- For other places with the same name, see Cairo (disambiguation).
Cairo (pronounced KY-roh; Arabic: القاهرة al-Qāhirah) is the capital of Egypt and, with a total population of Greater Cairo metropolitan area in excess of 16 million people, 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 own 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 centre is a must see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artefacts, 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 a number of 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 counter-revolution, tourists fled Cairo to a large extent. But by the end of the 2010s, they were returning, however tourism had not recovered fully, so you have an opportunity to see sites like the pyramids with smaller crowds.
Greater Cairo is vast; with more than 20 million people (2018), it's the largest metropolitan area in Africa and the Middle East.
The modern city centre. Midan Tahrir (meaning "Liberation Square") was the scene of the massive 2011 protests that ousted President Mubarak, and big (sometimes violent) rallies and protests still occur here. Just north of the square is the Egyptian Museum, and many big hotels are nearby. The Downtown area stretches east 2 km to Midan Ramses, which contains Cairo's main railway station and a burgeoning retail and accommodation zone.
|Garden City |
A district close to the city centre and the Corniche el-Nil, a good option for central accommodation.
|Old Cairo |
Located south of downtown, includes Coptic Cairo, Fustat (Cairo's historical kernel) and Rhoda Island.
|Islamic Cairo |
Located east of downtown, this was the centre of historic Cairo beginning in the 10th century. Contains the Citadel, Mohamed Ali Mosque, Khan el Khalili (the main bazaar or souq), historic mosques and medieval architecture, as well as some of Cairo's Turkish baths (hammams).
|Dokki and Mohandeseen (Giza) |
Located on the west bank of the Nile, with upscale restaurants, shopping, and accommodation.
|Gezira Island |
Upmarket district on a large island in the Nile. The Cairo Tower, the Opera House, Zamalek neighborhood, and some nice shopping, restaurants, cafés, and accommodation are located here.
Everything west of the Nile's west bank is actually in Giza city rather than Cairo city. So it's a sprawling conurbation in its own right, including the Nile islands of Gezira and Roda, and the riverside districts of Dokki and Mohandeseen. But above all it's renowned for the pyramids, at Giza's western edge: this area is known as the Haram (pyramid) district. The Grand Egyptian Museum opens here in 2021.
A quiet upmarket residential district south of the centre, catering to many foreign expatriates.
|Eastern districts |
A series of planned communities which have been built away from the congestion of historic Cairo. From oldest to newest, they include Heliopolis, Nasr City, and New Cairo. These areas are mostly upper-class and commercial centers. Cairo's airport is also here.
|Northern districts |
A vast area of mostly low-income, unplanned neighborhoods.
Cairo is on the Nile, and has ancient origins in the vicinity of the Pharaonic city of Memphis. The city started to take its present form in 641 CE, 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". (The legend is that Al-Ase, on the day he was leaving to conquer Alexandria, found two doves nesting in his tent. Not wanting to disturb them, he left the tent. Upon returning victorious, he called his soldiers to pitch their tents around his, and this became the site of the new city in what is now Old Cairo.) The name may have been a pun - Misr/Masr is the Arabic word for city, but it is also the Arabic name of the entire country of Egypt. The Tunisian Fatimid dynasty captured the city in 969 CE 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), which is also the Arabic name of the entire country of Egypt (similar to Mexico City in Mexico).
- See also: Egypt#Climate
|Climate chart (explanation)|
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 night time 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 sand storms, 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 husks to ash after sunset near Greater Cairo and this makes the air smokey.
Today's Greater Cairo is a city with at least 20 million inhabitants (2018), where skyscrapers and fast food restaurants nestle up to world heritage monuments. Cairo used to be 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 centre 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 traveller.
- For more information on visa requirements, see the Egypt article.
- 1 Cairo International Airport (CAI IATA). The busiest airport in Africa with more than 16 million passengers per year, it is also the largest in Egypt and is the main hub for the flag carrier EgyptAir and Nile Air as well as several other airlines and the primary entry point to the country. The airport is in Heliopolis, to the northeast of the city around 15 km from Cairo's city centre.
Cairo airport has frequent flights from other Egyptian cities, the Gulf states and Levant, and usually daily flights from the European and North African capitals. There are direct flights from Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Mumbai, New York, and Washington but travel from the Far East or North America will usually involve a change.
The main operator is EgyptAir (the national carrier) and its Star Alliance partners Aegean, Austrian Airlines, [http://www.lufthansa.com/ Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish Airlines. SkyTeam is represented by Air France, Aeroflot, ITA Airways, KLM, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, and TAROM. Oneworld by British Airways, Iberia, Qatar Airways, and Royal Jordanian. Gulf Carriers include Emirates, Etihad, Middle East Airlines, Oman Air, and Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and Saudia. There are also budget carriers Air Arabia, Air Cairo [dead link], flyEgypt, and flynas.}}
The airport has three terminals. EgyptAir and all Star Alliance members (Lufthansa Group, Singapore Airlines, LOT, etc.) operate all flights to Terminal 3, which is integrated with Terminal 2 (British Airways, Air France, and some others) through an air bridge. Most other airlines arrive at Terminal 1, like Saudia (Terminal 1 Hall 2), and Sky Team, Oneworld, Emirates, and Etihad (Terminal 1 Hall 1). All terminals offer a reasonable variety of duty-free shops and restaurants. In Terminal 1 there are some duty-free shops opposite the gates, with more shops on the first floor. The lounges, a pub, McDonald's and coffee shops such as Starbucks are on the second floor. Terminal 3 has a central market place and food court, plus some shops and cafes along the concourses. There's not much open seating, as most seating is in the gate lounges which only open an hour before departure. This is okay when flights leave on time, but when there are delays the concourse becomes congested while lots of empty seats lie inaccessible beyond the lounge plate-glass.
