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Cairo, Egypt

(*cruise tour)

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo (pronounced KY-roh; Arabic: القاهرة al-Qāhirah) is the capital of Egypt and one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (the regions which it conveniently straddles). It is also the 19th largest city in the world, and among the world's most densely populated cities.

On the Nile River, Cairo is famous for its history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo — with historic Cairo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Egyptian Museum in the city center is a must-see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artifacts, as is shopping at the Khan... Read more

Cairo, Egypt

Destination:

Cairo (pronounced KY-roh; Arabic: القاهرة al-Qāhirah) is the capital of Egypt and one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (the regions which it conveniently straddles). It is also the 19th largest city in the world, and among the world's most densely populated cities.

On the Nile River, Cairo is famous for its history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo — with historic Cairo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Egyptian Museum in the city center is a must-see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artifacts, as is shopping at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. No trip to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Giza Pyramids and to the nearby Saqqara Pyramid Complex , where visitors will see Egypt's first step pyramid built by the architect Imhotep for the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser.

Though firmly attached to the past, Cairo is also home to a vibrant modern society. The Midan Tahrir area situated in downtown Cairo, built in the 19th century under the rule of Khedive Ismail, has strived to be a "Paris on the Nile." There also are some more modern suburbs including Ma'adi and Heliopolis, while Zamalek is a quiet area on Gezira Island, with upmarket shopping. Cairo is best in the fall or spring when the weather isn't so hot. A felucca ride on the Nile is a good way to escape from the busy city, as is a visit to Al-Azhar Park.
Since the revolution in 2011 and the ongoing counter-revolution, tourists have fled Cairo to a large extent. This has created an opportunity for unique experiences of Cairo's and Egypt's cultural treasures without the crowds. Finding yourself alone inside a pyramid is now a real possibility. Prices are also lower.

Situated along the Nile, Cairo has ancient origins, located in the vicinity of the Pharaonic city of Memphis. The city started to take its present form in 641 AD, when the Arab general Amr Ibn Al-Ase conquered Egypt for Islam and founded a new capital called Misr Al-Fustat, "the City of the Tents", due to the legend of Al-Ase finding, on the day he was leaving to conquer Alexandria, two doves nesting in his tent. Not wanting to disturb them, he left the tent, which became the site of the new city in what is now Old Cairo. The Tunisian Fatimid dynasty captured the city in 969 A.D and founded a new city, Al-Qahira ("The Victorious") just north of Al-Fustat. Al-Qahira gave the city its English name, Cairo, but the locals still call it MàSr (مصر), the Egyptian dialectal version of Amr's MiSr. Confusingly, this also the Arabic name of the entire country of Egypt.

Climate

The best time to visit Cairo is during the winter from November to March, when daytime highs mostly stay below 26°C (79°F), with nighttime lows around 10°C (50°F) with occasional rain showers clearing the air, but still, you do not need an umbrella, even the rainiest months of the year rarely top 10 mm (0.4 in).
If visiting during winter, be aware that not all buildings are equipped with heaters, including some hotels and hostels. Visitors should always pack a few warm jumpers (sweaters) and a warm jacket for evening wear. In Cairo, in indoor buildings without air-conditioning, temperatures are about 15°C (59°F) in the coldest winter days and about 34°C (93°F) in the hottest summer days.
The brief spring from March to May can be pleasant as long as there are no sandstorms, but summer temperatures, on the other hand, can reach a searing 38°C (100°F). In September and October, the period of late summer and early autumn, farmers burn rice straw to ash after sunset near Greater Cairo, and this makes the air smokey.

Orientation

Today's Greater Cairo is a city with at least 17 million inhabitants, where skyscrapers and fast-food restaurants nestle up to world heritage monuments. Originally, Cairo was the designated name of the city on the eastern bank of the Nile, and this is where you'll find both the modern Downtown, built under influence of French architecture, today the center of commerce and popular life, as well as historical Islamic and Coptic sights.
Outside the core on the eastern bank, you'll find the modern, more affluent suburbs of Heliopolis and Nasr City near the airport, and Ma'adi to the south. In the middle of the Nile is the island of Gezira and Zamalek, where many embassies exist. On the western bank is lots of modern concrete and business, but also the great Giza pyramids and, further to the south, Memphis and Saqqara. The city might seem like a lot to handle, but give it a try, and you will find that it has a lot to offer for any traveler.


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Cairo, Egypt: Port Information


Cruise travelers can visit Cairo on a cruise tour.
The nearest port that hosts cruise ships is Port Said.
The distance between Cairo and the port is about 125 m - it will take you about 3 hours to get there by car.

Get around Cairo, Egypt


You will find that it's useful to have several maps handy if you are looking to get around Cairo on your own. Spellings of street and place names can vary from map to map and from the map to actual location, and not every street will appear on every map.

