Cairo Egypt

It’s magical, captivating, and moving, among many other things. I love Cairo, I love the history, the wonders of the world they have, the people, the shopping, how the traffic and the people flow like a vibrant and fast river, how they often have chandeliers on their patios, so many wonderful things make this an unforgettable city.

The Egyptian Sphinx with the milky way behind it

Top Sites to Visit in Cairo – 

Egypt is an incredibly magical destination, I was so obsessed with it in middle school I did a whole art project based on the Sphynx and Great Pyramids.You can imagine the absolute joy standing in front of them brought me. Planning a trip to Egypt is so exciting! 

I highly recommend adding a few days in Cairo to any trip you take to Egypt. While it’s super easy to just blow into town and do a day trip to the pyramids and then move on, please spend a few days in Cairo. 

Here are the Top Sights to Visit!

the sphinx with a pyramid behind it

The Grand Pyramids and The Famous Sphinx in Cairo

One of the last still-standing Wonders of the Ancient World. Like most tourists spots, it’s best to get there as early as possible. The complex closes at 2pm, and you’ll want plenty of time to explore, take pictures, and soak it all in.  

    • Camel Rides and photos are offered there. Please go through a reputable guide to make sure you are supporting a humane camel owner and operator.
      • I recommend Viator if you choose not to book through a travel agent, I’ve had very good luck with them in many countries.  
      • Bring your camera! The guides will take photos of you and your group, and it’s great to have high quality photos.
      • These are some of my favorite pics I have of my mom, If I thought I was excited to be there, my mom was ecstatic and it shows on her face in our pics!
    • There’s an incredible light and sound show done at the Pyramids, and a few other sites in Egypt, they’re really fun and informational. I tried in vain to get a photo of the Pyramids lit up different colors, if you get a photo of it, please share it with me, I’d love to see it!

Egyptian Pyramids with warm light

Memphis and Sakkara (Saqqarah)

The highlights of this visit are the Step Pyramid considered the first in Egypt and the impressive Colossus of Ramesses at the Mount Rahina Museum.

Imhotep revolutionized building and architecture, he definitely had nothing to do with any plagues. Imhotep was linked with Thoth, the god of architecture, mathematics, and medicine, and patron of scribes. Which may be where The Mummy got it from though. 

The columns and statuary are obviously worn and ancient, find a statues feet, minus the statue, and many other fascinating building pieces that were missing but paint a very rich history full of mystery. I hope you love a good mystery!

pyramid being restored

 

Mount Rahina Museum and the Impressive Colossus of Ramesses

Please go see the Colossus of Ramesses at the Mount Rahina Museum, besides the fact that the statue is amazing, it’s a small museum, and the stonework in the yard outside is worth a 20-30 min stroll. It’s worth a quick stop and visit. The grounds and museum are very quiet, it will be one of the most relaxing stops on your trip.

 

  • The Coptic Area
    •  Is it truly possible to explain the historical significance of the collection of Christian artifacts, art, and history of Christianity in Cairo, not to mention how beautiful it is?
      • It’s in a very busy area of Cairo, go around 9 or 10am Monday through Friday to avoid most of the traffic and tourists. 
      • Church admissions are free, if you’re looking for free things to do in Cairo, this one of the best I can recommend.
    • This is a must-see, if you do nothing else besides the Pyramids in Cairo, please go here. 
    • You do not need a guide for the museum
  • On a side note, the Cats of Cairo are abundant outside the museum. I made friends with the cutest, sweetest street cat here. They’re so little and attention-hungry, give ‘em a pet for me!
  • Historic Mosques:
    • Cairo has some of the most beautiful and historic Mosques in the world, pick at least one to visit. We visited the Mosque of Muhammad Ali and I really loved it. Each is very different and wonderful in its own way. 
    • I appreciated having a guide, but you don’t need one.
    • Google: most famous mosques in cairo Choose one that you’re interested in seeing and go!
    • Or book through Viator

What to know before visiting Egypt and Cairo

Check the Weather before your trip, it’s hot most of the year, but sometimes the nights can be quite chilly in the winter. 

Water and hygiene:

  • Don’t drink the tap water, do use bottled water to brush your teeth.
  • Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you everywhere, the bathrooms don’t always have TP or soap. 
  • Consider having an electrolyte pack every day, it’s quite hot and it can be easy to become dehydrated. Liquid I.V. is our fave.
  • Wear sunscreen, bring a travel sized one with you daily.

