Cairo: Egypt’s Capital – The Top 10 Places of Interest
Camels, pyramids, pharaohs, and mummies – remnants of the past can be found all over Cairo. The Egyptian capital is famous for its interesting and fascinating history. You can find whatever your heart desires here – be it culinary, cultural, or historical. In this article, we will summarize some of the city’s most important facts and its top 10 sights. Awaken your curiosity and prepare yourself for a wonderful time in Cairo.
Cairo in a Nutshell
Situated in the northeast of Egypt and with a population of 9.1 million, Cairo is the biggest city in the Arab world. The two islands, Gezira and Roda are part of it and are located in the city center and the Old Cairo district.
The best time to travel here is in autumn and spring. At these times of the year, it’s not too hot and there aren’t too many tourists around. For more information, look up our article about the Egyptian climate and the best time to travel.
The country’s national dish is koshari and can be found on every corner. This specialty is a must-try, consisting of rice, chickpeas, lentils, and other ingredients.
To help you get around in Cairo, let’s talk about transportation. The subway system is very efficient, but can get very busy during rush hour. We recommend getting an early start in order to avoid the crowds and to make the most of your day. There are plenty of transport options available: The subway, the trams, and the busses make every part of the city more accessible. You can of course opt for a car as well, but traffic jams may become a problem. So, public transport is probably the best choice here.
There are also festivals that you shouldn’t miss. The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival, which takes place annually in the month of March, offers a variety of events such as concerts, art events, and masterclasses. You’ll surely have a fun time here!
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Cairo
Now that you know the most important facts about Cairo and Egypt in general, it is time to look at the sights! We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 favorite places of interest just for you. Have fun!
The Pyramids of Giza
If you’re ever in Egypt, be sure to see a pyramid; the most impressive ones are the Pyramids of Giza. They are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only ones that still exist today. The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest at 65 meters, while the highest, is the Great Pyramid of Giza, standing at 146 meters. The Pyramid of Khafre comes in second with a height of 143 meters.
These pyramids will take you back to the past and tell exciting stories. They used to be lined with white limestone, which was later used to decorate mosques and palaces of sultans. They also once housed the tombs of Egyptian gods and pharaohs; today, the Egyptian Museum houses these tombs.
You’ll find the pyramids15 kilometers west of downtown Cairo. It almost seems like they are right in the city center, though, because it’s constantly expanding. They are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, make sure you pay a visit to these marvelous pyramids when you’re in Cairo.
Another highlight is the Sound and Light Show at the pyramids – you definitely don’t want to miss this one. The one-hour-long spectacle takes place every evening. Bright lights illuminate the pyramids while you listen to great music and exciting life stories narrated by the Sphinx. It’s simply incredible seeing the pyramids glow in the night sky.
The Sphinx of Giza
The Sphinx of Giza, which is near the Pyramid of Khafre, is worth a visit during your stay in Cairo as well. It’s one of the most important attractions and the most famous Egyptian figurine – truly a sight to behold. It’s simply breathtaking as it is 20 meters high and 47 meters long. You’ll have the chance to take some amazing photos. The Sphinx is in almost perfect condition since it was buried in sand until the 19th century. Unfortunately, the nose and beard are broken, but that just makes it even more unique.
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Perfect for culture and history lovers, at the Egyptian museum you can discover everything about the country’s fascinating history. Marvel at ancient Egyptian art, jewelry, and more than 120,000 artifacts from different periods. You can also take a look at the treasures of Tanis and the statues of the great kings Khafre, Menkaure, and Khufu. In 100 rooms across two stories, you’ll find a display of artifacts and works that date from the predynastic era to the Greco-Roman period – a glance into history and ancient Egyptian culture.
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali
Also known as the Alabaster Mosque, it is stunning and well worth seeing inside and out. The walls are decorated in an ottoman style, giving it an oriental character. The baroque characteristics also make for a powerful sight where you can take amazing, memorable pictures. If you want to see the inside of the mosque, make sure to dress appropriately. If you arrive in shorter clothing, you can borrow suitable robes for your visit. Before entering the mosque, you will have to take off your shoes as a gesture of respect to Muslim customs.
The City of the Dead
No trip to Cairo is complete without visiting the City of the Dead. This place is quite the experience for all adventurers. This quarter, also known as Al-Qarafa, is located just outside the city center, and about half a million people live here. There are shrines, mosques, cemeteries, and mausoleums dating to the 7th century in this area. The mausoleums are still used for burials to this day. The City of the Dead has become somewhat of an open-air museum and is an attractive destination for travelers. You can even grab a quick cup of coffee or a snack from one of the nearby shops.
The Cairo Tower
The Cairo Tower, also named Burj al-Qahira, is one of the most important landmarks. It was built between 1956 and 1961 and is modeled after the Egyptian Lotus Flower, which also makes up the lattice of the tower.
The tower is situated right on the Nile in the center of the city. It is 187 meters tall and has 161 stories. It also houses a restaurant on a rotating platform, allowing you to enjoy your meal and take in the incredible panoramic views of Cairo at the same time. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this experience. At the end of your meal, stop by the café and savor some delicious coffee.
Every evening, the tower is illuminated with beautiful lights, making it especially dazzling. You will get the best views on a felucca ride down the river.
If you’re looking for a little more nature, you might want to visit the Nile. It’s the longest river in the world, measuring 6,880 kilometers. With free admission, you can have a restful and relaxing day walking along the river and relishing the beautiful view.
This is the largest public garden in Cairo and the right place to be if you love the outdoors. The park, which is right above the Al-Azhar Mosque, first opened in 2005 and was a $30 million investment of the Aga Khan Development Network. Aga Khan’s ancestors established the city of Cairo in 969. The garden was founded with the tradition of Islamic garden art in mind, in order to commemorate the city’s past. You can find traces of the Fatimids in the archways, and Persian and Timurid characteristics on fountains and bodies of water. This is also a perfect place for families as there are special playgrounds for children. You can have a cup of coffee at one of the cafés or just relax. You’ll also enjoy the lovely viewpoints of the capital.
You should definitely visit a bazaar when in Cairo. In Khan el-Khalili, the old town, you will find great souvenirs as well as gifts for your loved ones. A lot of vendors will approach you and try to sell something. Although this isn’t a pleasant experience, it’s quite common for bazaars. Nevertheless, you’ll love your time here, and you’ll marvel at the oriental style. Don’t forget to try some of the delicacies!
The Citadel of Saladin
The Citadel of Saladin is an extraordinary sight and one of the biggest monuments of the medieval campaigns. It is southwest of the city center, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. It offers a wonderful view of Cairo and, if the weather allows it, you can even see the pyramids of Giza. The view on and from the citadel are quite breathtaking.
Cairo offers many interesting and impressive sights for everyone. The history of the city is especially striking. If you love culture and history, this is the right place for you. With several mosques, pyramids, and other noteworthy sights, the Egyptian capital is well worth a visit. On your adventure through Cairo, you’ll feel like you’re back in Ancient Egypt with the pharaoh.
What are you waiting for? If you want to learn more about pyramids, read our article on Pyramids in Egypt. If you want to see more of Egypt, check out our article on the Sinai Peninsula – you won’t regret it!