By metro

Cairo is home to Africa's first and most expansive metro system. While Cairo's metro system fully functioning is modern and sleek, the two lines are all too limited in scope. But they are a major boon in the areas they cover. Visitors attempting to use the metro in Cairo should try not to be put off when they go to a ticket window to purchase a ticket. Egyptians do not queue, so be prepared to politely but assertively, navigate your way through the crowd to the ticket window. It is recommended that if you hope to ride the metro multiple times during the day, or within a few days of each other, that you simply purchase multiple tickets to avoid standing in "line" on your return or future trips. The key interchanges are Shohadaa (Martyrs) (formerly Mubarak), at Midan Ramses, Sadat Midan Tahrir (occasionally closed) and Attaba (Ataba; عتبة).
The Cairo Metro has stations in Dokki and Maadi, among other places. The Metro is also a means to get to Giza to see the Pyramids, although it is always very crowded at peak times and you'll need to complete the trip taking a bus all the way (change to bus for "Al-Haram" at the Giza train station). You may also reach Heliopolis (Masr el-Gedida) using line 3, at the stations: Al Ahram (Korba) and Koleyet El Banat (Merghani).
Note that there are two cars of each train reserved for women, which are located in the middle section of the train, one of them is for women only till 9 PM while the other is for women all the time. The metro stops running at around 12:20 AM and starts up again around 5:15 AM. There are no timetables for lines 1 and 2, but departures are very frequent. Every 8 minutes, another metro of the line 3 arrives. The metro is better to use if you wish to avoid traffic jam, as long as you can ride it overly crowded (for lines 1 and 2) and be extra careful to avoid pickpocketing. It has a clear navigation system.

By taxi

Solid-White Taxis: These are modern sedans equipped with meters that are usually used, sometimes with AC, and run on natural gas. Most tourists will pay less using these taxis than they'll be able to negotiate with their non-metered brethren. They can be hailed from the street, and are common enough to be used perhaps exclusively (given a little patience) by any traveler. Compared to the black and white taxis, all tourists will find them more comfortable, and most - less expensive.
Bright Yellow Taxis: Increasingly becoming rarer. Typically available by reservation only, but sometimes try to pick up fares while en route. The drivers are not allowed to smoke in cars. Referred to as "City Cabs" or "Cairo Cabs." From within Cairo, call 0104343438-19155.
Older black-and-white taxis: Increasingly becoming rarer. Communication can be difficult as these usually have the oldest of drivers, and the meters are extremely outdated and are not used. Prices are, however, not erratic for natives, and any Cairene knows what to pay depending on time and distance. It is highly recommended that you have exact change before you enter, as drivers are reluctant to give change.
Ordinary Egyptians do not state prices beforehand. Instead, the correct sum is paid through the window after leaving. Some drivers might protest as they expect tourists to pay more than standard. You can use the "walk away" technique. As long the driver does not leave the car, you are all right. If this happens, consult someone nearby. As a tourist, you might prefer to state a price beforehand, which may prevent ripoffs, but will require you to quote above local prices. Try to avoid those loitering outside 5-star hotels and restaurants to minimize this. Using a big hotel as your destination may also inflate the price. Always choose the taxi, and never let the taxi choose you.
They also usually expect more money for ferrying more people. If you decide not to negotiate the price beforehand (this is the better method) be ready to jump ship and bargain hard if the cabbie brings up the fare after you are in the car. They rarely accept more than 4 people to a taxi. 
In General: Never continue traveling in any vehicle which you deem to be unsafe or the driver to be driving recklessly, especially in the dark on unlit roads, or in single track highways where overtaking is dangerous. If you feel unsafe simply tell the driver to slow down, if he does not do this immediately ask him to stop and simply get out and walk away, but be careful not to end up at a remote place which would be dangerous and difficult to find another thing to ride.

By bus

The large red, white and blue public buses cover the entire city and are much cheaper, but are usually crowded and slow. However, there are similar air-conditioned buses. They can be found in the main squares in Cairo. Also found in the main squares are the smaller mini-buses that are usually orange and white or red, white and blue. Because of problems with sexual harassment women travelers are advised only to take the small micro-buses and buses which prohibit standing. 
Apart from the main bus stations, buses can be hailed from street-level. Buses are seldom marked with the destination. Instead, passengers shout out (or use some sign-language-like hand codes) their destinations, and if the bus goes this place, it will stop. Travelers unfamiliar with Cairo can ask bus drivers or passengers to let them know where their stop is. Simply politely blurt out the name of your destination to the bus driver or a friendly looking passenger, and they will take care of you.
Late night bus riders: take note, bus frequency, length of the route, and in some cases, fees can vary during the late evening hours onward. In some cases, a route may terminate, without notice, short of your destination. When this takes place, locals rely upon private citizens hoping to make some additional money, to get them to their final destination. As always, use caution, if you should choose to accept private transportation. One final note on late night bus transportation, since many mini-buses will not depart until the bus is nearly full, you should be prepared for a lengthy period, while the driver waits for enough people to board.
There are some major bus stations (mawqaf موقف, pl. mawaqif مواقف) throughout the city. One of the largest is conveniently located behind the Egyptian Museum in Midan Tahrir. Note that there are two stations - the main bus station for the city buses, and the micro-bus station behind it. Travelers who want to visit the Pyramids, for example, can catch a seat in a micro-bus. Visitors wishing to go to the pyramids and see a bus or micro-bus driver shouting Hàràm, should always before boarding make a pyramid triangle with your hands to ensure that the driver is driving to the actual pyramids themselves, and not just to the district of Haram, which although is fairly close to the pyramids, can terminate a fair distance from the pyramid entrance.
There are also bus stations in Midan Ramses, under the overpass. Buses run from Ramses to Heliopolis, City Stars Mall and other destinations not covered by the Tahrir bus station.

