Coptic Church of St. George (Mari Girgis)
One of the few round churches still in existence in the East, the Greek Church of St. George features a long set of steps that lead up to the church where visitors will find a relief of St. George and the dragon wrapped around the outer brickwork of the tower. For centuries, the church alternated between Copt and Greek ownership, but since the 15th century it has remained Greek Orthodox, and the adjoining monastery of St. George is now the seat of the Greek patriarch. The St George Church is most famous for its beautiful wedding hall, (Qaat el Irsan) which dates back to the 14th century.
Hanging Church (El Muallaqa, Sit Mariam, St Mary)
The Hanging Church derives its name from its location on top of the southern tower gate of the old Babylon fortress with its nave suspended over a passage. It's the most famous Coptic Church in Cairo with the earliest mention of the church being a statement in the biography of the patriarch Joseph (831AD - 849AD). It went on to become known to travelers as the 'staircase church' during the 14th and 15th centuries, because of the twenty-nine steps that lead to the entrance. The visual impact of the church's elevated position has been reduced due to the rise of land surface by around 20ft (6metres) since the Roman period. The Roman tower remains mostly buried below ground.
Asfour Crystal Factory.
The Egyptians were the first people to develop the art technology of manufacturing glass and cutting it into beautiful shapes and began doing this 5,000 years ago. Established in 1961 and located in Shobra, the Asfour Crystal Factory Showroom is the largest crystal factory in Egypt and provides crystals to many countries across the globe. Products range from jewelers, 3D laser gifts, figurines and a selection of chandeliers and other light fittings. The jeweler is not of the same standard as Swarovski crystal. But some lovely pieces can be picked up at an affordable price.
Saladin Citadel (Al-Qalaa)
This massive stone fortress set in a beautiful tropical location with magnificent views, was built by Salah ad-Din in the 12th century. Visitors have the freedom to roam the castle, which remains in pristine condition, including the execution room. Two other mosques are located at the Citadel, the 13th/14th century Mosque of al-Nassir Muhammad and the 16th century Mosque of Suleiman Pasha. The Al-Gawhara Palace, National Military Museum and Police Museum can also be found inside the Citadel.
Ramses II Statue.
Discovered in 1882 during excavations, the statue of Pharaoh Ramses II was cut into six pieces in the 1950s and moved to Ramses Square in central Cairo where it stood for a further 50 years. In 2006 the statue moved to a new home near the Pyramids and the Museum of Antiquities, as there were growing concerns that heavy pollution was damaging the 3,200-year-old statue, which weighs 83 ton and stands 36 feet (11 meters) high. Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for more than 60 years during the 19th dynasty of pharaohs, was one of ancient Egypt's most prolific builders.
Buzzing with the activities of buying and selling, Khan al-Khalili is one of the largest markets in the world. It is situated within Islamic Cairo, a World Heritage Site that attracts travelers and locals alike. This is the best place to soak up the color of Cairo and to people-watch. Traders have been bargaining in these alleys since the 14th century and it is possible to buy almost anything, from exotic perfume bottles to everyday Arabic clothing. On the northern corner of the bazaar is the Mosque of Siyanda al-Hussein, one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt.
Pyramids of Giza
The pyramids are the earth’s oldest tourist attraction and the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is the only remainder of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Throughout their history, they have fired human imagination, with much speculation as to their origin and purpose, but most evidence supports the theory that they were built by the ancient civilization as tombs or great monuments in which to bury their kings and nobles, a place to start their mystic journey to the afterlife.
The oldest and largest pyramid, the Great Pyramid, is thought to have taken 20 years to build and is made of about two million blocks of limestone. No one knows how the two-ton blocks were moved into place, but it was known to be the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 40 centuries. The Sphinx, known as the Abu al-Holy (Father of Terror), stands in front of the Great Pyramid and is thought to be older than the pyramids themselves.
