The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt


Known most for being the site of the Great Pyramids, Giza is a name that is synonymous with Ancient Egyptian history.

Nowadays, Giza is spread over a huge expanse of Cairo that stretches from the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx to the west bank of the Nile.

Giza’s infrastructure has seen several changes throughout the years; being affected by the different occupations of Egypt.

The British in the 18th and 20th centuries brought most changes with the construction of roads, streets and buildings in this area; prior to the 1952 coup d’etat it received special attention by them due to its touristic qualities.

While the roads of Giza are notoriously busy, travelling from one end to another has been made infinitely easier by the Ring Road and the Cairo Metro line 2; which doesn’t run directly to the Pyramids but get off at Giza station and any taxi will take you the rest of the twenty minute drive to them.

Haram Street and Faisal Street were once the only two roads connecting this area to Cairo, but now they are much less needed because of the convenience of the Ring Road.

As both an obvious and worthy destination for anyone visiting Egypt, the Giza Plateau attracts thousands of visitors a year, many of which find a safe haven in one of the many top hotels surround it.

The Mena House Oberoi holds the most history and grandeur having hosted everyone from Richard Nixon and Winston Churchill to Frank Sinatra and Charlie Chaplin.

Built in 1869, the hotel has undergone several renovations to maintain its reputation as one of the best hotels in all of Egypt.

That’s not to detract from other surrounding hotels, though; Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel, the Movenpick Resort and the Mercure Cairo Le Sphinx all offer great views, top service and the convenience of being minutes away from some of the oldest antiquities from one of the most celebrated civilisations in history.

Though still under construction, the Giza Plateau will also house what will be Egypt’s biggest collection of antiquities in the form of the Grand Egyptian Museum.

With such grandness around, the gaudy Light and Sound show held on the plateau is well worth attending.

The show retells the history of ancient Egypt, as narrated by the Sphinx himself, with an audiovisual show that is perfect for a family evening out. The stage also intermittently hosts concerts, private parties and opera performances.

There’s more to modern day Giza than just the Pharaohs though. In the parallel standing Haram and Faisal Streets, Giza accommodates quintessential Egyptian working class life.

Haram Street, named as such because of its path right to the pyramids, hosts its share of hotels, restaurants, cafés and – most notoriously – a host of cabarets that hold their own when weighed up against the classic cabarets of Downtown Cairo.

Moving deeper to the centre of Cairo, Giza is also the site for Cairo University’s main campus. Founded in 1908, the university came as an effort to spread national education and thought.

Relocating to Giza in 1924, Cairo University includes several key schools such as the School of Law and the School of Medicine. Kasr Al Aini, which is the medical school, was one of the first in Africa and the Middle East. Surrounding the university are many bookshops, stationary shops and cafés as a result of the considerably large student life.

Another important site in Giza is the zoo. Opened in 1891 by Khedive Ismail, the zoo was originally his personal domain that he filled with imported plants from Africa, South America and India; a banyan tree planted in 1871 can still be found today.

During the 20th century the zoo was considered one of the best in the world with about four hundred available species. Although a lot of the original space was sold to the public for private homes, the zoo remains quite popular, receiving over three million visitors in 2007.

Further towards the banks of the Nile, Giza takes a step up in affluence. The Giza Nile Corniche begins from underneath the Giza Bridge and continues all the way down to Galaa bridge that leads to Zamalek and Tahrir.

Bustling with restaurants, cafés and nightclubs that are essentially on the Nile in docked boats or built platforms, the other side of the road has a strip of residential buildings that face the water; some of the most magnificent views of the city can be seen from these apartments.

A key area for going out at night, there are frequented restaurants such as Friday’s and Swissair, as well as popular nightclubs Yasso Lounge and Bamboo.

Also on the Nile Corniche is the Ahmed Shawki museum. Named after the poet of the same name, the museum was originally his home and now holds over three hundred of his books and handwritten poems. A bronze statue of the poet was erected in the garden for the 50th anniversary of his death.

Vastly spread out, Giza offers more than a single lifestyle and different forms of entertainment. If you visit Egypt you are most likely to pass through Giza at some point considering its prominence in tourism as well as social life.