1. NOT ALL ABOUT THE PYRAMIDS
Even though everyone knows and talks about the pyramids, that’s not for sure all that Cairo has to offer. Other interesting places to see could be (and I would just stick to 5) :
- Muhammad Ali Mosque – take off your shoes at the front door
- Al – Azhar Mosque and Park
- Khan el– Khalili– an old souq in the bazaar district which is also my favourite, for the life sparkling out of it
- The Hanging Church
- The Egyptian Museum – where you’ll find the Gold Mask of Tutankhamun
2. PLEASE, PLEASE HAVE A COFFEE AT EL FISHAWY CAFE
In the old bazaar I mentioned earlier (Khan el–Khalili) you’ll find this iconic coffee shop named El Fishawy, where the famous novelist and Nobel laureate from 1988, Naguib Mahfouz, used to come and write.
This time–flavoured place, with pictures on the walls of the famous people that came and visit it back in the days, will really get you into the atmosphere of what Cairo is all about.
3. AROUND THE PYRAMIDS
Going back to the pyramids, I must add a minus here. There are many hustlers around the pyramids, mostly local vendors of souvenirs or locals offering tourists rides on camels or simply their services as tour guides. The problem is they tend to get aggressive (mostly between themselves) by trying to get your attention first.
Just remain firm and polite and they’ll have to lay back eventually. Better is even to don’t speak to them at all as a”no” can be interpreted as an opening for conversation (as strange as this may sound).
Camels are usually peaceful animals, but don’t approach them from the front. They can attack humans. I’m just saying that because one tried to bite me ☺.
5. STREET FOOD
Despite the many offers of food on the streets of Cairo, i’ll just mention my 2 favourites :
1. Sweet potatoes (or “batata” for them) – baked directly on the streets of Cairo, served especially in the winter
The egyptians consider it as a dessert or snack because of its sweet taste, me as an eastern European, i see it more as a side dish or simply carb meal.
2. Prickly pears or officially called Opuntia ficus–indica, what a fancy name right ?
A prickly pear is the fruit of the cactus. Don’t worry I had no idea about this either, “TEEN SHOOKI” as it’s named locally is amazing for digestion, being sweet and watery.
6. CAIRO BY NIGHT
There are many things that you could possibly do in Cairo by night, but I would simply recommend a cruise on the Nile River with dinner and music. What better way to relax after a long day of sightseeing ?
The well-known thing about Cairo it’s the traffic hell (the peak hour is around 3 pm). Your patience will be tested for sure, I do think it’s a good idea to hire a private driver that will take you all around.
You’ll avoid the stress of not finding a taxi and the price negotiation process every time you take one (which trust me will get you white hair on your head).
Cairo is so cheap, yuhuu, I bought 4 medium sized sishas (hookahs – the official term) for my friends back home with less than 5 dollars (each).
You may purchase scarves, perfumes, oils, textiles, carpets, artefacts, furniture items, silverware, cooper, glass, antique products etc. with amazing good prices, just remember to bargain.
The original purpose of bargain was that in the end, both parts to be happy with their deal.
9. RESPECT FOR THE CULTURE
The major religion in Egypt is Islam so you should be aware of 2 aspects at least: wearing decent clothes while in public and not displaying signs of affection while in public (like french kissing per example). This could be considered offensive and pointed at.
10. OLD CAIRO
My grandfather visited Cairo back in the 60s and he was very impressed, telling us stories especially about the Old Cairo.
Old Cairo is a small area in the southern part of Cairo. If you want to get the historical sense of the city this is the place to start with.
Egypt in the 50s-60s
Cairo was considered back then as a center of culture, learning and arts. My grandfather mentioned stories about the egyptian cinema, music, arhitecture and he even talked about a swimsuit competition that took place when he was there.