Disabled access

Access in Cairo is patchy. Anyone with moderate to serious mobility issues should expect to spend a lot of time in taxis.
Wheelchair users, beware as many buildings have step-only access. Pavements are variable, even around the popular tourist attractions. There is often an incredibly steep drop from the curbs and where there are ramps they are better suited to pushchairs than wheelchairs. Expect potholes, gulleys, poorly cordoned-off building works, and street works, and cars parked across the pavement, where there is a pavement at all.
The white stick is recognized, and help is often offered. The help that is offered can be a little misguided at times, but it's usually well-intentioned.
Although more expensive by far, it is probably best to arrange taxis for major trips (such as visiting the pyramids) via your hotel. Picking up a taxi on the street can be hit and miss. Do not expect to be dropped off at the exact spot that you asked for; you will often be taken to somewhere nearby. Always fix a price before you get into a taxi.
Concessions on tickets cannot be taken for granted. For example, the Egyptian Museum offers a 50% concession for disabled patrons (and students) whereas the

Cairo Tower

doesn't offer concessions at all.
A visit to the pyramids is a must. It is important to note that the site is amazingly up and down. A good level of mobility would be required to attempt it by foot. If you opt for a horse/camel ride, make sure that you haggle hard.
If you are visually impaired or in any other way disabled it may be possible to gain permission to touch the pyramids. The outside of the pyramids are usually off limits to tourists and surrounded by a cordon. To arrange permission to touch a pyramid, approach one of the many tourist police dotted around the site. (Since the revolution with decreased tourism it is a lot easier to do things like climb on the pyramids, go inside the Sphinx fence or the pyramids - for a charge!)

What to see in Cairo, Egypt


A selected list of Cairo highlights:

  • Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. The only remaining monuments of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is the country's most famous tourist attraction.
  • Egyptian Museum (250 m north of Tahrir square), ☎ +20 2 25796948. Located in the Midan Tahrir area and officially named Museum of Egyptian Antiquities but known by all as the Egyptian Museum, it hosts the world's premier collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.
  • Citadel and Mosque of Mohamed Ali Pasha, in Islamic Cairo. A grand castle built by Salah Al-Din. Also, parts of the water pipes (Majra Al-Oyouon) are still there, these pipes used to carry the water from the Nile River to the citadel. Mohamed Ali is considered to be the founder of modern Egypt, the ancestor of the last King of Egypt, King Farouk.
  • Al-Azhar Mosque. One of the pillars of Islamic thought and home to the world's oldest university.
  • Ibn Tulun (مسجد أحمد بن طولون) (Close to Sayida Zeinab). Arguably the oldest mosque in Cairo, built between 868-884.
  • The Coptic Museum, in Coptic Cairo.
  • The "Hanging Church" (Church of the Virgin Mary), in Zabaleen Area (District of Manshiet Nasser) below Mokkatam Hills, not far away from the Citadel
  • Cairo Tower (185 m./610 ft.) on Gezira Island offers a 360-view of Cairo, along with the Giza Pyramids off in the distance to the west.
  • Al-Azhar Park. A recently opened landscaped gardens overlooking the Citadel
  • Khan El Khalily. Cairo's souk area where visitors will find many merchants selling perfume, spices, Gold, Egyptian handcraft.
  • Saint Samaan The Tanner Monastery. In Zabbaleen (garbage people) Area. (District of Manshiet Nasser) below Mokkatam Hills, not far away from the Citadel (not within reasonable walking distance). Coptic Christian churches and halls built inside large caves and beneath excavated cliff faces. As public transport does not enter this area, arranging for a hired car or finding a tour (if there is the one running) are the only realistic ways of reaching the monastery. The Zabbaleen are not used to interacting tourists; taking photographs of them, especially while at work, could result in a misunderstanding.
  • Abdeen Palace. Located about one Kilometer away from the Midan El-Tahrir five minutes walk, home of the last king of Egypt the exiled King Farouk.
  • Pharaonic Village. It is about twenty minutes driving from Downtown.

