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.

Cairo key facts

Time difference

GMT +2 hours

Currency

Egyptian pound

Flying time to destination

4½ hours

Language

Arabic

Passport & visas

•   You’ll need a full valid EU passport, and the expiry date should be at least 6 months after your arrival back in the UK.
•   Brits also need a visa to enter Egypt, which you can get before you leave from: The Consulate General of The Arab Republic of Egypt (2 Lowndes Street, London SW1X 9ET; 020 7493 5285).

Getting around

Metro
Cairo has a surprisingly modern, clean and efficient 33-station metro.

Bus
The Greater Cairo General Transport Authority operates a large bus and minibus network in and around the city, but there never seem to be enough buses and they’re very overcrowded.

Tram
The majority of Cairo’s trams have been phased out, but three lines still remain. The trams are as cheap and as crowded as buses, but quite an experience.

Taxi
Catching a taxi is the easiest way to get around Cairo, but be prepared to fight over the fare and remember to agree the price before you get in.

Train
Over-night train is a popular way to travel between Cairo and Luxor. Every day a train with Wagon-Lit sleepers runs between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. Tickets must be reserved a couple of days in advance, and the train leaves at 8pm and arrives in Luxor at 6am.

Getting there

Metro
Cairo has a surprisingly modern, clean and efficient 33-station metro.

Bus
The Greater Cairo General Transport Authority operates a large bus and minibus network in and around the city, but there never seem to be enough buses and they’re very overcrowded.

Tram
The majority of Cairo’s trams have been phased out, but three lines still remain. The trams are as cheap and as crowded as buses, but quite an experience.

Taxi
Catching a taxi is the easiest way to get around Cairo, but be prepared to fight over the fare and remember to agree the price before you get in.

Train
Over-night train is a popular way to travel between Cairo and Luxor. Every day a train with Wagon-Lit sleepers runs between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. Tickets must be reserved a couple of days in advance, and the train leaves at 8pm and arrives in Luxor at 6am.

Cairo good to know

Etiquette

Dialling code
+20 2

Religion
Islam

Health and vaccinations

•   No vaccinations are compulsory but it’s recommended you have them for hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus, polio and malaria.\ •   For more detailed information, contact your GP or a specialist vaccination centre.

Tipping

Tipping or ‘baksheesh’ is a way of life in Egypt. It’s customary to tip about LE£1 for every little service, so keep a pocketful of small change!

What to wear

•   Egypt is predominately a Muslim country, so make sure you’re properly dressed when out and about. Revealing outfits are a no-no, especially for women.
•   Pack lightweight cotton clothes in the summer and a jumper or jacket for cooler winter evenings.
•   Cover up when Egypt sightseeing or walking the streets – women shouldn’t go out scantily dressed.

Shopping in Cairo

•   The main bazaar area in Cairo is called Khan el Khalili, where you can bargain for items such as copperware, mother of pearl, wood, jewellery, perfumes and spices.
•   For more European shopping there is the Talat Harb Square, where you’ll find boutiques selling shoes and handbags. Great quality Egyptian cloth is also sold here. Prices are fixed, so no bartering.

Food & drink

Food
•   Mezzeh are traditional Egyptian starters, eaten with pitta-style bread and very filling.
•  Lamb is most popular served as kebab in marinated pieces.
•  Shwarma is the Egyptian equivalent of the Turkish doner kebab.
•  Dates soaked in milk are an Egyptian favourite.
•  Honey laced pastries and baked rice in milk with almonds is a national delicacy called Om-Ali.

Drink
•  Stick to bottled water and avoid salads.
•  Make sure you drink lots of water, as it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially in the summer.