An automated shuttle train runs between Terminal 1 and the Terminals 2/3 airbridge. A free shuttle bus runs to the bus station every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. The automated people mover (APM) shuttle train is free, clean, and fast. Stations are not inside the terminals. At Terminal 3 its stop is at the arrival level at the end of the bus lane (turn right after the exit). However, in practice, it might stop on the second lane instead. Look around for where the locals are waiting. You have to leave Terminal 3 through the front door and turn right. Walk to the end of the building and turn right again. Then you might need to ascend or descend a ramp, depending on the level you are at (departure or arrival). At the end of the ramp you turn left and you'll get to the station some 50 m ahead, on your left. Signs are not clear at this point, but the APM is working and is very convenient to transit between terminals.) At Terminal 1 you must leave through the main exit and turn left to get to the station. The Shuttle Bus stops are at Hall 3 in front of the AirMall and at Hall 1 at the curbside. Unfortunately, the bus stops are not marked. Sometimes you have to change buses at the bus station due to the driver's coffee break. Beware, taxi drivers trying to lure you at the airport will try to tell you otherwise regarding the shuttle bus, but if you go outside the terminal, you will find the free shuttle bus.
Visitors are allowed to buy duty free articles on arrival, up to 4 extra litres of alcohol. At the checkout, a customs official will check your passport and give approval for the purchase. You can be accompanied by the person picking you up. It's fine if you expect to consume what you buy, or treat friends, but there's sometimes a racket where the local person gets you to buy up to your limit on his behalf— he'll pay you fairly for the extra.
Do exchange some money in the airport— best to do this before going through customs. Get some change in the process (smaller than the usual LE200 notes), as taxi drivers and others will always claim to be unable to give change. ATMs for all major cards are available in the arrival halls. Visas are available before immigration, for US$25. When arriving at terminal 3, everybody immediately starts queuing to buy visas from one of the bank counters on the left side. It seems these banks often don't accept cards or even Egyptian pounds (LE), which is problematic if you arrive with limited foreign currency. There's an ATM on the other side of the area in this case, as well as an exchange office that also sells visas, and accepts Egyptian pounds as currency. So just go there to buy the visa, ignoring the bank counters, and avoiding the queues.
The metro green line extension to the airport is due to open in 2020; until then, getting to downtown Cairo will often be a pain.
A public bus to Midan Tahrir (read its warnings) or Midan Ramses runs from the airport bus station, which is connected to the terminals by the free Shuttle Bus. The services definitely running in 2018 are the 356 (٣٥٦) and 111 (١١١, direction Shobra, passes by Midan Ramses), LE8. These run every 30 minutes and take 60-90 min depending on traffic. Buses 27 (٢٧) and 400 (٤٠٠) may also run. Try asking at the station (by explaining where you want to go), but avoid the notorious (non-A/C) green buses. Buses from downtown to the airport run from the bus terminal just north of the Egyptian Museum (under the highway bridge). If the stop's not obvious, ask for the airport or in Arabic the word is "matar" (مطار).
Scheduled buses no longer run directly from the airport to Alexandria or other delta cities. Either negotiate a taxi transfer or go downtown for onward transport.
White meter taxis are available at the Terminals. The basic fee is LE2.50 plus LE1.25 per km. Do insist on using the meter. Do not accept a fixed price as this tends to be double the fare by meter. Report taxi drivers who refuse to use the meter to Airport Security or Tourist Police. Refuse to pay the "ticket" (LE10 airport parking fee) for the driver. If you are going to downtown Cairo, you may be able to share a taxi with other tourists or backpackers. Have small notes available, mostly the taxi driver will claim not to have any change, but they actually do have. Another option is to use transportation arranged by your hotel or hostel, though this service is often not complimentary.
There are numerous limousine services. Pick-up points are in front of the terminals (curbside). The prices are fixed depending on the destination and the car category. Category A is luxury limousines (Mercedes-Benz E-Class), Category B are Micro Buses for up to 7 passengers and Category C are midsized cars (e.g. Mitsubishi Lancer). London Taxis are available from Sixt as a new Category D. The price list (as of 2011):
|Destinations in Cairo||A (Luxury)||B (Micro Bus)||C (Midsize)||D (London Cab)|
|Airport (Terminals, Hotels)||LE65||LE45||LE45||LE50|
|Gisr El Suez, Roxy||LE120||LE85||LE65||LE95|
|Mohandesin, Zamalek, Dokki||LE165||LE110||LE90||LE135|
|Giza, Maadi, Makatam||LE200||LE120||LE100||LE155|
|6th of October City||LE350||LE190||LE160||LE290|
Airport service, micro buses and London taxis contacts:
- Exclusive Services, ☏ . An airport offer that picks you up at the gate, does all immigration procedures for you and picks up your luggage while you wait in a comfortable arrival lounge for US$50, not including the visa fees. It can be pre-booked via phone. On the way back you can avoid the queues by using the service, which will do all the check-in and emigration formalities for you while you wait in a comfortable lounge, and then fast-tracks you through the first two checks.
- Micro Bus (Cairo Airport Shuttle Bus), ☏ , [email protected]. 24 hr.
- London Taxi (Sixt), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. 24 hr.
When returning to the airport from downtown, allow at least two hours to get here, and 3 hours from Giza, as the roads can be very congested. The new airport road connects the airport with the intersection of the Ring Road and Suez Road and has no traffic jams. If you depart on Friday morning or mid-day, the trip to the airport will be quick, as roads are deserted while people go to the mosque for Friday prayers.
Upon arriving, you must pass through a security checkpoint before you can access the ticketing & check-in area. You'll need a printout of your itinerary or ticket to show the security staff here. After checking-in you will pass through a second checkpoint (including passport control) to get airside, then there's a third just before boarding your aircraft - only then can you restock on water. Allow plenty of time for all this, as lines can be long. There is no left-luggage room at the airport.