What to do in Cairo, Egypt


Coffee and shisha

Have a coffee, mint tea or Cola at El Fishawy's coffee shop in Khan El-Khalili. Smoke a shisha water pipe (try the "double apple" flavor) and watch the world go by. Great cheap entertainment.

Felucca

Ride a felucca along the Nile River. A great way to relax and enjoy a night under the stars in Cairo. Feluccas are available across from the Four Seasons Hotel in Garden City. Pay after your ride, or you may get much less than you bargained for. Public boats with loud noisy music and a giggling crowd are also available but are very uncomfortable.

Parks

Cairo has a shortage of parks, but a few of them exist.

  • The most famous is the Giza Zoo located in the Giza district of Cairo, right in front of the entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel in Giza. This is actually one of the oldest zoos in the world (it was built approximately 100 years ago).
  • Hadiqat Al Orman, translated (Al Orman Gardens). This is a fairly large park in the Giza district, close to the Giza zoo, and it can be entered by paying a daily ticket at the gate. It contains a variety of trees and flowers and is a nice place to escape the noise and traffic of the city. However, it may be very crowded with locals especially on weekends and public holidays like the Eid, etc.
  • Hadiqat Al Azbakiya, translated (Al Azbakieya Gardens). Another nice park to enjoy the greenery and scenery of trees and gardens while remaining inside the city. It is located in the Azbakiya area of Cairo, and the best option is to take a taxi.
  • Genenet El Asmak, another park located in Zamalek. It is a nice park, which also includes several large caves containing water aquariums, where you can see different species of fish and underwater life through glass windows. Like other parks, a very cheap ticket enables you to enter and enjoy the day there. Genene El Asmak means Garden of the Fish in English.
  • Merryland, in Arabic (Genenet El Merryland), located in Heliopolis district near Roxy Cinema. Again, another park with trees and gardens and nice scenery, but in the last 5 years ago, a number of restaurants and cafes have also opened up inside the park, which means it is now a place where people can eat, drink, and enjoy the park altogether.
  • El Hadiqa El Dawliya, in English this means (The International Garden), located in Nasr City district. It is one of the more recently opened parks, built when Nasr City district was built. Again, it is another park, with sections containing different copies of famous buildings from around the world. (The copies are much smaller of course and are like small statues that you can view (i.e. The Eiffel Tower of Paris, The Great Wall of China, The Windmills of Holland, etc.) Interesting to see.
  • Al-Azhar Park, is probably the newest and most recent park to open in Cairo, also with restaurants and entertainment available. It has a good vantage point of Islamic Cairo and the city skyline.

You can also take a stroll along the Corniche el-Nil, and there is a river promenade on Gezira Island.

  • Desert Park. Wadi Digla Protected Area is a 60 square kilometer environmentally protected park near Ma'adi, that offers an opportunity for taking a trek, jogging, rock climbing, and cycling. Wadi Degla is also a good spot for bird watching and viewing the various reptile species, plants, and deer that reside there. You can take a cab from Ma'adi to the entrance at Wadi Delga. Cab drivers in Ma'adi should know where to go.

Recreation

Other options for relaxation include visiting the Giza Zoo and the Cairo Botanical Gardens, or watching horse racing at the Gezira Club in Zamalek, or, when you need a break from city life, try a round of golf on the famous Mena House Golf Course overlooking the Pyramids, or The Hilton Pyramids Hotel tournament Golf Course and nearby Sixth Of October City, Ten minutes drive from Giza Pyramids.
Or if the family, and especially children are fed up looking at monuments and museums, a ten minute trip from the Giza Pyramids by micro-bus, taxi, or car, will take you to two of the biggest and best theme parks in Cairo, Dream-park, and Magic land, both in nearby Sixth Of October City.
Magic land is also part of The Media Production City complex, including The Mövenpick Hotel, where visitors can take a tour of the Egyptian TV and drama sets, and studios which house many of the Egyptian and other Arabic TV stations.

Shopping

Citystars is Egypt's premier shopping mall and is quite comparable to a foreign mall. It offers most international brands and most international food chains. It offers a cinema and amusement park. Mall of Arabia is a brand new spacious shopping mall in the suburb of 6 October City. It is Cairo's other premier shopping destination, featuring many of the same American and European clothiers as Citystars.

Horseback riding

Go horseback riding in the desert from one of the Nazlet El-Samaan stables such as FB Stables (contact Karim +20 (0)106 507 0288) in Giza. Ride in the shadow of the Great Pyramids or further afield to Saqqara or Abu Sir or camp out overnight with a barbecue and fire. Popular with expats who keep their horses at livery, FB Stables is also great for a 'tourist' type ride to view the Pyramids from the desert. Longer rides to Saqqara and Abu Seer can be arranged in advance, as can sunrise, sunset and full moon rides. Other than the horses and good company, one of the best things about FB is their amazing rooftop terrace (with bbq) with unrivaled views over the Pyramids - a great place to relax with a drink whilst watching the Sound and Light show.

