Feteer meshaltet is layers upon layers of pastry dough with a lot of ghee or butter in between and served with cheese, some honey, or syrup. It is one of the famous Egyptian pastries that everyone loves.
It represents generosity and affection. Nowadays, it is a dish asked by kings and presidents who visit Egypt. When you visit Egypt you can find so many restaurants making it.
Some activities you should try in Cairo
1. Cairo Belly Dance Festival
When traveling to Cairo in June, you will be able to join the Belly-dance Festival. This festival seems to have reached the stage of art. It originated in the time of Pharaohs and it is believed that it originated in Egypt. Visitors can watch dancers perform a special dance on yachts along the Nile while enjoying delicious food and a cup of wine.
2. Riding Camel
With a large area of desert, camel riding is also one of the interesting things in Egypt. Dubai is also a country famous for camel riding, but in Egypt, you will also have a different feeling. If you have been to the country of the Pyramids once but have never ridden a camel, it is a pity.
There is nothing more impressive than sitting on a strange back while watching the great work of the world. This is something that every visitor seems to want to experience once in his life
3. Hot Air Balloon Rides
Thanks to its stable weather conditions as well as its impressive landscape, Egypt has become one of the leading countries in the field of hot air ballooning, according to the Federation of Hot Air Balloon Companies in Luxor. Instead of watching it from above, you can buy a ticket to sit on it, admire the beauty along the Nile and monuments of Ancient Egyptians.
Do you find Cairo appealing? If you enjoy learning about ancient civilizations, this is the perfect place for you. Egypt in general, and Cairo in particular, will undoubtedly provide you with some of the most memorable experiences of your journey to discover human civilization.