The airport is on the north-eastern outskirts of the city at Heliopolis. If you want to spend the night at the airport, there are three hotels available:
- Novotel Cairo Airport, [email protected]. From LE950 double.
- Le Passage (formerly Iberotel), [email protected].
- Le Meridien Cairo Airport, [email protected].
There are other lodging options in nearby Heliopolis.
Sphinx International Airport (SPX IATA) near Giza opened in 2020 but has no flights.
Learn Eastern Arabic numerals
Eastern Arabic numerals, instead of Arabic-Hindu numerals as used in the west, are used to indicate train numbers, departure times, seat numbers, and other key information. So even if you can't read Arabic letters, you should be able to find your platform and coach. You'll also be able to check that the total on bills corresponds with what you're being asked to pay.
Cairo is the hub for railways in Egypt, almost all trains start and terminate here. The governmental Egyptian National Railways (السكك الحديدية المصرية), often abbreviated as ENR, operates all trains. One exception is the private company Watania that operates high-end trains between Cairo, Luxor and a few other cities.
There are up to 30 departures per day from Alexandria, with the fastest trains called Specials running non-stop at 2 hr 40 min. Express trains are slightly slower at around 3 hours. These trains are clean and comfortable, air-conditioned, and with snacks available. Some will variously refer to these fast trains as "Spanish", "French" or "Turbo" because of their rolling stock.
Travelling along the Nile to and from Aswan and Luxor is very popular. At least one daytime and one overnight train per day offers superior quality and is generally recommended for tourists. Journey time is 10 hours from Luxor and another four from Aswan. First class tickets are around LE120 for a seat and US$80 per person for a two-bed sleeping cabin. Ordinary trains ply the same route, some commence in Alexandria, but they are much less comfortable with hard seats and squalid toilets. Lights stay on all night and you'll probably be woken several times for ticket checks.
- See also: Egypt#By train
The most common way of getting tickets is to buy them in advance at stations. However, buying tickets in advance via an booking agent or from Watania assures your seat and avoids hassle at stations. Ordinary 3rd class trains cannot be booked online. You'll have to buy your ticket at the station or just jump aboard and pay on the train. Notice that due to security concerns, ticket offices have sometimes denied tourists a ticket on daytime trains to Luxor and Aswan, claiming that they are only allowed on the more expensive overnight trains. This is bunkum and easily circumvented by buying online.
Almost all mainline trains from Cairo run from the main railway station, Ramses. However, in a few years time - around 2023 - a new major station, Bashteel, will be completed. As of 2022, it is not known how it will affect the other stations.
- 2 Cairo Ramses railway station (محطة رمسيس) (Shohadaa (Martyrs) metro station), ☏ . The main railway station, also known as Misr Station (محطة مصر). Restaurants and shops are available, however there's no left luggage facility. Allow time to get through the multiple security queues. Notice that the ticket office has multiple windows for different classes and destinations, so check that you are in the correct line. Departure and arrival boards in the main concourse and on platforms scroll between Arabic and English, rather slowly.
- 3 Giza railway station (Omm El-Misryeen metro station). Not particularity near the pyramids, but Giza serves as a major hub for the city's southern parts. Most trains from Upper Egypt calls here.
- 4 Cairo Bashteel railway station. New major station under construction, expected to open in 2023.
- 5 Cairo Ain Shams railway station (Ain Shams metro station). Small station where slow trains to and from Suez terminate.
Buses connect Cairo with the entire country. The two main stations are Midan Ramses and 6 Cairo Gateway, (formerly known as Turgoman), but vehicles also sometimes stop at other stations, notably Abbasiya. From Midan Ramses and Cairo Gateway it's a quick LE5 taxi cab ride to downtown, LE7-10 to Zamalek. Cairo Gateway is a new, modern indoor station located approximately 500 m from the Orabi Metro Station, within the new Cairo Gateway Plaza.
- Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez - hourly services from Cairo Gateway (2 hr, LE20-30)
- Sharm el-Sheikh - East Delta buses take approximately 8 hr (LE80) whilSuper-jet buses take 6 hr. Some East Delta services continue to Dahab. When taking the bus to Sharm, keep your bus ticket and passport handy, as you will pass through a number of checkpoints, which require passengers to present identification and ticket. A cheaper option to get to Sharm by bus is to take a bus, a train, or a minibus to Suez (LE10) and from the main bus station there, take the 11AM or the 1:20PM bus to Sharm for only LE31.
- Taba and Nuweiba - Buses leave Cairo Gateway four times daily (6AM, 9:30AM, 10PM and 11PM) with prices LE70 for the morning buses and LE80 for the overnight ones. It takes around 6 hr to get to Nuweiba.
- Siwa - Direct buses leave Cairo Gateway Sunday and Wednesday nights at 7:45PM (LE60).
Uncomfortable, but cheap, micro-buses leave from Cairo to a large number of destinations. The main garages are Midan Ramsis (for Alexandria, LE22, and to the delta valley) and Al-Marg metro station (for the north-east and Sinai). They are faster and might as such be an option for shorter trips, but have a terrible toll of accidents. There are also other places these buses leave from depending on your destination, ask locals. At least for the Sinai, foreigners are prohibited to use the micro-bus system.
- 7 High Jet Bus Station (to/from Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh) (right behind/north of the Ramses Railway Station). This is one of several High Jet stations around Cairo, but probably the one most suitably located. It covers travel to/from Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh (6-7 hr). It allows for inexpensive and convenient onward travel after getting off the train. Reserving tickets is barely necessary, considering the frequency of the buses. The buses are not that comfortable, and they have loud and annoying soap operas running in the bus the whole journey. So, it is probably not a good idea to take a night bus.
