As the hoards of sun-worshippers flee Cairo for Sham El Nessim, those of us left to wallow in the beach-less heat of the city are faced with the prospect of spending the Easter break glued to the television with the AC on blast. But rather than wasting the day watching eight seasons of How I Met Your Mother back-to-back, now is the chance to enjoy Cairo for what it truly is; a crazy-ass city.
Everyone and their mother have had their say about the plight of tourism in Egypt. The reality of it is that we criminally neglect our own wonders. The old adage of 'No one will love you until you love yourself' sums it up pretty nicely.
Maybe it's a question of awareness; beyond Pyramids of Giza and the maligned Egyptian Museum in Downtown Cairo, there are few other places in the city that hold as much resonance in Cairo's collective consciousness – which is a damn shame.
Museums and cultural sites even extend beyond antiquities, with the National Military Museum being one such place. Located within the walls of the Citadel, the museum is the best kind of Egyptian-gaudy, but captures an element of Egypt's history that usually only lends itself to history lessons and road-naming.
On a similar note, Heliopolis War Cemetery is a small slice of something very un-Cairo; green, meticulously-kept and sobering. Coptic Cairo is full of adventures, too; Ben Ezra Synagogue is a fascinating and beautiful monument to Egypt's diverse past. You get where we're coming from, right?
Dance Like Nobody's Watching
Cairo may slow down during Sham El Nessim, but the city's nightlife scene does not. Cairo Jazz Club, for example, is in full force all week, with the likes of Nubian-inspired musician, Basheer, and soul diva, Michelle Rounds, performing, while DJs Amr Hosny, Madlou and Feedo all taking up slots.
Even El Sawy Culturewheel's hosting some pretty big gigs, including the third edition of perennial metal rock fiesta, Walls of Death, and Star Academy 8 winner, Nesma Mahgoub, as well as voice of the revolution, Ramy Essam. More live music comes courtesy of 100Copies Music Space this week, where Alan Bishop, Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi combine their considerable talents in a special collaborative performance.
It doesn't end there; Epic White Sensation is shaping up to be a somewhat interesting night at Otium and Almaz's Sizzling Saturdays continues to gather momentum, while in Downtown, Arabesque hosts a true Egyptian night with Magical Moulid.
This is just a snapshot of what's to come; places such as Amici, Deals, Bamboo and O Bar aren't resting on their laurels – check out the Cairo 360 events calendar for more details.
Catch Some Rays, Do a Little Swimming
If you must have your fix of sun, water and bikini-clad creatures, Cairo's hotels offer a nifty swimming pool day-use option. Now, let's not kid ourselves – snoozing on a chaise lounge in the middle of Cairo isn't quite the same as doing so at Nuweiba or Gouna, but beggars can't be choosers.
In the east of Cairo, both the Movenpick and Swiss Inn house impressive pools, while across the city in Heliopolis, the Fairmont, JW Marriott and Intercontinental Citystars welcome one & all with equally impressive pool facilities.
Away from the city's hotels, Royal Club Mohamed Aly makes for a great daytime escape from the hustle and bustle of Cairo.
It's become a grating cliché, but the January 25th Revolution mobilised Egypt's arts and culture scene in a way that no one could have predicted. Such adversity has bred a new generation of artists who are now being given their chance to shine in galleries and cultural centres around the city.
What's really surprising, though, is that although we've seen more than our share of politically-motivated art, this new sense of empowerment that continues to develop has given individual voices to artists. One such exhibition this week is Ramy Nemr's 'In the Love of Alexandria' – pretty explanatory.
Elsewhere, the one and only Georges Bahgory – a man whose contribution to art in Egypt should not be underestimated – has his exhibition, 'Om Kolthoum', in Zamalek Art Gallery. Meanwhile, Darb 1718 is hosting one of the most exciting exhibitions this month; 'Fashion Reincarnated' puts gender and identity in the spotlight using recycled items. This is just a few of the exhibitions available to those who seek enlightenment of an artistic kind – check out the Cairo 360 events calendar for more.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Well, this is a no-brainer. With restaurants around every corner and cafés impeding on every pavement, it's very difficult not to be sucked into Cairo's dining culture.
This Easter break sees playful shisha joint, Wel3a, expand its smoky empire with a second Zamalek branch. Promising a unique shisha concept, the Nile-side location will make for a pleasant evening or two.
For a full dining experience, there's only one place to go: the InterContinental Semiramis. The Garden City hotel has had a testing few months, but is quickly putting the past behind it with a spring festival, of sorts. It's not actually a festival, but Cairenes can enjoy a full, multi-course meal at any of the hotel's restaurants for 99LE.
Elsewhere, Alchemy has just launched a new menu befitting of its gastro-pub ambitions, while Maadi residents have been going bonkers for the recently opened Vinny's Pizzeria. The options are endless – check out the Cario 360 restaurants page.
So, while your friends trawl up and down the beach looking for a slither of space to set-up in, us real winners will be living it up right here in the weirdest place on earth, Cairo.