The capital and cultural center of Egypt seated near the Nile Delta, Cairo is a sprawling metropolis equally filled with ancient wonders and modern attractions. Founded in 969 AD by Jawhar al-Siqilli during the Tunisian Fatimid dynasty, the city gained its name from Caliph al-Mu'izz li Din Allah calling the city al-Qahira (The Victorious), eventually anglicized by Westerners to Cairo. In 1168, Cairo became Egypt's capital and has mostly remained a major economic hub not only of Egypt but North Africa and the Middle East ever since. A mere half-hour cab ride from some of the most stunning monuments of Ancient Egypt including the Giza Necropolis and the enigmatic Great Sphinx, there is much to see and do throughout Cairo at any time of day or night.
By far the most iconic monuments in the world and the first thing that comes to the minds of many when speaking of Egypt, the Giza Necropolis, home to the legendary Pyramids as well as the Temple of the Sphinx that accompanies the legendary Sphinx, is a tourist magnet for good reason. The largest of the three Pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, is the sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, lending credence to the ancient Arabic proverb "Man fears time; time fears the Pyramids". Neighbored by the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Pyramid of Khafre, a tour of the interiors of these monuments to the great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt is a trip worth making if you're able. If you desire to avoid the crowds of tourists that often flock to these amazing sites, check out the Queens' Pyramids, especially the Tomb of Seshemnufer IV, as well as the Nobles' Tombs in the cemeteries around the Pyramids. While photography within the tombs is strictly forbidden as a measure to protect the ancient artwork on the walls of the tomb, the area around the Pyramids is a great spot to take photographs of the necropolis in all its ancient splendor.
After touring the Pyramids, you will almost certainly find a trip to The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, more commonly known by locals as the Egyptian Museum, in order. With over 120,000 artifacts on display, this museum contains the largest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world including the world-renowned death mask and sarcophagus of the young King Tutankhamun discovered by by Howard Carter and George Herbert in 1922. Another museum worth visiting is the Museum of Islamic Arts. Often overlooked by tourists, this small but wondrous museum features stunning displays of intricate Islamic artwork on ceramics, textiles, books and more from different Islamic eras and locations. While neither of these facilities permit photography within the buildings, an excellent spot to take pictures is the Cairo Tower on Gezira Island. Standing at 610 feet (185 meters) tall, this majestic tower provides unrivaled panoramic views of the sprawling city as well as the Giza Pyramids and is an excellent spot to capture the heart of Cairo's essence in pictures provided that you don't suffer from acrophobia.
Walking through the Old Cairo (often referred to as Coptic Cairo) section of town, you will see and can take tours of several old churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George and Church of the Virgin Mary (colloquially called the "Hanging Church" as it's nave hangs suspended over a passageway). The Coptic Museum contains many Coptic artifacts dating from as early as Roman times and beyond, including artwork created by Coptic monks. East of the downtown area, you can view several historical mosques and enjoy the serene beauty of the area. While not all mosques in this area are open to tourists, it is important to note that mosques that are open to tourists require you to remove your shoes prior to entry to prevent tracking dirt and dust into these sacred places of worship and that female tourists are modestly covered (legs and shoulders fully covered) before entering. Also of note in this part of town is the Gayer Anderson Museum, named after the British Egyptologist who resided in the mansion prior to its conversion to a museum, where you can learn of the lives of the Egyptian elite of Ancient Egypt through several rooms filled with artifacts.
Shopping opportunities are just as plentiful as sight-seeing opportunities in Cairo. With large indoor shopping malls, multitudes of small shops, and several open-air souqs (markets) both large and small, there is virtually no limit to what can be found or purchased in Cairo from fresh produce and bread to fine gold and silver jewelry. Of course, a day of touring Cairo and bargaining with the merchants in the souqs can make you quite hungry. For a light meal or snack, pop by one of the many cafes or patisseries to enjoy sandwiches or pastries with a cup of coffee. Freshly made fruit juice available at fruit juice stalls throughout the city streets are a delicious way to combat the heat, especially in summer months. There are countless restaurants throughout the city offering everything from traditional Egyptian foods like fatir (a flat pastry that can be served with sweet or savory toppings), lentil soup, and kushari (a casserole made with rice, pasta and beans mixed in a spicy tomato sauce) to Western fast food chains to Lebanese, Turkish, Indian, Italian, and Asian cuisines.