Music and culture

  • Sufi Dancing - The Al Tanura Troupe offers free performances every Saturday, Monday and Wednesday night at 8:30 PM (07:30 during Winter ) at the Al-Ghouri Mausoleum. This picturesque place is situated nearby the Khan el Khalili souk, on a narrow street between the Al Azhar and Al Ghouri mosques.
  • The Culture Wheel (الساقية Al-Saqia). The largest independent cultural center in Cairo offers concerts almost every night.
  • The Garden Theater. In Al-Azhar Park offers a range of musical performances. The venue is also a great place for an evening stroll.
  • Cairo Opera House. It hosted the Cairo International Film Festival in 2012 and screened some international films with very cheap subsidized ticket prices.
  • Egyptian Centre for Culture & Art (MAKAN) 10 Egyptian Traditional music.
  • The Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Hussein El Me'mar Pasha street, ☎ +20 2 2 576 80 86, e-mail: info@thetownhousegallery.com. Daily 10 AM-2 PM, 6 PM-9 PM, F 6 PM-9 PM, Closed Th.
  • Cairo Jazz Club, 197, 26th July Street, Agouza, Giza (From Zamalek, just before Sphinx Square), ☎ +20 2 2 3345 9939. Daily 5 PM-3 AM. Live entertainment from local and international musicians, great food and beverage menu (happy hour from 7-9 PM) and a relaxed atmosphere. 7 nights a week.
  • Housaper theater (مسرح الهوسابير). Mostly erroneously known and spelled as Hosabeer. A small theater which hosts cultural plays and concerts for independent artists. Address: El Galaa St, Kulali, near Ahmed Oraby Metro Station, behind the hospital of Egypt railway.

What to eat and drink in Cairo, Egypt


Eat

Cairo has an enormous number of restaurants, catering to most needs. Ironically though, one may want to avoid any restaurants listed in popular guidebooks. Egyptian restaurants have a habit of after being listed, cooking up a special English menu with vastly inflated prices. That said, cheap food can be found everywhere in street restaurants and snack stalls. The top-notch restaurants are often, but not always, found in hotels and Nile boats. The borders between restaurants and cafes are not crystal-clear in the Egyptian capital. In many places, it is perfectly acceptable to just have a drink or sheesha. Medium and high-range outlets might have a minimum charge. Cheaper restaurants will normally not serve alcohol as well as some more expensive outlets.
In general, downtown is good for budget eating, while for higher quality eating you should head to Zamalek, Mohandiseen or any of the other more affluent parts of town.

Egyptian and middle eastern food

Traditional Egyptian staples are available almost everywhere. In stalls and street restaurants you will find traditional dishes like fūl (bean paste), falāfel, moussaka, koshari (rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas and tomato sauce), feTīr (pancakes with different fillings) and shawarma (an import from Lebanon and Syria — pieces of roasted meat usually wrapped in bread). Cheaper places will only serve up vegetables and maybe beef hot dogs or corned beef. Eggs, fried potatoes, and salads are also usually available. Hygiene varies wildly and the best advice is to go for the most visited places. Avoid empty restaurants as the food will be less fresh. Especially downtown, you can find many good koshari shops, including many outlets of the excellent Koshari Tahrir chain. Delicious and cheap fūl, falāfel, and shawarma sandwiches can be bought at the many outlets of popular Gad fast-food chain dotted around Cairo.
In the medium and upper price range, your choice of traditional Egyptian food will be more limited. Although the situation is improving, traditionally Egyptian gastronomical experiences are still mostly restricted to private homes. Quality chain restaurants like Felfela (several outlets), Abou El Sid (Zamalek, Maadi, and Dokki), and Abou Shakra offer authentic Egyptian food.
Otherwise oriental or Middle Eastern restaurants tend to mix styles or completely go for more Lebanese-style eating, considered more stylish by rich Cairenes. The good side of this is that Cairo is blessed with many quality Lebanese outfits, from chains like Dar Al-Qamar to stylish restaurant establishments. Additionally, Turkish food and restaurants catering to Gulf visitors can be found.

