Top 5 Cairo Experiences

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things to do in cairo

They say that New York is the city that never sleeps. Whoever said that clearly has never been to Egypt because Cairo is NYC on steroids. Walking around Cairo can be overwhelming, to say the least, with full-on sensory overload. As soon as you leave the comfort (or discomfort) of your hotel, the heat, noise, and smell of the city hits you like a slap in the face. But in a good way, if you enjoy that kind of travel, which I definitely do. There are so many things to do and see in this mad city, so I’ve pieced together from all of my mishaps, mess-ups and adventures a list of my top 5 favorite things to do in Cairo. Enjoy!

Have you ever been to Cairo? What was your favorite experience there?

1. Visit Khan el-Khalili market

things to do in cairo

The Khan el-Khalili souk is one of the biggest market/bazars in Cairo. It is almost 700 years old and really really big, located in Islamic Cairo. It was the first place M and I visited in Cairo, and like complete idiots, we got totally lost in the non-tourist section first, which was awesome and a great experience, but not so awesome when you have the starvin’ marvins. After stuffing our faces with chicken kebabs, we stumbled back to the tourist side only to get hustled and hassled out of a ton of money.

My advice is walk around a lot in Egypt before buying souvenirs so that you know what things should really cost. Over by the Al-Azhar Mosque there are smaller, local markets where the crafts are actually made, and you can buy lots of things there for less money. It’s also a great place to meet locals. Have a mint tea outside Fishawy cafe, my favorite coffee place in Islamic Cairo. Take a taxi to the market; it’ll literally be the ride of your life!

things to do in cairo

things to do in cairo
things to do in cairo

2. See where the Revolution took place in Tahrir Square

things to do in cairo

Tahrir Square is a massive square in downtown Cairo, and I was really excited to see it after all of the infamous protests that took place here during the revolution last year. It’s so big you don’t even realize what it is when you get there. Except for all the flags, graffiti, and burnt out buildings that tell the story of what happened. I bought a cool t-shirt here with a drawing of the main protests with the date of the revolution and the words live, freedom, and social justice printed on it in Arabic. A great memory of a historic place. Word of caution, there are still lots of protests going on in Cairo with the elections coming up, so I would avoid the square then. The Egyptian riot police looked pretty damn scary from what we saw.

things to do in cairo

3. Check out the mummies at the Egyptian Museum

things to do in cairo

The Egyptian Museum was at the top of my list of places to see in Cairo. However, it was kinda sorta disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, if you ever go to Egypt you have to visit this famous museum, but don’t get your hopes up. It is really badly organized; it looks like one giant storeroom, not a first class museum. You have to go through tons of security to get inside, and they won’t let you in with any cameras, you have to leave them at a camera check outside. So sketch. The museum itself is falling apart inside, with very little security.

However, it has some pretty cool stuff such as most of the things from King Tut’s tomb, including his famous gold death mask. I also got to see a mummified crocodile, which was new for me. You can pay extra to get into the mummy rooms, which is also worth it. Just make sure you either hire a guide to explain stuff to you or bring a guidebook with you. Otherwise, nothing makes sense. It’s sad because so many of Egypt’s greatest treasures reside abroad (thieving Germans and Brits), but at the same time, after seeing how the Egyptians have been taking care of their most precious artifacts, well, let’s just say I don’t feel as bad I should.

things to do in cairo

things to do in cairo

4. Visit a Mosque

things to do in cairo

As a thorough traveler in Europe, getting to visit mosques was a completely new experience for me. By the end of our trip we had visited several, but by far my favorite had to have been the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. Remember if you are a lady like me, you need to cover up even your hair, or they won’t let you in. I always made sure to bring a cardigan and scarf with me. You have to take your shoes off too before going in, but they have little cubby holes you can leave them in.