Dr. Ragab's Pharaonic Village
This living museum is a fabulous attraction for the whole family to enjoy. Visitors sail down a network of canals in motorized barges where a cast of actors and actresses work to recreate ancient Egypt. All the characters from pharaohs and fishermen to slaves and potters are represented and even moments in history are recreated. Facilities include a cafeteria, playground, restaurant and boat hire.
This indoor amusement park spans two floors and features 10 big rides, over 100 games and rides, and even a Baby Zone section for the very young visitors. Kids can enjoy rides such as the Moon Buggy or Falling Star, or even let off some steam in the Soft Play Room or jump on family rides such as the Comet Coaster or Demolition Derby. This is a fantastic attraction for the whole family Dream Park.
A trip to Dream Park is a must for children of all ages and makes a great day out for the whole family. Featuring rides, shops and simulators, Dream Park is also encircled by a train, making access easy. Visitors can enjoy stomach-turning rides, or mellow family rides as well as one of the largest concert areas in Cairo. Several restaurants provide refueling stops.
This theme park guarantees children of all ages a fantastic fun-filled day out. Featuring a variety of games, children can ride a flying carpet, take a spin on the carousel, and explore a House of Ghosts and even a get a different perspective on themselves in the mirror house.
Viewing the Pyramids by Arabian horseback is a great experience and an unforgettable way to take in one of the world's most famous sights. There is of course, the slightly smellier option of camel riding, a real 'Egyptian experience' and a popular activity with tourists, especially children. Sunrise and full-moon rides are available and after a day out on the sand, head back to the riding headquarters and relax on their deck with refreshments and barbeque while taking in the spectacular views over the Pyramids and Sphinx for the evening laser show.
Western Desert Oases
From Cairo it is possible to experience Egypt's finest journey on offer, the Great Desert Circuit. It runs for over 621 miles (1,000km) through spectacular desert landscape and is punctuated by four oases situated in a depression: Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga. The first two have hot springs and palm groves, Farafra being the more traditional and rural of the two. To experience the remoteness of the desert travelers can spend an unforgettable night in the White Desert between oases. Dakhla and Kharga are surrounded by old ruins and villages from the times of the ancient caravan routes to Sudan.
Restaurants in Cairo
Dining in Cairo should take advantage of unique, plentiful, and very cheap quality restaurants serving Egyptian favorites. By sitting down in the neighborhood café and enjoying some light eats and sweet drinks travelers can easily immerse themselves into local dining and social culture.
Yet, any one cuisine can get tired and the new best restaurants in Cairo have an eclectic international focus. Previously restricted to hotel restaurants, sashimi to cheeseburgers are now prepared by top chefs in trendy venues. Even local food is now getting a facelift.
To peruse the trendiest restaurants in Cairo, Zamalek is the dining hotspot. Inversely, the areas about downtown and near Khan al-Khalili are great for cheap and local haunts.
In Cairo it is considered unclean to eat with the left hand, and remember that alcohol is often not served unless at a hotel restaurant. It is considered good manners to leave food on your plate, as it shows that the host has been generous. It is considered impolite to stare at another person's food in a restaurant. During Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day, many restaurants are closed and, again, travelers should head to a hotel restaurant.
This popular tourist haunt may be a bit pricey, yet the Oriental décor is stunning. A bubbling fountain, contemporary art exhibits and tapestries adorning the walls create a wonderful dining environment. The Egyptian-Middle Eastern food focuses mainly on grilled meats so stick to local dishes like bamia (stewed okra). Arabesque is popular for business lunches. Alcohol is served. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations essential.
This unusual restaurant is a mix of heavy ottoman ornaments in a richly decorated haunt. The food too is a mix and the more unusual sounding dishes are most likely to be the best. Traditional home cooking like molokhiyya stew are favorites although the restaurant blends dishes from several backgrounds with a Lebanese flair. Derivations are advisable.
This tent restaurant has become a popular relaxation spot with trendy locals and expats and for good reason. On the high banks of the Nile the restaurant has a commanding spot atop the city. Perfect to relax with flavored tobaccos and traditional Egyptian and Lebanese mezzo food although there are other options for light western dining. More of a lounge during the day, the place becomes a club when the sun sets.