Western and Asian food

Cairo has a growing number of Western fast food outlets available - these are, incidentally, some of the best places to see young Cairenes relaxing together, as fast-food restaurants are apparently considered among the hippest places to hang out. McDonald's, Hardees, Pizza Hut, and KFC are spread about the city, but they are relatively more expensive. Most of these also offer free wireless internet.
The Tahrir Table, 11 Tahrir square next to KFC. Owned by a Swedish lady, meals from locally inspired food to international dishes. View of Tahrir square on the second floor. Beer and wine served.
Mo'men chain, Cook Door, the Egyptian equivalent of McDonald's has a similar menu with similar prices and free wireless internet.
Lighter meals like sandwiches and salads as well as pastries can be found in western-style bakeries and cafes. Popular chains like Cilantro, Beanos, Costa, and The Marriott Bakery, as well as individual outlets, all offer more or less similar dishes. Most of these places also offer free wireless internet.
There is also a cute TGI Friday's on the Nile banks at the entrance of Maadi, serving beer but no wine. Gezira also has its very own Chili's. For burgers, you can also try Fuddrucker's (Maadi and Mohandesseen) or Lucille's www.lucillesrestaurants.com/ in Ma'adi (54 Road n° 9) which is owned by an American woman. Maison Thomas has several branches throughout Cairo, including Mohandiseen, Zamalek, and Maadi, and serves some of the best pizza in Cairo. There is an Italian place called the Mint in Mohandesseen 30 Gezirt Al Arab ST. open 9 AM-1:30, which boasts a very stylish interior, however, it's alcohol-free. If you prefer more stylish international dining, Cairo offers a wide variety: Italian, Chinese and Japanese outlets in addition to the ambiguous continental cooking abound, especially in areas like Zamalek, Mohandseen, and Dokki. Rossini fish restaurant 66 Omar Ibn El Khatab ST +202 2291-8282, Cedars 42 Gezerit Al Arab Mohandeseen +202 3345-0088, this Lebanese restaurant is a favorite with Mohandesseen's ladies who can order grills and salads in a spacious outdoor terrace.

Hygiene and diet issues

For health reasons, it is advisable not to drink tap water or eat unpeeled fresh fruits and vegetables—at least for the first few days of the visit. There are few solely vegetarian options, L'aubergine in Zamalek is a good restaurant for vegetarian food. Otherwise, Egyptian cuisine is dominated by vegetable courses, but be aware of "hidden" meat in stock, sauces and the like. One should also be cautious about sushis (slushees?) or ice creams sold outside of main hotels. Also, if served eggs, one should be cautious to ensure that they are fully cooked (sunny side up eggs may allow certain organisms to be transmitted).

Self-catering

The Metro chain and Alfa Market dotted around Cairo are convenient supermarkets. They often stock Western brands. Otherwise, vegetables and fruit are plentiful and cheap. Bakeries such as The Bakery chain sell western-style bread and pastries. Organic food from the local ISIS brand is available at the supermarkets Metro and Carrefour and the Sekem Shop in Ahmed Sabri Street (شارع احمد صبر), Zamalek.
By far the cheapest and most satisfying option, buying from Souks and outdoor markets makes for a crash course in Arabic and haggling, not to mention that the produce is often superb! Bread can be found on nearly every corner and comes in two types - whole wheat aysh baladi and white flour aysh shami. Both are baked fresh daily and delivered by thousands of kids on bicycles to every corner of the city. Every neighborhood has a few streets dedicated to produce and other goods. Always wash fruit thoroughly before eating. Eating a fresh Roma tomato in the heat of Summer straight from a market seller after being washed is a delight, hard to match. The fruits and vegetables in Egypt may not conform to EU or US standards of size, but their taste is far superior.
Small bakeries (furne) sell every kind of baked good imaginable - ranging from Italian style breadsticks with nigella and sesame seeds to croissants, donuts and anything with dates in it. Fresh goods from these bakeries offer a nice alternative to the standard Egyptian breakfast of beans, beans, and beans, as well as the fact that this bread is very cheap.

Drink

Cairo has a wide range of drinking options from the very traditional to fashionable and modern. At the other end of the scale, almost any street in Cairo has a traditional coffee house, ´ahwa, a traditionally male institution of social life tracing many hundreds of years back in history. Besides that, you'll find everything from fruit stalls to patisseriés and bakeries and modern cafés whipping up all varieties of modern European coffee. In addition to the traditional Turkish coffee and shai tea, virtually everywhere you'll find drinks like hibiscus tea kerkedeeh, served warm or cold depending on the season, sahleb, a milk-based drink usually served in winter, fakhfakhenna (a kind of fruit salad), sugarcane juice, mango and tamarind juice, Tamr hindi.

