Things to do in Cairo
Ancient treasures abound in Cairo from the amazing pyramids and pharaonic burial grounds of Giza and Saqqara to the beautiful mosques of Al-Azhar, Ibn Tulun and Amr in Islamic Cairo. There’s no shortage of other historic buildings to admire including Abdeen Palace, office of the Egyptian President in Downtown Cairo; the Neoclassic edifice of the Egyptian Museum and its multitude of antiquities; and the Saladin Citadel, a medieval Islamic fort on Mottadam Hill in the centre of the city.
Wandering around the city centre gives you a feel of this sprawling city full of colour, commotion and life. South of Downtown Cairo is the area of Old Cairo where you’ll find Fustat, the first capital of Egypt under Islamic rule that dates back to the 7th century, as well as the home of the city’s Coptic Christian community. Popular attractions include Amr Mosque, Africa’s first mosque and the Hanging Church – built in 690 AD.
Downtown Cairo is the city’s commercial heart with European architecture and home to the Egyptian Museum, Abdeen Palace, and Maydan Tahrir or Liberation Square – scene of the 2011 protests for social change that ousted President Hosni Moubarak. To the east is Islamic Cairo, the historic section of town where you can visit all the grand Muslim monuments such as the medieval bazaar of Khan El-Khalili, Al-Azhar Mosque, the beautifully symmetrical Ibn Tulun Mosque and Saladin Citadel.
Cairo is not just steeped in ancient artifacts though. Head to the newer, greener suburbs for a different take on this overcrowded city. Areas like Nasr City is where you’ll find no less than six shopping centres, while nearby Heliopolis has the biggest mall in Citystars. The upscale areas of Dokki, Mohandiseen and Zamalek are the destinations for high-end boutiques, fine dining and 24/7 entertainment. For more places to go in Cairo, here’s our top five.
Unleash your inner archaeologist at the exhaustive Egyptian Museum with over 160,000 artifacts on display in 107 galleries. Here you’ll find priceless pieces like Tutankhamen’s gold mask and more mummies than a Hammer film.
The iconic Egyptian structures of the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx are all conveniently located in a satellite suburb of Cairo. Make like Indiana Jones as you explore the pharaonic tombs and artifacts of the Giza Necropolis.
For a panoramic look at the sprawling areas of Cairo, the city’s tallest building offers amazing views across the metropolis taking in the Nile River, iconic monuments and even vistas of the Giza Pyramids.
Check out the world’s first stone monument and Egypt’s earliest pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser or Step Pyramid, at the vast burial grounds of Saqqara south of Cairo. The significant site is a must-see and an insight into ancient Egyptian life.
Get lost in the labyrinthine streets and narrow alleyways of the gloriously chaotic Khan el-Khalili. Be prepared to barter and bag a bargain at this medieval bazaar with a treasure trove of traditional and tourist finds.