Attracting a trove of tourists, ex-pats, and study abroad students every year, Cairo is the largest metropolis in the Arab World. This vibrant Capital has a plethora of historical and cultural attractions sure to excite and inspire even the most seasoned travellers.We’ve compiled just a few of the many reasons to check out one of the most incredible destinations on Earth.
1. Cairo Never Sleeps
Forget New York, Cairo literally never sleeps. Few other cities in the world have delivery services 24/7: it’s completely normal to have pizzas, drinks and even movies delivered or to go for a shawerma snack at My Queen as late as four in the morning. Pharmacies deliver no matter what time of day, and there’s always a doctor that will make house calls. With summer nights long and hot, it is entirely common to see families filling up the parks at midnight or eating in restaurants until the wee hours of the morning. Even the city’s nightlife lasts until the early hours of the mornings: bars, nightclubs and shisha places really only pick up just before midnight, and cabarets usually open around 1AM, keeping the heart of Egypt beating around the clock.
2. Marvel at the Myriad of Minarets
Nicknamed ’The City of a Thousand Minarets,’ Cairo ’s culture boasts a wealth of Islamic tradition and architecture. The spindles atop the city’s countless mosques are peppered across the horizon, illuminating the capital by night with a soft neon glow. Five times daily, the call to prayer emanates from these minarets and echoes throughout the city. Make an unforgettable day trip out of visiting several of Cairo’s noteworthy mosques, such as Al Azhar Mosque, Ibn Tulun Mosque and the Mosque of Mohammad Ali, all of which feature incredible displays of classic Islamic art.
There’s no denying that Egyptians know how to consume those hearty, delicious carbs! One of the most ubiquitous styles of eatery in town is the koshary restaurant. On almost every street, this cheap and delicious national dish is prepared. Bowls of rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas and fried onions are mixed in bowls and topped with spicy tomato sauce. Fava beans provide a delicious dietary breakfast staple in Egypt, prepared boiled and mashed as foul or fried in patties as falafel. Check out our guide to Downtown Cheap Eats for the best in affordable eating.
4. A River Runs Through It
The north-flowing Nile runs through Cairo , irrigating the city and defining its scenery. A night-time view from the Kasr El Nil Bridge has a breathtaking panorama of Cairo’s skyline reflected in the Nile; it’s a popular hangout for young Egyptians and a prime romantic spot for couples. A fantastic evening can be had cruising around the river on one of the city’s iconic feluccas. The Nile is home to a number of cruise ships as well, offering an incredible opportunity to experience Egypt’s beautiful landscape.
5. Ancient History
It could almost– but definitely won’t– go without saying that Cairo is home to the World’s remaining Ancient Wonder.A trip to the Pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza is an absolutely essential stop for anyone travelling through Cairo. These monuments to the Pharaohs are truly awe-inspiring.Visit early in the morning to avoid the harsh sun and large crowds.
6. Sweet & Juicy
Cairo’s obsession with sugar can cure even the strongest sweet tooth. Sweet shops are scattered around the city, serving up traditional treats such as konafa and basbousa; syrup-infused semolina pastries.These sticky sweets are year-round favourites, but are especially popular around feasts, birthdays and religious holidays in Egypt. More refreshing delights can be found in nearly every neighbourhood at juice bars.Thick mango, sweet orange, and tart lemon juices are the most common, but nothing sweetens a summer afternoon in Cairo like a tall glass of ice-cold watermelon juice.
7. Shake and Twirl
Sequined bras, long flowing skirts, and shimmying hips are the ingredients to the longstanding art of belly-dancing.Cairo’s cabarets are home to the some of the region’s most stunning performances of this traditional dance form. Just one performance from hip-popping belly-dancer will have you grooving along in your seat to the hot Arabic beats of the Cabaret all night long.
For a more spiritual experience, Cairo is one of the world’s best venues for watching the traditional Sufi dance. The Sufis devote their minds to God while twirling in circles to represent the Solar System’s orbit to achieve a heightened state of consciousness.Whirling dervishes open their unique form of meditation to the public for a truly mystical experience.
8. Shop ‘Till You Drop
Khan El Khalili is the ultimate treasure trove of a market. Both tourists and locals frequent the massive historic souk to find spices and produce, beautiful scarves and fine jewellery. Chatting with the shop owners is a great way to pick up a bit of Arabic and haggle for prices. If you venture into the depths of the market, you will even come across workshops where many of the market’s products are crafted.
9. Coffee Craze
From the early morning hours until late into the night, traditional Egyptian coffee shops serve up aromatic Turkish coffee, steaming tea with mint, and thick, smooth shisha. Make no doubt about it; Turkish– or Arabic, as it is often referred to– coffee is taken very seriously in Cairo.Various spices are added to the coffee and the amount of sugar must be requested before the coffee is made. Some prefer the city’s modern coffee chains, for the lattés and trendy snacks. Whether it is in the traditional or newer locations, Cairo has a serious café culture.
10. Arab Hospitality
The Middle East has a long reputation for Arab hospitality; and Cairo is no exception. Egyptians are some of the most helpful and welcoming people in the world. Should you be invited to sit in someone’s shop or home; you will be offered at least something to drink again and again until you accept.And should you ever lose your way in this busy city; rest assured that more than a few hands will be there to help you out.