Traditional coffee houses

Cairo remains one of the best cities in the world to sample the traditional coffee house culture of the region. They are called maqhâ in Standard Arabic, but in the local dialect, this is turned into ´ahwa. The Turkish coffee remains an invariable ingredient in any Cairene coffee house, and water pipe (sheesha) and tea is even more popular. While considered "old-fashioned" for a time, these places are again turning fashionable among younger crowds and even smoking a water-pipe is no longer a male-only pastime. Places vary from just a small affair—plastic chairs and tables put out on the street—to more elaborate cafes especially in upscale and tourist areas.
For many, the sheesha or water pipe, is the main attraction of any visit to a Cairene coffee house. It is usually available in at least two varieties, mu´assal, pure tobacco, and tofâh, apple-flavored. Other fruit varieties are sometimes available. Coffee houses range from the more elaborately decorated to a simple counter and some plastic chairs and tables spread out in the street. Foreigners are invariably made welcome, although women might feel uncomfortable visiting coffee houses in traditional, poor areas of the city. However, in downtown and the tourist areas of Islamic Cairo single or women-only groups should not expect anything more than the ordinary hassle.
Turkish coffee (´ahwe turki) is served either sweet (helwa), medium sweet (masbout), with little sugar (sukr khafeef) or no sugar (sâda). Sweet means very sweet. Tea (shai) is served either as traditional loose tea (kûshari, not to be confused with the Cairo macaroni-rice stample kushari), known as dust tea in English or in a tea bag. Most coffee shops usually offer fresh mint leaves to put in your tea, upon request. A range of soft drinks is usually available. Most typically you will find hibiscus tea (karkadee), served warm in the winter season and cold during the warmer parts of the year.

Fruit juice stalls

During the hot Cairo summer, fruit juice stalls selling fresh juice (and occasionally fruit salads and other soft drinks) are a delight not to be missed. Basically, these places sell fresh-pressed juice of whatever is in season. Typical choices include orange (borto'ân), lemon (lamūn), mango (manga) and strawberry (farawla), guava (gawafa), pomegranate (Rommân). Prices and quality depend on season and availability. These places are spread out around the city and available at almost all the places tourists typically visit and in all local residential districts. Traditional coffee houses or fruit juice stalls might sell all or some of these drinks.
A health reminder Use extra care if you choose to consume beverages from fruit stalls. In general, food handling procedures are not up to Western food sanitation standards. It should also be noted that some vendors mix their fruit juices with less-than-perfect tap-water.

Modern cafes and pastry shops

Modern cafes and patisseries are spread out around the city. Typically they serve light food like sandwiches and salad in addition to espresso-based coffees and pastries. Many of these places are chains, like Cilantro, Beanos, Cinnabon, Orangette, The Bakery and Coffee Roastery. Most of these places, including all the chains mentioned above, offer wireless internet connection as well. International chains such as Costa Coffee and Starbucks are also widely available throughout Cairo.

Nightlife

For the capital of a Muslim country, Cairo is relatively liberal when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. A wide range of bars and dance clubs is available, basically in every major hotel, and some are open 24/7. If you would like to explore the less fancy drinking places in Cairo, Downtown is definitely the place to go. Upscale nightspots are found in and around the Zamalek area

Shopping in Cairo, Egypt


ATMs are conveniently located in various places throughout downtown. A more secure option is the ATMs in the five-star hotels. There also are numerous places that handle currency exchange, or you can try any major bank such as HSBC or Commercial International Bank for currency exchanges or redeeming traveler's cheques. There also are some Citibank 13 branches in Cairo.
Foreign currencies can also be exchanged for Egyptian pound in all the Egyptian banks like Banque Misr 14, National Bank of Egypt 15, Banque De Caire 16, Arab African Bank 17, The United Bank 18, or the large branches of Bureau De Change.
Be aware that many merchants will try to scam you out of as much as they possibly can. A particularly common trick is the papyrus museums. They come in many different flavors, but they often call themselves galleries, museums or workshops. You will be given a brief talk or demonstration on how papyrus is made and warned against cheaper shops that make their papyrus from the banana leaf (though no matter where you go, no one has a sample to show you, questioning the legitimacy of this "warning"). The prices will be in the hundreds, and you will be offered what appears to be an excellent discount. If you look around, however, you will see most of what they offer is worth EGP1-5 at the most. Tour guides, taxi drivers, and hotel staff are all in on this, and will often get a 50% commission if they lead an unwitting tourist into this trap.

  • The Khan El-Khalili bazaar is a giant souq in Islamic Cairo. The merchants here are ravenous and skilled, so don't fall for the hard sell and be prepared to haggle. This is a great place to buy rustic glassware and perfume bottles. Be choosy.
  • Zamalek has some small, but high-end shops, along with shops selling crafts, jewelry, and other items. Fair Trade Cairo in Zamalek is a great shop selling high-quality crafts made by local artisans. Nefertari, also in Zamalek, has wonderful organic cotton linens, skincare products, and the like. There is also Nomad, that has a small, charming second-floor showroom in Zamalek, as well as Nagada, and Khan Misr Taloun.

Diwan, in Zamalek, is a very nice primarily English-language bookstore.

  • Midan Talaat Harb and surrounding streets, including Talaat Harb Street, are home to countless shops, selling everything from shoes and books to sweets.
  • The Midan Ataba area in Downtown Cairo is home to large bookseller markets, where you can find inexpensive books, as well as electronics and clothing markets, but be aware of the overcrowding, as it is easier to pickpocket.