Delicious food and an inviting, cozy atmosphere have made this restaurant one of Cairo's favorite eateries. Soft lighting and tasteful décor create the perfect atmosphere to dine on such dishes as creamy onion soup, veal cordon bleu stuffed with mushrooms and topped with cheese and tomatoes or thick crust pizzas loaded with toppings of your choice. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Colorful mosaic and carvings adorn the almost every inch of this Moroccan restaurant where Middle-Eastern pigeon meat, colloquially known as the squab, makes a name for itself in the pie pastille, a semi-sweet Egyptian dish laced with spices and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. The chicken tagline, a stew made with dates served in a colonial ceramic dish comes highly recommended. Alcohol is not served. Reservations advisable.
With authentic ingredients flown in from Bangkok and a highly skilled Thai woman at the helm, it's no wonder the food at Bua Khao keeps guests coming back for more. Renowned for serving the best Thai food in Egypt, the mass man and Penang curries are to-die-for and the tom kar gai (chicken and coconut milk soup) is a great way to start things off. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations advisable.
The Revolving Restaurant Grand Hyatt
Towering above the city 41 floors high, diners can enjoy truly panoramic views of the city below as the scenery circles by. Besides taking in the Nile, the city and the pyramids an open kitchen in the centre of the restaurant puts on a show serving up an eclectic range of multi-national menu choices. A slightly formal setting is perfect for romantic evenings and a reprieve from the congestion 41 floors below. Reservations are advised.
The Fish Market
Gone are the days of travelling to Alexandria for good fresh fish. Nowadays, those looking for decent sea fare can book a table at the Fish Market, situated on the upper deck of a boat permanently moored on the west bank of the Nile. With no menu and just a display of some of the freshest fish Cairo has to offer, diners pay by weight and choose their own fish, shrimp, calamari, crabs and shellfish which is beautifully prepared by the kitchen as you like. Couple that with a slew of Middle Eastern salads and deliciously home baked bread and you have a recipe for success! Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations advisable.
Overlooking Mayodan Sphinx and complete with exquisite woodwork detailing, the lavish dining area in Kandahar features authentic Indian furnishings. The food tastes as good as the restaurant looks - amazing! The Baingan Bharta (creamy smoked eggplant baked in a clay oven and perfect for dipping fluffy Naan bread in) is an absolute must and Murgh Tikka (spiced chicken kebabs marinated in yoghurt) is a firm favorite. Service is excellent. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations advisable.
Marble lines the floors, alabaster lamps adorn the walls and a piano tinkles in the background inviting diners to twirl across the marble dance floor. Couple that with an amazing panoramic view over the city and an inspired menu and you've got a winner. The mushroom and potato pyramids topped with tomato-mango chutney are delicious, but the classic meat and seafood grills take the cake. Desserts are mind blowing and it is advisable to leave a little room for something sweet.
Cairo nightlife swirls around the aromatic social centre of the city, the coffee shop. The ahwas, as they are called, are day and night social gathering spots for locals. Many Muslims don't drink alcohol, although many do, and the ahwas are great places to mingle or relax from the frenetic Cairo day. In the night hours some cafés also sell alcohol to a very local crowd, although visitors are usually welcome.
Most large hotels house a pub, bar or large club. These are very popular spots with locals as well as visitors, and bookings for club tables may need to be made in advance. Clubs usually have relaxing lounge or restaurant atmospheres, often centered on a performance of music or dancing.
While this can be great entertainment, many belly dancing shows and clubs are fronts for prostitution. Large hotels have reputable shows as well as popular western-style discos, usually with an Egyptian-themed twist.
Westerners are welcomed everywhere, and sometimes preferred, although women should dress a bit more conservative than they might at home. During Ramadan, alcohol is only served in 'foreigners only' establishments.
