Local tourist offices provide information about the city, maps, hotel and hostel bookings, information about getting around on public transport, tours, and how to find the best deals in the city. The Egyptian Tourism Authority is the official tourism agency.
Cairo offers a fascinating mix of ancient and modern and a complex calendar of things to do. Delve into the local scene and explore all of the fabulous tourist attractions.
Pyramids of Giza
The primary reason for many tourists visit to Egypt is to see the pyramids, the last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World. There are three main pyramids
Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops)- completed around 2600 BC, it is Egypt's largest at 136m (448t) high. Around 2.5 million limestone blocks were used to house the sarcophagus of King Cheops.
Pyramid of Kafhre Pyramid of Menkaura
Each Pyramid is a tomb to a different King of Egypt. In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx (Abu al-Hol) which translates to "Father of Terror". Carved out of a single block of stone, the enormous cat-like sculpture has fascinated people for centuries. Nearby are three smaller pyramids built for the queens. It is forbidden to climb the pyramids, but you may go inside. If you suffer from claustrophobia, it is recommended against entering. Entrance is limited, so arrive early.
Safety: Millions of tourists visit the pyramids each year without incident, but beware that like other major tourist attractions in the world, there will be opportunists. Report harassment by camel drivers and tourist touts to the black-uniformed Tourist Police.
How to get to the Pyramids: A taxi is the easiest way to reach the pyramids, but can be expensive. Haggle for the final price before picking a taxi. Mini and micro buses also arrive frequently, but are commonly crowded. An air-conditioned bus by routes 355/357 also departs regularly from the Midan Tahrir. There are also tour packages that take the stress out of the arrangements - for a price.
Hours: Apr. - Sep. 8:30 - 17:00; Oct. - Mar. 8:30 - 16:00
Admission: 3 EGP for Egyptians; 20 EGP for non-Egyptian; 30 EGP for video camera
This old section of Cairo was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the world's oldest Islamic cities featuring mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains.
Founded in the 19th century, the Egyptian Revolution of 1919 led to the square being named Tahrir (Liberation) Square. It is surrounded by The American University, the Mogamma governmental administrative Building, the headquarters of the Arab League, the Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel, the headquarters of the National Democratic Party, and the Egyptian Museum. More recently, the square was the center of the mass protests since the revolution. Pictures of the square were broadcast across the globe and it is still the heart of the city.
Bab Zuweyla marks the Southern gate of the old city. The gate contains one of the earliest examples of ball bearings in the world. Climb the gate towers for a wonderful view of the historic district of Cairo.
This pedestrian street was once Cairo's main public square.
Address: Sharia el-Muizz, Islamic Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
Known as the "Hanging Church", it may date back to the fourth century. Built on top of a Roman gate, it is reached by a stairway that leads to the courtyard. The beautiful interior features three barrel-vaulted aisles, altar screens of inlaid ivory and bone and a carved marble pulpit supported by 13 pillars representing Christ and his disciples.
Address: Shar'a Mari Girgis Street, Cairo, Egypt
Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
This is one of the largest mosques in the world. A wonderful example of early Mamluk structure, it was built between 1356 and 1363 and encompasses a stunning courtyard, four madrassas (theology schools) and a mausoleum flanked by huge doors.
Address: Maydan Salah al-Din, Cairo, Egypt
There are many tours or Egypt, Cairo, and the pyramids. They each have different focuses, price points, and modes of transportation. Some are all inclusive packages that include airfare, where others may only encompass a day trip to an attraction.
Agents will help you book the tour you are looking for. Local agents are usually much less expensive than international agents. Check out a company thoroughly before paying and make sure to communicate with them about your needs. Identify hidden costs, whether tips and taxes are included, and determine how flexible the itinerary is.
Estimate the Pros & Cons of a tour:
A Nile cruise offers accommodations in luxury rooms with AC, specialized services, and the chance to see more of the country. Many major monuments are located along the waterway.
Inclusive packages may include airfare, but at least encompass transportation, accommodation, and attractions. Price differences depend on the class of accommodation, the qualifications of your tour guide, and the degree of luxury.
Day Tours are available to visit specific attractions, like the pyramids. These may also include transport.
Egypt holds both secular, religious, and cultural festivals. The country is predominantly Muslim, but there are also a minority of Coptic Christians and other religions.
Christmas - The Coptic Christmas is held on the of 7th January. Celebrated as the birthday of Christ, people -including non-Christians- celebrate by a mass gathering at midnight with traditional cuisine known as fata, a traditional dish of rice, garlic and meat soup.
Abu Simbel Festival - This holiday is associated with the ancient temple of Egypt-Abu Simbel and highlights the ancient traditional rituals of Egypt. This festival is held on 22nd February.
Sham al-Naseem - This festival, "sniffing the breeze", celebrates an ancient holiday that marks the coming of spring on March 21. People celebrate by spending the day in the countryside or in the parks. Traditional foods include dried or pickled fish and dishes made with midamis or fuul (kidney beans).
Milad-e Nabi - Milad-un Nabi - Prophet Mohammed's Birth Anniversary recognizes the founder of Islam. Held in the month of May, there are parades, sweets, charity, and elaborate meals.
Leylet en Nuktah - Ancient Egyptians worshiped the Nile because of the yearly bounty it brought. Modern Egyptians still celebrate the yearly rise of the river on June 17. To celebrate, Egyptians picnic and camp along the edges of the river and spend time with family and friends. At sunset, women put out balls of dough representing the people in the house, and in the morning the cracks are examined to make predictions about each person's longevity and fortune.
The Art Festival - This week long festival is held in late August. It is one of the greatest art festivals of Arab world.
One of the major events in Egypt, and a major Muslim celebration around the world, is Ramadan or Ramzan. Fasting is one of the primary means of celebration and takes place from sun-up to sun-down. The Eid al Fitr is the end of the festival.
Wafaa Al Nil - This festival is dedicated to the Nile River. It is celebrated by painting competitions, sessions of poetry, seminars and music concerts are the highlight of this September month festival.
Eid al Adhha - This religious event begins about 70 days after the end of Ramadan. It is dedicated to Abraham's sacrifice of a sheep in place of his son. This event lasts for four days.
Pharaonic Wedding - This festival is the symbol of ancient civilization of Egypt. Held in the month of November, this is considered an auspicious day for marriages.