Country: Egypt
Currency: Pound (EGP)
Peak Season: December-February
Shoulder Season: May-September
Median Temperature: 22.00 C / 71.6 F
Main Languages: Arabic, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Metro, bus, micro-bus, tram, taxi, ferry
Recommended Duration of Stay: 3 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $80.00/day
Tourist Passes: n/a
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Cairo just gleams with cosmopolitan culture and modernity—albeit all the chaos. Being the 19th largest city in the world with a proportionally dense population speaks volumes on how much tourists and locals prefer Cairo over other African cities. The city roars with traffic honks, fast footsteps, audacious mongers, and all the trappings of a chaotic yet lovable city which hauls nearly 20 million individuals.

Cairo is situated alongside the Nile River, where many cruise companies offer to take you on breathtaking journey across the longest river in the world. And, within the city grounds, you’ll see five millennia worth of Jewish, Islamic and Coptic Christian architecture that entail how the city earned its ranks as one of the most religiously (and culturally diverse) cities which, like Istanbul, is highly tolerant of its people’s adherence and feasts. The city is often referred to as Maşr by the locals, which also happens to be Arabic for Egypt.

Though Cairo has been influenced by Western ideals, some social and political issues are still border on a grey area. Homosexuals and lesbians, for one, should be discreet about their orientation, more importantly when dealing with locals, since Egypt is, of course, Muslim country. This goes the same for some taboo acts that have already been embraced by Western countries but deemed abhorrent by Middle Eastern countries: religious conversion, political/social commentaries, public displays of affection, and kinky dresses. There’s a fine line between acceptable and dangerous in places like Cairo, so always keep your actions in check.

Packing List

  • Converted currency because a lot of merchants dishonor plastic/foreign currency; smaller denominations and coins is also ideal for small transactions, especially in public transport
  • Light and decent clothing, insulating walking shoes a sizeable backpack for desert excursions; pack lunches and bottled water, as historical sites take some time to explore, and lack many outlets
  • Sunscreen, shades and a cap are very helpful to combat the sun; essential medication and toiletries; diarrhea is apparently common with tourists, so pack OTC antispasmodics and anticholinergics and keep yourself hydrated to alleviate symptoms
  • A decent camera (with zoom lenses, if possible), with plenty of memory and batteries; laptops are advisable, though you should try to keep gadgets at a minimum
  • Both guide books and a GPS device are advisable, since you’ll be taking on a lot of twists and turns around the city; we adivise to not rent a private car since drivers are haphazard here

Things to Do

  • Visiting the formidable Citadel of Islamic conquistador, Saladin; here also rests the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, whose namesake was considered the galvanizer of modern, diplomatic Egypt
  • Traveling to the pyramids, particularly the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx, on the nearby Giza Plateau; the Giza Necropolis also houses temples and pyramids of lesser-known pharaohs
  • Shopping at the city’s largest souk (open-air market), Khan el-Khalili; attractive for its prevailing 14th century architecture, it’s a place to haggle for souvenirs, spices and other antiquities
  • Witnessing two sides of the city at Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo; the former (and older) houses the Hanging Church and Coptic Museum, while the latter houses mosques and Al-Azhar University
  • Enjoying the tranquility at Al-Azhar Park, known for its lush Islamic gardens; with an expanse of 30 acres, the park is undergoing continual improvement, including a plaza and museum project

DON'T

  • Rely on neither tap water nor street food; if you’re confident that your tummy has been inured to the “tastes of the East,” then dig in; if not, consider bottled water and eating in a restaurant
  • Ever cross streets without looking both ways, nor race with the merchandise carts; the city is famous for being cramped up, so always check your belongings and beware of “small children”
  • Appear “too” Western or American—dress more or less like the locals; turmoil has been brewing in Cairo in the past decade, so tourists should avoid political and religious sentiment
  • Go into hot places like the desert and historical sites without being “geared-up”; avoid frolicking from 1-4pm, as it’s Cairo’s “lunch break” and very few establishments are open at that time
  • Adulterate the historical sites; by merely looking at them, one could see that they’re already in a state of deterioration and, given the number of tourists, they’re easily losing luster