- To Hurghada: every 2 hr between 8AM-2:30AM. From Hurghada: every 2 hr between 7AM-3AM. Mostly LE110 but sometimes LE150.
- To Sharm el-Sheikh: 1PM, 11:30PM, 2 AM. From Sharm el-Sheikh: 1PM, 10:30PM, 2AM. LE110.
- 8 Go Bus Office/Station.
- Super-Jet Bus, ☏ . For Alexandria, Hurghada and Sinai.
- East Delta Bus, ☏ . For Sharm el-Sheikh, Arish and Rafah.
Driving in Cairo is not recommended or necessary. The traffic is, at the least, overwhelming for the common traveler. The driving has a consistency, but not in any official way. Road signs, lanes, right-of-ways, etc. are not adhered to, and there are a large number of junctions and flyovers. Traffic signals exist in only a few locations and are routinely ignored. However, sometimes police officers are directing traffic at busy intersections. In downtown Cairo, drivers will sometimes bump other cars that are blocking their way. Also, do not be upset if your side-view mirror gets hit. At night, many drivers do not use headlights, so use extra caution or avoid driving at night. In Egypt, vehicles travel on the right side of the road. Instead of making a left turn, you will often need to make a U-turn and backtrack, or you can make three right turns.
Parking houses or official parking spots are rare. Cars may be parked two or three deep on the side of the road, and will often be left unlocked, and out-of-gear, so they can be moved. In many places, people work to look after parked cars. A small tip is expected for this service. You can also use valet parking.
To get to Alexandria, the North Coast, the Delta and the Western Desert drivers should take the Cairo - Alexandria Desert Road from the Mewhwar Road- 26 July corridor from Downtown Cairo.
To get to Beni Sueif, Fayoum, Assyut, Luxor, and Aswan, drivers from Downtown should take the Sixth Of October-Fayoum exit at the Remaya Roundabout beside the Giza Pyramids at Le Meridien Hotel, to the Fayoum turn off at the Fayoum - Sixth Of October junction, 6 km (3.7 mi) from Remaya Roundabout.
To get to Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia, drivers from Downtown should take the Ring Road to the Suez Road junction for Suez, and the Ismailia junction off the Ring Road for Ismailia and Port Said.
To get to Hurghada, and Ain Sukhna, drivers from Downtown, should take the Ring Road to the New Ain Sukhna Toll Road at Kattamaya.
To get to Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba, Ras Sidr, Al-Arish, and Rafah on the Sinai Peninsula, drivers from Downtown, should take the Ring Road to the Suez Road junction at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, through the Ahmed Hamdy Tunnel, on to the Sinai Peninsula.
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 map to actual location, and not every street will appear on every map.
Cairo is home to Africa's first and most expansive metro system. While Cairo's metro system is modern and sleek, the three lines are all too limited in scope.
As of 2019, a single trip ticket ranges from LE3-7, depending on the number of stations covered:
- LE3: 9 stations
- LE5: 16 stations
- LE7: more than 16 stations
It is the most crowded subway in the world, as measured by passengers per track length. If you can deal with the crowding (be extra careful to avoid pickpocketing), it is the best way of avoiding traffic jams while traveling.
You'll need to be assertive (but not stroppy) when trying to buy tickets - Egyptians don't queue. First get your small change ready in a quiet area, so you're not fumbling with wallet and big notes and dropping your passport amidst the crowd. Then steadily press through the crowd to the ticket window, as they are doing. If you intend to make a return or future trip, buy multiple tickets, so you only have to scrummage once.
The Cairo Metro has stations in Dokki and Maadi, among other places. To reach the Giza Pyramids, take the metro to Giza town then pick up a bus or taxi for "Al-Haram". You can also reach Heliopolis (Masr el-Gedida) using line 3, at the stations: Al Ahram (Korba) and Koleyet El Banat (Merghani). The extension of this line to the airport is due in 2020. The maps in the trains and stations show the network as it will be, i.e. the under construction parts are shown as complete. As of December 2019, line 3 ends at Ataba.
Two cars in the middle section of each train are reserved for women. One of them is for women only till 9PM, while the other is for women all the time. The metro stops running at around 12:20AM and starts up again around 5:15AM. There are no timetables for lines 1 and 2, but departures are very frequent. Line 3 runs every 8 minutes.
The large red, white and blue public buses cover the entire city and are much cheaper, costing LE1, but are usually crowded and slow. However, there are the similar air-conditioned buses that charge LE2 or LE2.5. They can be found in the main squares in Cairo. Also found in 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 travellers are advised only to take the small micro-buses and buses which prohibit standing. On micro-buses, the fare starts at LE0.5 and goes up to LE2.5.
Apart from the main bus stations, buses can be hailed from street-level. Buses are seldom marked with destination, instead passengers shout out (or use a number of sign-language like hand codes) their destinations and if the bus goes this place it will stop. Travellers unfamiliar with Cairo can ask bus drivers or passengers to let them know where there 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: bus frequency, length of 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. Since many mini-buses will not depart until the bus is nearly full, you should be prepared for a lengthy period of time, while the driver waits for enough people to board.
There are a number of 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. There are actually two stations - the main bus station for the city buses, and the micro-bus station behind it. Travellers who want to visit the Pyramids, for example, can catch a seat in a micro-bus for approximately LE2. 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.
It's preferable to use Careem or Uber rather than regular cabs. Locals consider Careem and Uber cheaper and safer (especially for women). Just get a local SIM card and you'll be fine. You can also find the Careem or Uber price, get a screen shot, and use that to negotiate with cabs.
Sample taxi prices
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: Becoming rarer. Typically available by reservation only, but sometimes try to pick up fares while en route. Similar to the solid-white taxis, the meter starts at LE2.50, LE1/km after that. The drivers are not allowed to smoke in the 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.
