Cairo to Ismailia: A Guide to A Day in The City
For an alternative weekend destination just a short distance from Cairo, why not visit Ismailia?
Located on the West Bank of the Suez Canal, Ismailia is a fun destination that’s only an
Did You Know: Named after
Khedive Ismail the Magnificent, the city and governorate of Ismailia
were founded in 1863, it was also the original location for New York City’s Statue of Liberty. Almost one
million people live in Ismailia
alone and the governor has a drop box outside his office for residents to file
their comments and concerns in to.
Getting There: There’s no reason why you can’t visit Ismailia just for a day!
By car, Ismailia
is only an hour away and if you can manage to get lost on the one road that
takes you there (the Cairo-Suez road), you probably shouldn’t be driving
anyway. Expect the 10LE trip to take an hour and a half if you’re travelling by
bus; you can catch
a bus from the Almaza bus station in Heliopolis. It’s best to get an
early start; so start your day off right with an early morning breakfast in Heliopolis before hitting
Take a Look Around: As you enter,
find some humour in the odd mélange of statues around. In the town’s centre, the
well-groomed Colonial streets are lined with bougainvillea flowers, and
sprawling lawns accompany the charming British and French-styled cottages;
serving as a reminder to Ismailia’s
past. Don’t miss the local art: proudly displaying the city’s culture, tiled
mosaics are dispersed around Ismailia
and the street graffiti is equally exciting.
Head to the Corniche: When you think of Ismailia, the Suez Canal is often the first thing that
comes to mind. The water’s edge is the perfect place to take in a little sunshine;
a new awareness finds you breathing regularly and the Cairo noise pollution is nonexistent here. Kiosks
and cafés line the street where summer chalets are dispersed intermittingly. For
a tea and shisha, head to Cute Café, where delicious pear shisha costs a mere 5LE. FYI: If you’ve got a
bicycle, bring it along! The canal’s corniche makes for a great place to take a
Hail a Rowboat: A picturesque
scene of fisherman out on their daily trip might have you aching for a boat of
your own. You can head out onto the canal only until 11AM, but otherwise, the
lakes are open for use all day long. Rent a rowboat (20LE for 30 minutes) and
relax for a while; it’s quiet, serene and a beautiful way to take in the
town’s atmosphere and have you daydreaming.
Did Someone Say Fish? Going to Ismailia and not eating
fish is nothing less than a travesty. There are several seafood restaurants
along the corniche serving fish fresh out of the canal. Fish Land
(Abdel Moneim Emara St.)
had us in food hysteria when it was all over. They serve heaping piles of
deliciously fresh fish. And don’t underestimate their dessert, either; we
forced our gluttonous selves to make room for some crème caramel.
For The History Buffs: On Mohammed Ali
Quay Street, the Ismailia Museum contains
over 4000 objects from the Pharaonic to Greco-Roman times, including statues
and canal records. Don’t miss the 4th century AD mosaic featuring intriguing
mythological characters. The museum is small and usually empty, making it a
convenient stop. Doors open at 8AM and admission costs around 6LE.
Take it Downtown: After catching the
sunset, head downtown and enjoy the quaint shop fronts and small-town
atmosphere. Don’t miss George’s (Thawra Street), the
only bar in town. The British pub ambience is true to style and feels as cosy
as your favourite pair of slippers. Expect to pay no more than 60LE for a
cocktail with imported liquors. We hear that their food is pretty outstanding
as well. This just might be one of the coolest bars in Egypt!
In Case You’re Too
Sleepy: If you take a little too much liking to George’s
or are just too tired to head back to Cairo, the Mercure Forsan Island provides serenity and a beautiful view. Located just down the street from George’s,
the Crocodile Inn (approximately
75LE per room) is a no-frills hotel and an ideal location for exploring the old
European quarters of Ismailia.