Safety in Cairo, Egypt


Civil unrest has remained a constant problem in Cairo since the 2011 revolution and the 2013 coup. Vast protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, while often with peaceful goals, can turn violent and have proven dangerous for many women. There has also been a series of terrorist attacks. Stay away from demonstrations, and follow the advice of security personnel.

Scams against tourists are almost a national sport, though they're usually obvious. A good rule of thumb is that if someone approaches you on the street, they're trying to scam you. Don't talk to them. Common scams are:

  • The place you're going to is closed, why don't you take my tour? (Taxi drivers may use this. You can avoid this by using Uber or Careem.)
  • You need help crossing the street? Come, let me help you!
  • Let me show you my shop, it's just on this corner. No this corner, no this corner, etc.
  • Let me show you how to get to the mosque - no bakhsheesh, just LE50 to get in and go up to the roof. (Your new friend then tips the mosque guardian LE10 and pockets the rest.)

During politically-calm times, you can walk around the main streets anytime you feel like roaming. It is fairly safe and you will always find lots of people around smiling and offering to help. Women alone can expect to be the target of an excessive amount of catcalling, but it rarely goes beyond that. Around the more touristy locations there is an abundance of 'helpful' people, but be careful who you go with and under no circumstance let anyone push or guide you anywhere that you do not want to go! If you get lost look for the security and police officers. Many speak some English, and most know their local area very well as well as the tourist spots.

Crossing streets is another major challenge in Cairo. Traffic lights, which only exist in a few locations, are routinely disregarded. In downtown Cairo, police officers may be controlling traffic at key intersections at busy times. Crossing the street is like playing the video game "Frogger", hurrying across the street one lane at a time when there is a small break in traffic. One way to cross a street that proved to be effective is to place yourself next to an Egyptian who wants to cross the street and follow.

Also, when riding in a taxi, the driver may go quite fast and drive erratically. If at any time you feel unsafe, tell the driver to stop and get out.

Be careful about wearing the jerseys of local football clubs Al Ahly and Zamalek, as violent incidents have been known to occur between the supporters of both clubs.

Emergency services

  • Police ☎ 122
  • Ambulance ☎ 123
  • Fire ☎ 180

Stay healthy

Stomach upsets
As elsewhere in Egypt, be careful with what you eat. Raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise and minced meat are particularly risky. Avoid cold salads and puddings from buffets even in the 5-star hotels just to be on the safe side. Opinions on tap water vary, but most visitors choose to stick to the bottled stuff. Avoid ice in drinks, and only eat fruit with a skin you can wash or peel.

You may find that stomach medications you bring from home simply don't work.

All visitors would do well to buy from any pharmacy Egyptian brand drugs. The best and most common being Entocid and Antinal. Diarrhea and vomiting can almost always be stopped by taking 2 of these tablets with a glass of water in a few hours. If symptoms persist, it is wise to consult a doctor as dehydration in Summer can come on quickly.

Smog can reach extreme levels, especially in late summer and fall before the rains. This, coupled with the summer heat, can make spending time outdoors in the summer quite unpleasant.

Mosquitos
Mosquitos are in some parts of Egypt so you might face them. They are active from dusk till dawn, and then find a dark sheltered place to sleep during the heat of the day. They love humidity and wet environments where they breed. They also love leafy green gardens and hedging. Sitting around lakes, pools, or in a garden at night can be suicide.

Only the female bites and one female in a bedroom can cause much discomfort by morning, so it is always wise to kill any before sleeping. A fly swatter is best as they move due to air pressure, swatting with a newspaper will not work. Mosquito repellent sprays are of little value either.

Most hotels will have smoke sprays at dusk to quieten them down but they will revive and attack later.

The best defense is to kill any in hotel rooms. Wear long sleeves and long trousers when out at night. When outside, sit in a breeze or in front of a fan as they do not like moving air. The mosquito tablets and burners merely make them sleepy, they do not kill them. It is better to spend a few minutes going round the hotel room killing any you see than suffer days of itching and painful bites.

Language spoken in Cairo, Egypt


Standard Arabic is the official language. Egyptian Arabic is the most widely spoken language. English is widely understood in tourist places.

LOCAL TIME

2:04 pm
August 19, 2019
Africa/Cairo

CURRENT WEATHER

31.7 °C / 89.06 °F
sky is clear
Tue

36.25 °C/97 °F
sky is clear
Wed

37.75 °C/100 °F
sky is clear
Thu

37.73 °C/100 °F
sky is clear
Fri

35.95 °C/97 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

EGP

1 USD = 0 EGP
1 EUR = 0 EGP
1 GBP = 0 EGP
1 AUD = 0 EGP
1 CAD = 0 EGP

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