After taking in the beauty of the sun setting over the River Nile from a rooftop terrace or during a horseback ride, Cairo offers a wide variety of nighttime entertainment options. For traditional Egyptian entertainment, you can watch a troupe of Sufi dancers at the scenic Al-Ghouri Mausoleum three nights a week. You can also enjoy musical performances and concerts at The Culture Wheel or the Garden Theater in Al-Azhar Park. If you prefer high-brow entertainment, stop by the Cairo Opera House for an excellent place to watch various theatrical acts or the Cairo Jazz Club to relax while enjoying live jazz performances seven days a week. Another option is to hang out at one of the downtown coffee houses or bars and enjoy the surroundings while enjoying a cup of coffee or a beer and unwinding from a day exploring Cairo.
With so much to see and do in Cairo, a clean, comfortable place to sleep that accommodates your budget is important to being able to get the most out of your stay in Egypt; it is nearly impossible to fully appreciate all Cairo has to offer if you're exhausted for the entirety of your trip! With nearly one hundred hotels in Cairo throughout the city and the surrounding areas, there are several choices of well-maintained hotels with friendly English-speaking staff whether you're browsing through a selection of cheap hotels or want a taste of opulence from one of Luxury hotels in Cairo.
Almost exclusively located in downtown area, there are a wide variety of budget hostels and hotels in Cairo with no-frills yet comfortable decor and furnishing as well as air conditioning in all rooms. Several of these lower-end hotels provide free Wi-Fi and are a short walk away from Cairo's many downtown attractions, providing additional savings on taxi fare for in-city sightseeing. Other common features in these hotels are rooftop terraces that are perfect for watching the sunrise or sunset, laundry services, and continental breakfasts every morning of your stay. Some places also provide a shared kitchen where you can make meals with the fresh produce and bread you bought at the souq instead of dining out.
When you want the little extras of services such as room service, airport shuttles and guided tours of the labyrinthine city without having to pay an exorbitant price, 3 star hotels in Cairo offers those extras and more with contemporary furnishings and decor for a comfortable stay in a room that almost feels like a second home. Some of the amenities commonly found in these hotels include rooftop restaurants, gift shops, and satellite television in all rooms. Front desk staff available to assist you at any time of the day or night will do all they can to ensure that you are fully satisfied with your stay at their establishment.
Should a pool to cool off from warm Cairo days be part of your 'must-have' list when choosing a hotel, the understated elegance of the city's 4-star hotels will certainly be at the top of your list of hotels to choose from. In addition to large pools great for enjoying a refreshing swim after a day exploring the town, these hotels offer on-site gyms and massage services as well as lush gardens, on-site entertainment every evening, and indoor activities. When the day is done, the large, modernly furnished rooms provide a tranquil retreat from the lively pace of the city so that you can relax and rest.
Just as Cairo is the crown jewel of the Nile Delta Valley, 5 star hotels in Cairo shine the brightest of all of the area's hotels when it comes to amenities, opulent comfort, and available services. The luxuriously furnished, spacious rooms with an ultra-modern feel include private balconies that provide you with stunning views of the River Nile and the city. Huge indoor and outdoor pools, nearby golf courses and on-site spa centers make these all-inclusive hotels irresistible for luxury-lovers. If you wish to stay in for the evening, enjoy fine-dining at the elegant in-house restaurants before enjoying a beverage at the bar or relaxing in the hot tub.
With over a thousand years of history and a short distance from the legendary Giza Necropolis, Cairo delivers a nearly infinite amount of things to enjoy during your stay, from enjoying theatrical and musical acts to touring historical sites to simply immersing yourself in the lively and colorful Egyptian culture by interacting with locals at the cafes. Informative museums, stunning medieval mosques and churches, and amazing shopping opportunities await you once you arrive in Cairo's airport. Regardless of what originally draws you to visit Cairo, the adventurous days touring the metropolis area and restful nights in hotels in Cairo will greatly enhance your time in Egypt.