Getting around:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, the most important step in running around a metropolis like Cairo is to blister proof those feet! 
  • Crossing the street is intimidating, but very doable. Wait til there is 6 foot (2 meter) gap between you and the nearest car, step out and walk slowly enough for the cars to adjust for you crossing, and they will. Don’t go too slowly, try and match the flow the traffic is going in. Sometimes you get lucky and you can follow a local across, which makes it a little easier. After your second time, it’ll start to click and you’ll be flowing across the street like you’ve been doing it your whole life.
  • Uber, yes, Uber is in Cairo! It’s a great service, using the pre booking system for outings is great for touring around the city.
  • Ask where you are staying for recommended car services. You can hire a driver for a day, or a week even, for great prices.
  • Metro: There’s 3 different metro lines, all three go to the Coptic area and the Museum of Antiquities, so if you’re heading there, it’s a great option to take the metro. It’s hot in the summer, you will sweat, but it’s pretty dang good as far as non-european transit systems are concerned. There’s also 2 female only cars on every train, which is awesome as a solo female traveler. 
  • Microbuses: I haven’t ridden one yet, they do look like a fun experience and maybe challenging, they don’t always fully stop for you to disembark so it’s not for the faint of heart. But it is pretty cheap and pretty fast. 
  • Tuk-Tuk: Also not for the faint of heart, but very fun and can get through some areas larger vehicles can’t. Through bargaining you can hire one for the day for great prices. Great option for cheap solo or couples days out.
  • Taxi’s: Must pre-bargain prices, make sure you have exact change (plus whatever tip you’d like to add)

What to wear:

  • Check the weather for the whole day, it can be cool in the evenings in the winter and it can be surprising after a hot day.
  • Bring a hat with a brim for sun protection
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Wear light weight breathable fabrics: cotton, linen, and silk are your best bets..It’s a conservative country, cover up as much as you feel comfortable in such hot weather. (Bring 2 scarves with you daily if you decide to wear shorts and a tank top, you may need them to enter certain areas, pack 2 light pashmina’s in a gallon size ziploc.

U.S. Embassy and STEP:

  • Have the embassy information for any country you visit readily available, if you lose your passport, you’ll need them to help you get back to the US. 
  • Make Copies of your passport, keep one in the safe in your room, email another to an emergency contact so you have access to the information readily available. 
  • Sign up for the STEP Program:
    • Do this before you go on your trip, if anything happens, the government will know you’re there and be able to assist you if needed.

Cultural information:

  • Greet anyone you wish to speak to before speaking, and do not speak to anyone praying, wait til they are finished before greeting them.
  • Bargaining: Please bargain, otherwise you may end up paying more than the worth of whatever it is you’re bargaining over. Transportation must be bargained for before getting in. Items are notoriously overpriced for tourists, try and settle for about half to 3/4th the original asking price. Be willing to walk away, most likely they’ll chase you down and accept. 
  • If you’re complimented on anything, give an equal compliment back.
  • Respect the elders, being kind and respectful anywhere is necessary, but in Egypt, it is especially important.
  • You may be asked to remove your shoes when entering some areas.
  • Many people do not consume alcohol or pork, ask someone if there’s anything they don’t consume before dining with them. 
  • Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to dine at someone’s home with their family, accept if you feel comfortable, you’ll have a lovely evening and meal with good company, you’ll probably cherish the memory of the evening forever.

Packing:

  • I carry a small cosmetic bag with me in my backpack everyday, makes traveling a little lighter and it’s refillable for the next day.
    • Travel sunscreen
    • Blister band aids
    • TP travel sized, or use a ziploc bag and refill from your hotel everyday
    • Travel sized hand sanitizer
  • I bring 1-2 scarves with me to cover up for entering any religious or conservative areas. Egypt is a conservative country. While completely covering up, including your hair, isn’t necessary any longer, there are places that do require you to cover your arms and legs while on their premises.
  • Wear lightweight breathable fabrics: cotton, linen, and silk are your best bets. 
    • Downy Wrinkle Release comes in a travel size if the word linen completely freaks you out. I totally understand and have found that if i use it when I first unpack, then there’s hardly any wrinkles.

Things you should be aware of:

  • Fridays are holy days, stores may not be open, and buses may not run. 
  • Check the Muslim calendar and look up any holidays during your trip and find out the impact they will have on your trip. Fasting holidays mean restaurants are only open when the sun is not out for example, or if there’s a Nile river celebration you may want to attend. 
  • October through April is the best time to visit Egypt, and it’s the same with Cairo. It’s hot and humid in the summer, and traveling outside during the summer months is much more bearable. 
  • Egypt is one of the least expensive countries to visit, consider booking some luxuries, either in accommodations, car service, meals, or spa experiences. You’ll be surprised at how inexpensive it is. 
  • I recommend not renting a car here. Transportation is so inexpensive and the driving so intense, it’s not worth the headache it’ll cause you to find parking and navigate the streets.
  • A little bit of Arabic will go a long way:
    • Good Morning: Sabah el-khair
    • Good Evening: Masa el-khair
    • Good Bye: Ma’a as-salāma
    • Peace be with you: As-salāmu
    • Good: Jayyid
    • Yes: Na’am
    • No: Lā
    • Excuse me: Ismahli
    • Do you speak English? Hal tatakallam ingeliziyya
    • How much? Bi-kam
    • God willing: In sha’Allah 
    • My name is: Asmi hu
  • These were helpful, I found using God willing and my name is made people even friendlier, if that’s possible there!