One of the world's most historic cities and highly popular with tourists, shopping in Cairo is fun and distinctive with its markets, stalls, souvenirs and haggling. Many visitors to this vibrant city will have a wonderful time just wandering through the souks (markets) taking in the sights, sounds and smells.
Just about everything and anything can be bought at the largest market of Khan al-Khalili in Islamic Cairo. Most visitors dare not venture into the interior as touts can pressurize shoppers and shopkeepers can be pushy. Bartering is an essential skill when in Cairo and a good rule of thumb is to halve the first asking price and start haggling from there.
Popular souvenirs include painted papyrus scrolls embellished with hieroglyphics, copper and bronze items, jewelers, carpets and leather goods from bags and belts to full-length jackets, which can be found away from the main tourist drags. The quality is normally excellent. The Wekalet al-Balah is a must for lovers of beautiful fabrics and Egyptian cotton.
Most shops are open depending on the season and shops in tourist areas generally keep longer hours. The majority of stores open at 9am and close at 7pm during the winter months, while during the summer stores open later but close for an extended lunch hour during the day. Opening hours during summer are usually 9am - 1pm and 4pm to 9pm. During Ramadan opening times can be disrupted.
Visitors are only able to claim tax refunds on purchases of more than US$1,000, which are shipped out of Egypt within three months. Travelers’ who wish to reclaim tax have to produce their passport at the point of purchase and request a governmental refund application form, which must be presented to the appropriate customs official at the departure point.
Cairo International Airport (CAI)
Location: The airport is situated 14 miles (22km) from Cairo.
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 between last Friday in April and last Friday in September).
Contacts: Tel: +20 (0)2 265 4611.
Transfer between terminals: The two terminals are two miles (3km) apart and are linked by a free shuttle, which departs about every half an hour.
Getting to the city: There are taxis outside the main arrivals hall; the journey to central Cairo takes around 45 minutes. An Airport Shuttle bus is a convenient way to get from the airport to downtown Cairo and along the Pyramids Road in Giza. Public buses and air-conditioned coaches also leave regularly from Terminal 1.
Car rental: Car hire companies at the airport include Avis, Budget, Euro car and Hertz. However, driving in Cairo is best avoided; otherwise visitors can hire a driver with their car for a small additional charge.
Airport Taxis: There are several taxi variations from Cairo International Airport. Taxis are paid for by a flat fee at the end of the ride and nothing is discussed beforehand. The fee should be around US$5 plus a small airport exit fee. To the city centre is14 miles (22km). Cairo taxis are black and white; Alexandria taxis are black and orange.
Facilities: Facilities include a restaurant and several cafeterias, banks and ATMs, bureau de change, pharmacies, an Internet café in Terminal 1, five-star lounges for business and first class passengers, smoking rooms (Terminal 1), tourist information desks and travel agencies. Duty-free is also available. Facilities for disabled passengers are good, but those with special needs should contact their airline in advance.
The most efficient and reliable public transport in Cairo is the Metro, which has the added advantage of being very cheap.
The route connects Helwan in the south of the city to Heliopolis in the north with various branches to Shubra, Ataba and Abdin. There is also a subway line between Giza and Shubra.
Trains run from 5.30am to midnight, the first carriage of each reserved for women only.
The streets of Cairo are well supplied with taxis, which may have a fare meter but it is not likely to be used. Fares vary and should be negotiated up front and are usually shared.
Taxis from hotels tend to cost double that of hailed taxis.
The bus and minibus services operating in the city are considered risky for tourists because of overcrowding and the potential for pick pocketing.
Buses also require at least a working knowledge of Arabic to navigate. Walking is a fairly good option for taking in the atmosphere of Cairo, but is warned, streets are not marked and maps not much help, so it is easy to lose direction. Driving in Cairo is not for the faint-hearted as few road rules are adhered to, traffic is heavy at all times and streets are poorly signposted.
Car rental agencies in Egypt require that drivers be 25 years old minimum and an International Driving Permit is needed.