One Day In: Cairo, Egypt via Social Nomads
– Where we stayed –
Depending on how much time you have, you might not need a hotel. Some long layovers are during the day, so if you’re traveling light or your checked bag is going all the way through, just head into the city and maximize your time. Otherwise, a hotel will be helpful to drop your stuff (there’s no baggage storage at the airport). We crashed at the place provided by EgyptAir – be sure to ask the airline upon arrival if you’re on a long layover. Otherwise, we think Osiris Hotel is a solid spot.
– How we traveled –
Since long layovers in Cairo are fairly common, tour operators do offer a “Cairo layover tour” option. That’s not really our style, but if it’s yours, check out Egypt Tailor Made Day Tours. If you only have a few hours, we do understand the appeal here.
With limited time, we utilized taxis to get around the city. They’re cheap and you can flag them from the street. If you find someone you like, you can always arrange for the driver to wait for you or just hire them for the entire day at a fixed rate.
– What we did –
Sights: We went straight to the pyramids. If you think you’re too cool to see them, well, you’re not. They’re the pyramids. When we went, the place was completely deserted due to ramadan and terrorism concerns. As a result, we were fortunate to experience them without the normal throngs of people. The guards even offered us the chance to climb up them, which is normally a big no-no. We’ll keep it to ourselves whether we accepted or not…
After the pyramids, we enjoyed strolling the ancient streets of Coptic Cairo (Old City). This part of town boasts various churches and historical sites. In Christian tradition, it’s believed that the Holy Family stayed in this area. We can’t confirm!
Islamic Cairo, a chaotic neighborhood of twisting alleyways thick with people and animal shit, is Cairo’s beating heart. Here you’ll find hundreds of mosques, madrasas and caravanserais, among other sites of interest. Check out the Citadel of Cairo, a medieval Islamic fortification and home to the famous Mosque of Muhammad Ali (no, not the boxer). In addition, Islamic Cairo also boasts the frenetic and overflowing Khan al-Khalili market. If you’re looking for souvenirs (or somewhere to hone your bargaining skills) this is the place!
Bites: If you’re craving an authentic meal – complete with delicious local fare, questionable hygiene and hordes of people – head for Kebdet El Prince. Here you’ll find satisfying servings of molokheya and fatta, with liver being the protein of choice. Be bold and dive right in. In addition, we also enjoyed Naguib Mahfouz Cafe, which is located in Khan al-Khalili and offers tasty traditional food, shisha and a few more tourists than El Prince. Note: Cairo does have it’s fair share of fancy and international restaurants, but if you’re only here a short time, why bother with these?
Drinks: Nightlife in Cairo historically entails men smoking shisha and drinking tea. Sure, that’s cool… but we also like to drink beer. If you want to do that too, read on.
The affluent neighborhood of Zamalek is probably the best spot to grab a drink. Check out the fairly local and somewhat divey Pub 28, which is one of Cairo’s only pubs. The food is good, the drinks flowing and the atmosphere lively. What more do you need? We also enjoyed the Lemon Tree, which is a bit more trendy/upscale and offers pleasant views (and cocktails).
If you’re looking for a more local drinking experience, head to El Horreya Cafe in downtown Cairo. This place has a ‘stepping back in time’ feel and plenty of cheap beer. Enough said.