Cairo is a city full of fascinating contrasts. The Pyramids of Giza look like they're alone in the vast Egyptian desert, but turn around and you're on the edge of an energetic city, busy with life. Five times a day, the call to prayer echoes through the streets from the city's many minarets that dot the skyline. Egypt's capital is a place of dazzling ancient history and contemporary culture.
Lots of hostels in Cairo are in the historic downtown area by the main city attractions. You can stay in a place with jaw-dropping views of the pyramids, or one with rooftop huts resembling a Sinai beach camp. You might even step out onto your own balcony overlooking the Nile. Some provide free breakfasts, and others will pick you up from the airport for free. Go for a Cairo hostel with a sociable lobby space to meet fellow travellers, or one with private rooms for a quieter experience.
Cairo's neighbourhoods range from wealthy areas for ambassadors to more basic housing. Downtown was built around a century ago in the French architectural style. There are car-free zones close to Old Cairo's sights and the Salah El-Din Citadel – a medieval fort on a hill. Dokki in central Cairo was built in the 1960s and '70s, and is home to lively bars and restaurants. You'll find great nightlife in Zamalek, one of the city's more affluent neighbourhoods, on Gezira Island.
Start at the Pyramids of Giza as one of the must-see sights. These were built around 2500 BC and are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The iconic Great Sphinx of Giza was built in the same period, and it's in the image of King Khafre. You can visit the Egyptian Museum to see mummies and the treasures of Tutankhamun. Treat your senses to an immersive experience and wander around the Khan El-Khalili outdoor market. You can lose yourself in a wonderful world of aromatic spices, shimmering ornaments and peppermint tea.
It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get from Cairo International Airport to the city centre, depending on traffic. From the hub of Ramses Railway Station, you can hop on intercity connections and the local metro, trams or local buses. Traffic in the city can be very busy, so the metro is the quickest way get around. You can explore Old Cairo and the Citadel on foot.