Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is one of the most historic and exciting locations on earth. There is more to see then you will ever have time for. However, certain locations are must-sees, even if you’re only spending a short time in the city. Here are some locations you should prioritize if you are ever in this amazing locale:
Day 1: Pyramids Tour
Before exploring the heart of Cairo, your first port of call has to be a full day trip to the pyramids of Giza and the other marvels of Ancient Egypt, including Sakkara and the old capital of Memphis. After all, this is the primary reason for many tourists to visit Cairo in the first place—and with good reason.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu, Pyramid of Khafre, and Pyramid of Menkaure are located approximately 20 kilometers outside downtown Cairo. They date back more than 4,500 years. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,000 years and is the only of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still in existence.
While at the Giza Plateau, where the pyramids are located, you will also see the iconic Great Sphinx guarding the three pyramids. Cleverly angled photography will allow you to plant a kiss on the lips of the Sphinx from a distance!
From the Giza plateau, travel to Sakkara. This is the location of the necropolis of Memphis and the famous pyramid of Djoser, the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt. From there, head to Memphis, the capital of Ancient Egypt. Many monuments and statues of the past still stand there.
Given the worldwide popularity of the pyramids and Ancient Egypt, there are a plethora of excellent tour guides available. Many of them studied Egyptology and have remarkable levels of knowledge. Try to select a tour which includes a lunch. These will often take visitors to an authentic Egyptian restaurant to sample local delicacies.
Day 2: Egyptian Museum and Khan el-Khalili
Start your second day in Cairo by visiting the Egyptian Museum. It is home to more than 120,000 items from Egypt’s vast history. What will strike you about this museum is how many items, despite being thousands of years old, are not protected in glass cases or behind any rope. In fact, this sprawling, two-floor museum resembles a warehouse more than an exhibition! Don’t let that fool you, though. There are items, artifacts, and statues that are older than many countries.
The most popular sections of the museum include the artifacts and treasures of Tutankhamun, the most famous of all the Ancient Egyptian kings. The museum also has a special room which contains the mummified remains of kings and other important figures from Ancient Egypt.
Once you have finished at the museum, take a taxi and fight through the Cairo traffic to reach Khan el-Khalili, the oldest and most famous bazaar in all of Cairo. Founded in the 14th century, Khan el-Khalili captures the hustle and bustle of Cairo’s markets. Both tourists and locals walk the streets, and market vendors shout for your attention.
Khan el-Khalili is full of typical souvenirs, including arts and crafts, jewelry, and antiques. There are numerous coffee shops to stop for a glass of hibiscus (fruit herbal tea). However, the key thing to note is that the bazaar is split into two sections divided by a main road. On the side of Al-Azhar Mosque (which is well worth a quick visit) is the local side of the market. On the opposite side of the road is the section of the market that appeals to tourists.
Day 3: Al Azhar Park and Cairo Citadel
Cairo can be a bit intense at times. Visitors and residents alike are faced with the constant honking of car horns, traffic as far as the eye can see, and people at every turn. This is unsurprising, considering the population of the city is around 10 million—20 million if you consider the greater metro area.
However, there is a great place to escape the craziness in the middle of the city: Al Azhar Park. Opened in 2005, the park offers wonderful views of the city, lakes, and some much-welcomed greenery in a largely sandy and dusty town.
There is also a stunning view of your next destination: the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. This is one of the most imposing buildings in the city, located at the summit of the Cairo Citadel. The Cairo Citadel is a complex of museums and mosques, some of which date back to the 12th century. Today, these buildings primarily function as tourist attractions.
After finishing up at the citadel, get yourself down to a rooftop bar on the River Nile for a typically spectacular Arabian sunset.
General Tips for Visitors to Cairo
Cairo is a unique city that can be overwhelming for the first-timer. These basic tips will help you enjoy your time in the Egyptian capital.
The locals may approach you in a manner many tourists find persistent, but it is not done maliciously. They are likely trying to sell you something. If you are not interested, simply smile and say no thank you. That should do the trick.
Be prepared to take lots of selfies. As a foreigner, you may get approached a lot by kids (and even by adults at times) to take pictures and selfies with you. Enjoy your brief moment of fame and oblige. Residents will really appreciate a few moments of your time.
Prepare to haggle, particularly for taxi fares and market items, and prepare to tip almost everyone. The local currency is Egyptian Pounds (LE). One US dollar is approximately LE16. Make sure you have plenty of 10 and 20 LE notes for tips.
Finally, embrace the madness! Cairo is an amazing city, and no matter what attractions you choose to see, you are bound to enjoy your time there.