Taxis usually expect more money (LE2-3) for ferrying more people. If you decide not to negotiate the price beforehand (this is the better method) be ready to jump ship and/or 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. Also add LE5-7 driving late at night, mostly for the older taxis without counters.
- Uber Cairo. Smart phone app offers address based routing and calculates price according to them.
- Careem. Smart phone app offers address based routing and calculates price according to them.
- NopeaRide.com. Smart phone app offers address based routing and calculates price according to them. 100% electric vehicle fleet.
Do not let the taxi driver choose you. You choose him and always look confident as if you use them regularly. Flag one down, hop in and always sit in the back of the cab. Try not to get into any discussion with the driver. Simply state your destination and look out the window. Ignore any chat if you can. Egyptians do not chat with drivers on the whole. Avoid eye contact especially in the mirror.
Do not confirm the fare before getting in, ordinary Egyptians do not do that. As a tourist, you might prefer to state a price beforehand, which may prevent ripoffs, but will require you to quote above local prices. Instead the correct sum is paid through the window after leaving. You simply step out of the cab, with no discussion of the price (unless the taxi driver thinks you've given them an unfair price). If you are obviously a tourist with your Lonely Planet Guide, North Face backpack, and are wearing shorts then you can sometimes expect an argument even if you have offered the correct price. Either pay them more to keep the peace (odds are they need the money more than you) or just walk away. As long as the driver does not leave the car, you are alright. If this happens, consult someone nearby. Try to avoid those loitering outside 5-star hotels and restaurants to minimise this. Using a big hotel as your destination may also inflate the price.
To avoid any confrontation regarding price, choose a cab from the new yellow, or white with black ones with meters. Then add a few pounds tip if you so choose.
Taxi drivers may try to pressure you into taking an expensive tour with them instead of a cheap ride.
A great look into the life of the average Cairo taxi driver can be found in the excellent book Taxi by Khalid El Khamissi. After reading that you may become more sympathetic to their daily struggle for business.
Never continue travelling 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.
Cairo is generally not safe for cycling. A small bike sharing system called Cairo Bike do exist
Access in Cairo is patchy. Anyone with moderate to serious mobility issues should expect to spend a lot of time in taxis.
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 recognised 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. How one does it is either through one of the many stables around the site who will charge anywhere between LE350 and LE650 for a horse/camel ride around the site, or taking a taxi to the Sphinx entrance and attempting to walk. 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. (July is the quiet season, when it may be possible to get a 2-hour camel ride for LE100 each, albeit when you're with someone who knows the owner of the stables).
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 inside the pyramids - for a charge!)
Cairo has an overwhelming array of attractions, listed under their individual districts along with transport and other practicalities. Some 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. See it now before the hordes return.
- 1 Egyptian Museum (250 m north of Tahrir square), ☏ . The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (known by all as the Egyptian Museum) hosts the world's premier collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Parts of its collections are being moved to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, which is to open in 2022. Adult 200 LE, student: 100 LE; photography (personal use, without flash): camera 50 LE, video 300 LE.
- 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 Quarter, in Coptic Cairo, notably the museum and the "Hanging Church" (Church of the Virgin Mary)
- Cairo Tower (185 m./610 ft.) on Gezira Island offers a 360-degree view of Cairo, along with the Giza Pyramids off in the distance to the west.
- 2 Al-Azhar Park. A landscaped garden overlooking the Citadel
- 3 Khan El Khalily. Cairo's souk area where visitors will find many merchants selling perfume, spices, gold, Egyptian handicrafts.
- 4 Abdeen Palace. About 1 km east of Midan El-Tahrir, it was the royal residence until the Egyptian monarchy was deposed in 1952.
- Pharaonic Village. Welcome to Egyptland! Especially if you've kids in tow, this showground and retail park will give you an instant Egypt-in-miniature. In Giza about 20 minutes drive from Downtown.
- 5 Dahshur Pyramids. For a contrast to touristy Pyramids of Giza, head south to the oldest known pyramid, the Red Pyramid. The neglected Dahshur Pyramids are interesting and worth a visit, considering its history and the hassle-free atmosphere. Also, see the weird Bent Pyramid there and hike around the area to the Black Pyramid. The Red Pyramid has an entrance to the inside, which you can climb down.
- Also, the pyramids of Saqqara and Memphis offer an easy day trip out of Cairo.
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.
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. To charter your own, negotiate a fair price of no more than LE20-30 for about a half hour for the boat, or LE50 for an hour, no matter how many people are on it. 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 for LE2 for 1/2 hour, but are very uncomfortable.
Cairo has a shortage of parks, but a few of them exist.
- The most famous is the Giza Zoo, which is in front of the Four Seasons Hotel in Giza. This is one of the oldest zoos in the world, opened in 1891.
- Hadiqat Al Orman (English: Al Orman Gardens), Giza. This is a fairly large park near the Giza Zoo. 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 Eid.
- Hadiqat Al Azbakiya (English: 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 (English: Garden of the Fish), Zamalek. 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.
- Merryland (Arabic: Genenet El Merryland), in Heliopolis district near Roxy Cinema. Again, another park with trees and gardens and nice scenery, and there are restaurants and cafes in the park.
- El Hadiqa El Dawliya (English: the International Garden), in Nasr City district. It was opened when Nasr City district was built in the 1960s. Sections of the park contain copies of famous buildings from around the world (i.e. the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Great Wall of China, the windmills of Holland). The copies are much smaller of course, similar to small statues. Interesting to see.
- Al-Azhar Park - has 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-km² environmentally protected park near Ma'adi, that offers 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.
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 10-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.
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.
- Football: The national soccer team play at Cairo International Stadium in Nasr City 10 km east of the centre. Half the club teams in the Premier League, Egypt's top tier, are based in Cairo, so there will be several top-flight matches on any weekend October to April. Choose from Zamalek (also based at International Stadium), Al Ahly, Pyramids, Future, National Bank, ENPPI, Ceramica Cleopatra, El Geish, Al Mokawloon and East Company.
