Cairo, officially recognized as al-Qahirah, or the Triumphant City, is the administrative center and business capital of Egypt. It is a hub of activity that never stops, especially if one is interested in mesmerizing history, artifacts, architecture and entertainment. Offering modern day urban attractions as well as ancient tales, Cairo is the kind of place where a guest can spend the day touring sites thousands of years old, yet convene to dinner and accommodations that are considered some of the most fabulous in the world.
Arranged, two week tours to Egypt usually have guests staying in Cairo and being transported to nearby cities in air conditioned tourist couches for day trips. However, Cairo can also be visited enjoyably on its own, and on one’s own, with careful research and planning ahead of time.
Cairo is bordered on the west by the Nile River, and there are specific areas with which to become familiar. The pharaonic attractions include Giza, Saqqara, Dahshur, Abu Rawash and Abusir, where visitors divide their time among the famous Egypt Pyramids, temples and tombs and the Egyptian Museum. In Old Cairo, guests who are interested in the Christian Museum and desert monasteries can fully experience these and other places of worship, while Islamic Cairo is a medieval architectural marvel with several exotic mosques. (The Citadel fortress may be the most frequently visited site in this area.) Modern Cairo offers spectacular shopping not only with newly built malls, but in the more traditional shops and street markets. Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili souk, (or bazaar) is probably the best known for spices, Egyptian cotton, gold, silver, brass, copper, carpets, ceramics and leather goods.
Plus, activities such as golf, bowling, or ice skating can be found, along with western movies, art galleries, amusement parks and soccer or basketball game viewing. Cairo also has well-known establishments such the fast-food and designer-food chains of the U.S., as well as riverboat restaurants which travel nightly down the Nile.
Night time is also the time to catch performances at the opera house or music halls, as well as traditional Egyptian entertainment with belly dancers. Casinos are another offering which give the city its ‘round-the-clock reputation. Most hotels’ concierges can provide reputable information and directions as well to these venues, as well as arrange day trips with professional tour companies. Prior to venturing off on one’s own, the visitor would be wise to understand some basic language phrases, have a detailed map, a good understanding of the currency, and an awareness of local customs and behavior.
In traveling throughout the city on his or her own, the tourist should remember that Cairo’s underground metro system is the most efficient and economical way to get around. There are two major lines servicing many points and running from 5 AM to around midnight. Waits are seldom more than 15 minutes, and the first car is exclusively for women. A ride from one end of the line to the other costs a mere $.35 U.S. So, with a well-thought out itinerary and a clear subway map, a guest can easily travel between areas of interest quickly and inexpensively.
Taxi service abounds in the form of black and white Fiats or Ladas. It is recommended that solo males sit in the front and the price not be haggled until the destination is reached (meters aren’t used). One should have a general amount of what the fare should be, pay and have plenty of 1-pound and 50-piaster (approximately $.15 US) currency so as not needing to get change or generating a demand for a higher fare. Rates are based on the number of passengers and luggage, location, distance, and the traffic encountered. If a problem occurs, visitors should obtain the vehicle’s number-found on the doors-and report the driver to transportation police. Guests are urged to remember that taxis which pick up riders in front of luxury hotels and clubs often charge double or triple the fare that another cabbie further down the street may quote.
Visitors will easily find a wide variety of foods within a broad price range, along with an equally wide scope of accommodations. The time difference is approximately 6 hours ahead of New York, depending on Daylight Savings Time. Airfare for a round trip flight originating from the Eastern U.S. ranges from around $800 with a discounter to a few thousand dollars for a full price, last minute fare. Tourists are urged to check with travel professionals well in advance for all pertinent regulations involving international travel requirements.
With so much from which to choose, Cairo a uniquely exciting city to visit, and offers its guests truly special memories!