Cairo Travel Guide
Cairo Travel Guide
Cairo is a messy, noisy delight of a city which enchants visitors with its ancient treasures and challenges them with its modern riotousness. The 'Mother of all Cities' is full of great restaurants and thrilling archaeological sites; it is the doorstep to one of the most intriguing tourist destinations in the world.
Egypt is most renowned for its historical sightseeing, and Cairo certainly doesn't disappoint in this regard: it is the city of the pyramids, the sphinx, the Colossus of Ramses II. The ancient Egyptians left their mark on this area and their presence can still be felt. There is also more recent history on show in Cairo and tourists should not limit themselves to ancient relics: Old Cairo, also called Coptic Cairo, is the meeting place of three religions and boasts remarkable churches as well as synagogues and mosques; The Hanging Church is a favourite with visitors.
Cairo is well-situated for excursions to various ancient sites, including the Western Desert Oases, which offer visitors a taste of the immensity and beauty of the Egyptian desert.
The city is bursting with people, colours, smells and tastes and travellers will be thrilled by the experience of the Egyptian markets and coffee houses, not to mention the mouth-watering array of quality restaurants in Cairo. For those keen to do a little late-night exploring the Cairo nightlife is also worth investigating.
Best time to visit Cairo
Cairo is hot and dry all year and only has two seasons: a swelteringly hot summer between May and October, and a mild winter between November and April. The best time to visit is in the cooler winter months when the heat is less overwhelming. The nights can get cold in Cairo so visitors should bring something warmer for the evenings. Read more on Cairo's Climate and Weather.
What to see in Cairo
-Spend a few hours, or a few days, in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
-Explore the breath-taking Saladin Citadel with its many mosques, museums and wonderful views.
-Shop in the labyrinthine Khan al-Khalili market, one of the largest in the world.
-Visit the domed Coptic Church of St George in Old Cairo.
What to do in Cairo
-Take a ride around the famous Pyramids of Giza.
-Treat the kids to a tour of The Pharaonic Village.
-Visit the shining world of the Asfour Crystal Factory to shop for souvenirs.
-Take an excursion out to the ancient cities of Memphis and Saqqara to explore the temples and museums.
Cairo is often the starting point of an Egyptian holiday and is a useful travel hub. Tourists can easily visit Alexandria on the nearby Mediterranean coast, and the numerous Red Sea resorts offer all the sun, sand and sea you can handle, as well as world-class diving destinations. The ancient treasures of cities like Aswan and Luxor are accessible on the famous Nile River Cruises, which are a popular way of exploring the country.
Cairo International Airport, the biggest airport in Egypt, is situated nine miles (15km) from Cairo. Flights to Cairo arrive from major cities all over the world. It takes about 45 minutes to reach central Cairo and visitors can take taxis, airport shuttle buses or public buses to get there. It is also possible to hire a car and a driver at the airport. Get more information on Cairo International Airport.
Did you know?
-Cairo is the second largest city in Africa.
-In Arabic Cairo is known as 'Al-Qahirah' which means 'The Triumphant'.
-The Al-Azhar University of Cairo is thought to be the oldest university in the world.
Cairo © Berthold Werner
One of Africa's largest cities - with a population of about seven million in the city proper and a further 10 million or so living in close proximity - Cairo is a chaotic mixture of sights, sounds and smells. It is heaving with life, volatile and boisterous, with an intensity that both exhausts and invigorates visitors. The congested streets of Islamic Cairo are full of donkey carts, traders and mosques, while camels weave their way haughtily between the crumbling pyramids on the outskirts. Taxis clamour for attention and pedestrians elbow their way past busy coffee houses, where those seeking a brief escape from the hustle and bustle sit sipping at strong cups of coffee while contemplating the smoke rings of a 'hubbly bubbly' water pipes.
In Cairo, visitors practice the age-old art of bargaining for trinkets, spices and perfume in one of the world's largest bazaars, or pay a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which houses treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb and is one of the country's main attractions. They wander the streets of Coptic Cairo, visiting places of worship that are centuries old, and marvel at the massive pyramids that loom just beyond the city. Sunsets are enjoyed overlooking the mighty Nile River and the restaurants promise flavoursome Egyptian cuisine and all sorts of international delicacies. The city is challenging but its treasures are myriad and it is the doorstep to the the wonders of one of the oldest and mightiest human civilizations.
Situated on the Nile, Egyptians proudly refer to Cairo as the 'Mother of all Cities'; it is an ancient hub of human endeavour, populated since about the 4th century, when the Romans established the fortress of Babylon. The city holds an enduring fascination for travellers: it is as beguiling as it is messy, showcasing an exciting blend of African, Arab and European influences, the timelessness of ancient heritage, and the energy of the present.