- Horse riding in the desert from one of the Nazlet El-Samaan stables such as FB Stables (contact Karim +20 106 507 0288 or visit the website) in Giza. Ride in the shadow of the Great Pyramids or further afield to Saqqara or Abu Sir or camp out over night 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 8:30PM (7:30PM 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 centre 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). Egyptian Traditional music.
- The Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Hussein El Me'mar Pasha street, ☏ , [email protected]. Sa-W 10AM-2PM, 6-9PM, F -9PM, Closed Th.
- Cairo Jazz Club, 197, 26th July Street, Agouza, Giza (From Zamalek, just before Sphinx Square), ☏ . Daily 5PM-3AM. Live entertainment from local and international musicians, a great food and beverage menu (happy hour from 7-9PM) and a relaxed atmosphere. 7 nights a week.
- Housaper theater (مسرح الهوسابير), El Galaa St, Kulali (near Ahmed Oraby Metro Station, behind the hospital of Egypt railway). Mostly erroneously known and spelled as Hosabeer. A small theater which hosts cultural plays and concerts for independent artists.
- The International Language Institute (ILI), Mohandesin. Offers courses in Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian dialect up to an intermediate-advanced level in an international student environment. Teachers are professional and prices relatively low.
- Kalimat Language and Cultural Centre, 22, Mohamed Mahmoud Shaaban St., Mohandessin, ☏ , . This is a great language school with a lot of friendly teachers and students from around the world.
According to a survey by the Egyptian government in May 2011, there are at least 3 million expat foreigners working in Egypt. This is strange considering that Egypt is a developing country, with a high rate of local unemployment and oppressive economic conditions, especially after the 25 January 2011 revolution, which has seriously affected the economy. However, there are no strict labor requirements like other developed countries that receive immigrants such as the EU, Canada, or the USA. Even so, the law is not very often applied as employers easily play around the law to hire their needs from foreigners. That being said, it really depends on the kind of job and field you are applying for.
Factory work and industrial labor There are many thousands of people from South East Asia, China, and the Far East working low-paying jobs in factories and similar places. They're hired because they're cheaper than hiring locals. Some well-to-do families also like to hire foreign workers to work in their houses as cleaners, housekeepers etc. The majority come from poorer African countries or places like the Philippines and Indonesia.
Teaching and education
If you come from the West however, the situation may be very different depending on your qualification. The most demanded are those who come from native English speaking countries (i.e. the UK, USA, Canada, Australia). The most demanded jobs for these people are English teachers at schools and some university professors. There are many foreign schools in Cairo and some other big cities that prefer to hire native English speakers as part of their school staff. The reason is obviously the ability to teach English with a native accent and more importantly their foreign qualifications. Other opportunities may arise in similar institutions if your native language is French, less if it's German, and even less if it is some other European language.
Tourism and hotel industry
There is some demand for Russians also in nightclubs, and hotels. The tourism industry in general may be willing to hire foreigners from European backgrounds to work in countless diving centres and small business around the Red Sea area in Dahab, Hurghada, and Sharm El Sheikh, where many tourists come from Europe to take diving courses in their native language (German, Dutch, French, Italian, Russian, English, Polish) and other languages being the most popular.
Call centres and customer service reps
There is a huge demand for anyone who speaks fluent English with a clear native or neutral accent to work in most of the country's internationally based call centres located in and around Cairo. During the past 10 years, Egypt has become a major player in the telecommunications and call centres industry in the Middle East. Many companies including Vodafone, Teleperformance, and other large local call centres are in constant need of English language speakers to work in their call centres, as there aren't that many Egyptians capable of speaking English fluently and clearly enough to serve these companies' offshore accounts. Examples include Vodafone UK, Vodafone Australia, and Vodafone New Zealand, which are being outsourced by the call centre of Vodafone Egypt, which basically hires anyone to work as a call centre agent, who speaks fluent English regardless of their nationality. Even if English is not your mother language, the only requirement is the ability to communicate in the language and work shifts. Pay is not bad considering the much lower living expenses in Egypt compared to the West. Salaries for these positions may range from LE2,500-3,500 per month and many companies offer free transportation, medical insurance, social insurance, and other benefits like a mobile allowance.
Job and employment resources
The American International School in Cairo (AIS), (2 locations in 6 October City Sheikh Zayed) and Fifth Settlement (EL Tagamoa El Khames ) the two being on the Western and Eastern corners of the city.
- CAC (Cairo American College) in Maadi, with a long history of American curriculum and American/Foreign staff, and foreign students.
- The American University in Cairo
- Canadian International College
- German University in Cairo (GUC)
For Call Centre jobs, mainly customer service representatives/agents serving offshore companies in Europe and North America, (outsourced by the call centres in Cairo) try:
- Vodafone Egypt (located in Smart Village on the Cairo/Alexandria Desert Road) (the Call Centre is in 6 October 6 Horizon Building in the 4th Industrial Area.
- Teleperformance Egypt (another multinational company that began in France and is in more than 50 countries worldwide) and based in downtown Cairo. Go to teleperformance.com and choose Egypt to get the full contact and address details. Here again, you can work in either French or English accounts with a salary package around LE3,000 per month, plus medical and social insurance.
- Xceed Contact Centre, a local contact centre with a good reputation located in Smart Village, with English, French, Hebrew, and many languages
- Raya Contact Centre, in 6 October
- Wasla Contact Centre
- Egyptian Contact Centre Operator (ECCO), in Imtedad Ramsis, near Heliopolis and Nasr City
- C3 The Call Centre Company
- Stream Call Centre, in 6 October, with English and French.
