Vibrant and bursting with colour, Cairo embraces Egypt’s fascinating cultures, showing great pride in its enchanting history.
Known to its inhabitants as Um ad-Dunya meaning ‘Mother of the World’, Egypt’s capital city of Cairo combines a rich tapestry of ancient relics, world-famous museums and mind-defying monuments with a fast-paced urban lifestyle found in the heart of this frenetic metropolis.
Best time to visit Cairo
From February to April and October to November.
Cairo holiday highlights
Located towards the northernmost tip of the Nile Delta, the city of Cairo is an intoxicating hub of Egyptian culture, taking pride as the birthplace of Ancient Egypt.
Egypt’s fascinating capital once spread across the district that is known today as Old Cairo, but today continues to expand into the surrounding desert, drawing the iconic pyramids closer towards the city’s boundaries.
With a population of over six million, and with many residing in Old Cairo itself, those travelling to the city will gather a real sense of authenticity, allowing themselves to be swept away with the hustle and bustle of the many markets and souks, such as the popular Khan el-Khalili Market, found in the heart of the bazaar district. This colourful market dates back to 1382 and is the ideal place to practice your bartering skills! Popular with both tourists and local Cairenes, the expansive market offers a range of locally produced goods such as jewellery, lamps and ubiquitous souvenirs; however the greatest surprises can be found amongst the string of food stalls, serving a selection of delightfully traditional cuisine. For a true taste of Egyptian culture, take time out to sit outside a coffee house and watch the bustling crowds pass you by as you sip a cup of sugary shai, or enjoy the fruity flavours of a shisha pipe.
To the west of Cairo lies the Giza Plateau, home of the Great Pyramid and Sphinx. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and standing tall amongst a string of smaller pyramids for over 4,000 years, the Great Pyramid has been a constant topic of discussion, asking the question “how were they built?” The theories are ever growing.
With the body of a lion, the head of a human and standing at over seventy three metres tall, the Sphinx is said to represent strength and wisdom as it guards the horizon for all of Egypt.
Heading south of Giza is the sacred cemetery of Pharaohs: Saqqara. Egypt’s greatest excavation site, Saqqara consists of eleven major pyramids for the Pharaohs and a multitude of smaller tombs that were built to keep family, sacred pets and subjects close by, much like they would have been in their days of reign. The iconic structure of the Serapeum, dedicated to the Egyptian god Serapis was re-discovered after thousands of years of waiting below the surface, by Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in the middle of the 19th Century. Watch as further parts of the necropolis discovered each day, and experience an eerie sense of calm as you wander in the shadows of the tombs of Saqqara.
For a deeper insight into Egypt’s enchanting history, the Egyptian Museum is the home to the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, including the treasures of King Tutankhamun. Spread over two main floors, the museum offers over 120 thousand items to observe, and spending more than a single day exploring is highly recommended.