We noticed that many of the people around the mosques or inside were very friendly and helpful, and more than willing to give us little tours and show off their mosques to us. They even answered all of my incessant, idiotic questions. The Al-Azhar mosque was founded in 972, and is special for many reasons but most importantly because it is the second oldest university in the world and the foremost school for Islamic law. You can’t go to Egypt without visiting a mosque.

things to do in cairo

5. Explore Coptic Cairo

things to do in cairo

In old Cairo, there is a section home to native christian Egyptians called Copts. Here you enter into a walled part of the old quarter, and it’s like going back in time. There are several churches, monasteries, and even a synagogue here to see. The most famous church is called the Hanging Church, dating back to the 3rd century. It’s really beautiful inside, and one of my favorite places in Cairo. Coptic Cairo is far from the city center and takes absolutely forever by taxi because of the traffic, so it’s best to go on the metro. That’s right, the public metro! An experience in itself! It costs 1 Egyptian pound, and they even have women only cars, which I was a HUGE fan of! Finally a break from getting stared down and hassled by pervy men.

things to do in cairo

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14 Comments on “Top 5 Cairo Experiences

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  1. We were there in April 2010, before all of the drama. In general, I have mixed feelings about Egypt. Obviously it was so amazing to see all of the history, and everyone we met and talked to personally was so nice…friendliest people I have ever met…. but overall it was a little too…chaotic and disjointed for me, I guess.

    And I got tired of being constantly harassed in the street by the men. Did you ever get called a “spicy girl”? That was a popular one when we were there!

    It was a great experience and one of my dreams to see Egypt, but I don’t know that I would necessarily go back. I saw it, and that is enough for me.

    1. haha I didn’t get “spicy girl” but I got a slew of others equally annoying. I feel the same way, I don’t know if I would go back to these areas, though I still want to go to Mt. Sinai and the red sea

  2. I know! For being so famous and having so many famous pieces of art, it is such a mess! When were you guys there? What did you think about Egypt itself?

    1. Although the Egyptian museum may not be as organized as museums such as the Met, we should be more appreciative of what the country has to offer to people like us (if you are visiting from the US) that has not nearly as much of our “own” history in our museums. Egypt is a country bathed with history, and even though is not as sophisticated in some areas (museums being at the level of the Met), we should focus on highlighting only the beauty of their culture and what they allow us to enjoy when we visit their museums/country.

      The Egyptian museum may not be as fancy, sophisticated and organized as other museums around the world, but the history found inside is priceless. Do I rather go to a museum that carries a selected number of artefacts from Egypt while walking on marble floors, fancy glass covered signs and surrounded by glass ceilings and walls, or do I rather walk in Cairo’s museum filled – correction – overflowing with original ancient Egyptian artefacts and pieces?..I have my own answer.

      I love traveling and enjoying everything a country has to offer. I think all of us in this discussion share the same interest. We enjoy it and is addicting because we get to learn and see things that are far from what we are used to in our own countries, and outside our comfort zone. Although freedom of speech/opinion exist, I believe we should be a little more mindful of the culture of places we visit (such as Cairo Museum), especially if we claim visiting these country’s is our passion; how fair is it to claim to Love Experiencing the World while criticizing those that are not up to “our” standards. Why would I want you vising my house, or why would you want to visit my house when you go back to your home commenting the good, but also criticizing the way I live? Instead of highlighting the fact that the place is not “up to our standards”, be a little more grateful and focus on the beauty a country allow us to experience.

      Furthermore, for anybody reading that may be discourage to visit Egypt because of the described chaos or “standards” of Cairo, please remember to be open minded of the fact that you are in another country, with different background and different lifestyles. Please observe and understand, be open minded and be appreciative…..or simply wait until the Grand Egyptian Museum opens…then it may be up to your standard.

      Egypt may not have the fancy café that you can find in a narrow European street, or the Egyptians backyards may not be as well designed or maintained by a landscaper….but in a little backyard/street of Egypt, I did find welcoming loving children running around me with the only intent to say hello, and great conversation while a hand full of male strangers invited me to sit with them and enjoy an Egyptian afternoon hot tea and cigarettes while BSing about life……by the way….I don’t even smoke, but the occasion did not allow me to decline such a delightful offer.

  3. My roommate is an art history minor/fanatic, and she was practically in tears when we were in the Egyptian Museum. We agree with you 100%….it was a mess. My favorite part was how some of the information/signs were written on ruled paper in SHARPIE.

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