Most of these companies are in constant demand of fluent English speakers regardless of your nationality because of the booming telecommunications and call centre industry in the Egyptian economy. Many of them outsource other companies originally based in Europe and the West.
For other kinds of jobs, the best option is to have a technical background or previous managing experience in a multinational company and get transferred to the local branch of the company in Egypt.
Other opportunities include teaching English as a free-lance instructor, but it may take a while before you are able to gather enough students to make a good living. Rates range from LE50-100 per hour/lesson in private lessons. Many people in Egypt want to learn English or improve it as it is always demanded in the Egyptian market.
If you have professional qualifications there are many possibilities for work in Cairo. Try any of the local employment or job websites:
- Career Mideast, one of the oldest job websites in the country, serving the entire Middle East Region, even other countries
- Bayt you will find jobs in the entire Middle East including Egypt in all sectors
- The American Chamber of Commerce website (they have a comprehensive database of all kinds of jobs in all sectors and industries)
- Wazayef Masr (it can be easily found on Google search)
There are several employment fairs that take place every few months in Cairo. Most of them are free to attend by anyone looking for a job. They usually are advertised in English adverts in the Arabic newspapers such as Al Ahram newspaper. The ads are easy to spot as they are large picture advertisements and written in English, even though the newspaper is in Arabic. They normally take place in well-known places like large five star hotels or the City Stars shopping complex. Examples include Job Master Job Fair, Wazayef Masr Job Fair, and the American Chamber of Commerce Job Fair. You can meet lots of different employers, with mostly multinational companies based in Cairo and other local well-known Egyptian companies. Most recruitment teams at the fairs speak fluent English. You must bring your cv/resume as most employers expect you to apply for a job on the same day, then you will be called for an interview a few days/weeks later if they have a suitable vacancy. Take at least 20-30 copies, one for each employer and dress semi-formally or formally.
Another option is any of the foreign embassies located in Cairo.
You can also try the English weeklies al-Ahram and al-Waseet for job vacancies. Otherwise, if you have some connections, you can always network with people that you know, and sometimes it may lead to landing a job somewhere.
Egyptian work conditions may be very different from Western ones. It is more of a friendly casual environment, but everybody is still treated with respect. Working hours are normally 9AM-5PM, and the weekend is Friday and Saturday (Friday substituted for Sunday because it is the day that Muslims go to pray at the mosque). Annual leave is normally 21 days, and most national holidays are days off as well.
ATMs are found in various places throughout downtown. A more secure option are 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 travellers cheques. There also are a number of Citibank [dead link] branches in Cairo.
Foreign currencies can also be exchanged for Egyptian pound in all the Egyptian banks like Banque Misr, National Bank of Egypt, Banque de Caire, Arab African Bank, the United Bank, or the large branches of Bureau de Change.
Many merchants will try to scam you out of as much as they possibly can. A particularly common trick are the papyrus museums. They come in many different flavours, 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 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 LE1-5 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 a number of 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, skin care 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 over crowding, as it is easier to pickpocket.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
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.
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, chick peas 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. The average price for a tub of takeaway koshari is LE3-5, fūl or falāfel sandwiches is LE1-1.5, and shawarma sandwiches are LE4-8.
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), Cairo Kitchen (Zamalek and Maadi), 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. McDonalds, Hardees [dead link], Pizza Hut [dead link], and KFC [dead link] 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 in the second floor. Beer and wine served.
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 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 9AM-1:30AM, 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 specious 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 frozen drinks 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).
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 bread sticks with nigella and sesame seeds to croissants, donuts and anything with dates in it. Fresh goods from these bakeries offers a nice alternative to the standard Egyptian breakfast of beans, beans, and beans, as well as the fact that this bread is very cheap.
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 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.
A social institution
When coffee was introduced to the Arab and Islamic world in the 1600s the Islamic clergy attempted to outlaw it. However people's cravings soon convinced the sheikhs against this, although even today the most pious followers of Islam would still avoid visiting an ´ahwa. For most Egyptian men however, it is an important social institution, usually near one's home and the local mosque or church. It is the place to chat, pick up the latest news, read the paper, watch a TV show or a soccer match, or simply people watch while puffing a waterpipe sheesha. Some say there are more than 20,000 coffee houses in Cairo. Today Downtown and Islamic Cairo are the best places to visit for a sampling of this essential part of Cairene life.
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 are 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. 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.
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
The main post office of Cairo is on Midan Ataba (open Sa-Th 7AM-7PM, F and holidays 7AM-noon). The poste restante office is to be found along the side street to the right of the main entrance to the post office and through the last door (open Sa-Th 8AM-6PM, F and holidays 10AM-noon) - mail will be held for 3 weeks.
There are two kind of mail boxes for international and domestic use. They are typically found on the street in pairs, colored green and yellow. It is said that your mail will be delivered no matter which one you use. Always use the register mail facility to post anything valuable or important. It takes longer but each step of the journey is recorded, as many letters do not arrive at their destinations when using regular mail service.
The Internet is rapidly growing in Cairo as in many other Egyptian and Middle Eastern cities. There is now a profusion of established internet cafés and venues, with many more opening for business each month. An hour in a downtown net cafe will set you back LE3-5. A growing number of cafés including Cilantro and Beanos provide wifi for free, and if all else fails, you can always drop into a McDonald's and try their network. Luxury hotels often provide WiFi at a premium. Also, mobile providers offer relatively high speed internet access via a USB dongle. For example, a Orange or a Vodafone USB dongle and sim card will cost you LE99 with LE50 of credit.
If you have access to a traditional telephone line in Cairo, then you will be able to access the internet through dial-up connection for LE1.25 per hour by dialing 0777 XXXX numbers.
