As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Giulia Cimarosti who has previously lived in Cairo for 9 months and visited another 8 times.
Giulia shares with us her insider tips on what to do in Cairo, Egypt for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Cairo has always been included in package tours for basically any trip to Egypt, but what’s usually shown is not the city itself. Only the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, and a few more touristic spots are all the tourists get to see.
Too many times I hear people saying they’ve been to Egypt but all they did was go to a beach resort and spend not more than a week there.
It might be beautiful but it’s definitely not an authentic Egyptian experience!
In my opinion, one can’t say he’s been to Egypt without spending some time in Cairo: this really takes people into the hectic Egyptian life, together with its many contrasts and real culture, food, habits.
In Cairo you can find one thing and its opposite: luxury and poverty, culture and illiteracy, beauty and ugliness, the friendliest people on Earth and the most dishonest ones, and so on.
Two days never look the same when you live in Cairo. If you have to go from A to B you’ll definitely have to face challenges and find a different solution every day and this is what makes it so exciting!
What to do in Cairo
To answer this question, I must ask myself “where would I take you if you visited me in Cairo?” – and the answer is:
On the same day you arrive, I would take you out for dinner at Al Azhar Park just before sunset, to show you the city from above and the sun going down on the Pyramids.
This is a rather fancy and clean place that I believe is the perfect place for a soft approach to the city.
Another “easy” thing to do is visiting the Citadel , a place with no cars where you can wander and take beautiful photos of Cairo from above.
I would get lost with you down in the narrow alleys and up on the roofs of mosques of Islamic Cairo.
It might sound touristy but it’s very typical instead: I would invite you on a felucca ride on the Nile at sunset, to relax and enjoy the views and the rare silence.
I was almost forgetting the most famous things! Visiting the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx is of course a must.
Best Neighborhoods to Explore in Cairo
Some neighborhoods are as big as cities so it’s not easy to answer this question.
I heard that the neighborhood of Maadi alone has something like 2 millions people!
Anyway I must say my favorite one is Downtown (Wust el Balad) . I instantly fell in love with the area the first time I saw it from the window of a bus, on a “Cairo by night” tour.
This is where the Egyptian Museum and Tahrir Square are located, just to name the most famous things.
The next time I went back to this area I was on my own and I must say I was intimidated by its chaos and people staring at me. But now I wouldn’t live anywhere else!
Something very interesting to visit in Cairo is the so-called “Coptic Cairo”, an area where you can visit churches, Christian graveyards, and the famous Hanging Church.
It’s such an unexpected atmosphere, it almost feels like being in another city.