Capture the essence of Cairo Egypt

Capture the essence of Cairo

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Cairo is an interesting muddle of ancient houses and soaring modern buildings which blend to form an unusual skyline. Split into east and west sides by the River Nile which runs through the city centre, there is more to this Egyptian city than pharaohs and pyramids.

Day 1  - Take in a view

Most of Cairo’s hostels and budget hotels are located in the city centre. A good way to start a 3-day tour of the Egyptian capital is by a walk around your locale. Cairo is an extremely busy, fast paced city and making your way around the city can take a small bit of getting used to. The 16 million people living in this sprawling metropolis are the main cause of this. By using the River Nile as a kind of landmark you shouldn’t go too wrong.

It is one thing to see Cairo on foot, but it is another to see it from an observation deck 180 meters in the sky. The view from the deck at Cairo Tower which stands proudly on El Gezirah Island gives you the opportunity to do just that and offers the best views found anywhere in the city. On a clear day look around and you can not only see the entire city, but the nearby pyramids and the entire Nile Delta also.

If you want to observe each and every angle of the view offered without so much as moving your feet, take a pew at the revolving café and sip a coffee while enjoying the view bit, by bit, by bit.

Another of Cairo’s more unique ways to enjoy a meal is on a cruise down the River Nile. You can check with local tour operators once you get there, but the vast majority of companies offer packages for around $20. Embarking on your cruise at 7.30pm, they include a meal and even some entertainment in the shape of a belly dancer or two! Returning at 10pm, it is a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Day 2  - The ancient pyramids of Giza

Going to Cairo without seeing the pyramids is a bit like going to Sydney and not visiting the Opera House, or staying in New York and leaving without going to the Statue of Liberty – you just don’t do it! Naturally you will visit them at some stage during your stay, and as they are the city’s premier attraction there is no better day to make the trip to them than the second day.

It doesn’t matter what time of day you visit the Pyramids. They will leave you totally gob smacked whether you go to visit them first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. But here’s a word of advice – leave your visit until late in the afternoon and let it roll into the evening. This way you don’t have to wait around aimlessly until the light show starts, of which the Sphinx is the centrepiece. Entrance to the Pyramids is from 7am until 7pm.

Start the day you visit the Pyramids with a trip to the Egyptian Museum on Midan El Tahir. This museum (Cairo’s most popular) is best known for being the home of Tutankhamen’s treasures. Along with the ancient pharaoh’s riches you will also find a collection of fascinating relics which date back to before 1000BC and learn more about the pyramids.

When you finally make it to the pyramids and see them for the first time savour this moment – they are regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Of all the pyramids, Khufu (or Cheops) which was built for the pharaoh of the same name is the largest, and hence most impressive. The second largest is Khafra (or Chephren) built for Khufu’s son of the same name. The third largest was built for Menkaure (also known as Mycerinus).

While some people are more astounded by the pyramids, others find the Sphinx more engrossing. Standing majestically just before Khufu’s pyramid, many legends surround it. Most of these are in regards to whether or not there hidden passageways or rooms within, even though none have ever been found. Others concentrate on the special powers it holds. It is the Sphinx which looks most impressive at the nightly light and sound show staged.

Day 3  - Haggle, haggle, haggle!

After visiting the wonders that are the pyramids, you will find it is hard to topple them. But Cairo city centre itself has a plethora of mosques, churches and monuments to keep you occupied. Best known of these and one which dominates Cairo’s hazy skyline is the Citadel. With its numerous bubbling white dome roofs, this building really is a spectacle. While it is totally different to the pyramids, this is probably why it is possibly the most visited attraction within Cairo’s city centre.

If you want to do a bit of shopping in Cairo there is no better place to do so than at Khan al-Khalili market - you name it and you will find it here. Haggling with the traders is an experience you won’t forget, whether it is to shave a few Egyptian pounds off some clothes, jewellery or whatever else takes your fancy.

Cairo isn’t all sightseeing though, and there is some fun to be had with lots of bars and nightclubs scattered throughout the city centre. Midan Tahir (Midan Square) in downtown Cairo has one of the best selections of bars in the whole city and is particularly good for those playing host to live acts.

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