In Egypt, cell phones are a way of life. Walking down any street, or on a crowded bus, it seems that most Egyptians are addicted to cell phones (similar to what you may find in Japan or Korea). Instead of using your phone from your home country (which often tend to carry very high roaming fees), consider obtaining an Egyptian SIM card or cheap unlocked phone. The 2 main carriers in Egypt are Orange Egypt and Vodafone Egypt, with UAE's Etisalat a growing 3rd player in the Egyptian market. Orange and Vodafone offer the best coverage, but for tourists Etisalat is the best option because it gives the most bang for your buck with minutes and seems to have the lowest calling rates abroad out of any of the 3 (a difference of paying US$0.55 per minute for a call to the States than paying US$2.50 for using your home GSM provider on roaming).
You can find mobile dealerships in every section of Cairo (frankly, you can't avoid them), and getting set up is fairly easy. SIM cards for any of the 3 providers go for about LE5-20. You will need to bring your identification (it's recommended to bring a copy of your ID, as you may not want someone walking off with your passport in a shady shop to make a copy). If you don't have an unlocked phone, many shops will sell cheap older models (usually Nokia phones) as secondhand phones. But beware, make sure that the phone is fully functional before purchasing it, and buying a used one is at your own risk (as a good percentage of these tend to be stolen ones).
The Egyptian Tourist Authority http://www.touregypt.net has offices in Cairo City Center, 5 Adly Street, phone: 3913454, Pyramids, Pyramids Street, phone: 3838823, fax: 3838823, Rameses Railway Station, phone: 5790767, Giza Railway Station, phone: 5702233, El Manial, Manial Palace, phone: 5315587, Airport, phone: 2654760, fax: 4157475, New Airport, phone: 2652223, fax: 4164195 and Cairo International, Airport phone: 2914255 ext.2223.
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 baksheesh, 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.
- Police, ☏ 122.
- Ambulance, ☏ 123.
- Fire, ☏ 180.
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. Large bottles of water can be purchased for LE2-3. 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 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.
For medical care, hotels usually have a house doctor on call. Any major operations are best performed outside Egypt, but the following hospitals are generally considered the best in Cairo:
Backpackers will see doctors' offices dotted all around Cairo on board signs. They are speciality specific. Just look for one and then inquire. Most surgeries open after 5PM and run late till sometimes midnight.A consultation fee will give you a consultation and one follow up appointment.
Travellers can also visit private hospitals like El Salam, Dar Al Fouad,6 October University Hospital, Ain Shams University Hospital,Kasr El-Eney during the day. Each has an outpatient clinic with various specialists on duty. Usually no appointment is necessary and you will be seen depending on how early you arrive. The fee for the outpatient clinic of 6 October University Hospital for a consultation and follow up is LE40.
- Australia, World Trade Centre (11th Floor), Corniche El Nil Boulac (Code No. 11111), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Brazil, Nile City - North Tower C – 18th Floor Cairo Egypt, 2005 Nile Corniche, Boulaq Num.4, Boulaq, Cairo Governorate, ☏ .
- Canada, Nile City Towers, 2005 (A) Corniche El Nile, South Tower, 18th floor, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- China, 14 Bahgat Aly Street, Zarmalek, ☏ , [email protected].
- Finland, 3 Abu El-Feda Street,13th floor 11211 Zamalek, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 8:30AM-4:15PM.
- France, 29, avenue Charles de Gaulle BP 1777 Guiza, ☏ , [email protected].
- Germany, 2, Sh. Berlin (off Sh. Hassan Sabri) Zamalek, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Greece, 18, Aisha El Taymouria Garden City, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- India, 5 Aziz Abaza St., Zamalek, Cairo, ☏ , , , fax: , [email protected].
- [dead link] Iraq.
- Indonesia, 13 Aesha Al Taymorya, Qasr an Nile, Cairo Governorate 1661, Cairo, ☏ , , fax: , [email protected].
- Italy, 15, Abdel Rahman Fahmy Str., Garden City, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- [dead link] The Netherlands, 18, Hassan Sabri Street, Zamalek, Cairo, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Embassy: Su–Th 8AM–4PM.Consular section: Su–Th 9AM–noon. Visa section appointments only.
- Norway, 8 El Gezirah Street., Zamalek, ☏ , , , fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 8:30AM–3:30PM.
- Romania, 6 Al-Kamel Mohamed Street, Zamalek, ☏ , , fax: , [email protected]. Embassy
- Saudi Arabia.
- Spain, 41, Ismail Mohamed st. - Zamalek, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 7 Ahmed Ragheb Street, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Garden City, Cairo hour service 365 days per year
- United States of America, 8 Kamal El Din Salah St., Garden City, ☏ , [email protected].
- The Japanese Gardens in Helwan are a 20-min drive from Downtown or by Metro. They're a good spot for an afternoon picnic away from the city.
- Alexandria can be done as a day-trip, though it deserves longer. Top sights are the new library, the national museum, and Qaitbey fortress; then enjoy a fish dinner on the Corniche and maybe a drink. The train takes about 2½ hours, see section on "Get in by train" above for times and fares.
- Ain al-Sukhna is the closest Red Sea resort to Cairo and easily reached on a day trip. This place is growing rapidly to become the getaway for Cairo's moneyed elite. To get here, hire a taxi for the day for about LE200-300.
- Fayoum is another popular place for Egyptians to picnic. While the city offers little in itself, the Qaroon lake and Wadi Al-Rayyan both offer scenic spots for relaxing and the area also contains some of the first pyramids in history. Get there by bus and then get a taxi to drive you around for the day at approximately LE100 or get a taxi from Cairo at LE200-300. It's possible to stay overnight at the scenic Tunis village for LE30.
- Siwa and Bahariyya are oases in the desert, far from the city hubbub.
- The other major centres in Egypt, needing several days to visit, are Luxor and Aswan for antiquities, and the Red Sea resorts such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh.