Cairo: 5 Things Not To Miss
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | February 27th, 2017
"Please don't go to Cairo, it's not safe!" I heard over and over again while planning my trip. Sure, the thought of danger crossed my mind, but I was still adamant about going. Seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza had always been a dream of mine. When John and I met, we talked about our bucket list destinations, and Cairo was pretty high on both of our lists. With excitement in my heart, I booked us a trip for February 2017.
When we arrived to Cairo, the feeling was surreal. We were in the land of ancient pharaohs, stunning archaeological sites, and centuries-old mysteries. It was incredible! There aren't many places in the world that offer an experience quite like Cairo - it is truly life changing. And the best part was we felt completely safe the entire time. At no point did we encounter a dangerous situation or feel uneasy in any way. Actually it was the complete opposite. The locals were friendly and helpful, and the public areas were organized and harmonious. If you're planning a trip to Cairo, rest assured, it is very safe. Enjoy one of the most spectacular places in the world and don't miss these five amazing sights.
The Pyramids of Giza
When people think about Egypt, usually the first things they think of are the Pyramids of Giza. Built over 4,500 years ago, Khufu (the largest pyramid), Khafre (the middle pyramid), and Menkaure (the smallest pyramid) continue to be the number one tourist attraction in all of Egypt. We couldn't wait to wander around these amazing structures, touch them, and even go inside of one. Today, it still remains a mystery how these mystical formations were even built.
The Pyramids and Sphinx are open daily from 7am to 5pm and tickets cost 215 EGP / $12 USD. There is an additional cost if you want to go inside one of the pyramids.
The Great Sphinx of Giza was believed to have been built for the Pharaoh Khafre. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, many people believe that the Sphinx was used as a guard to protect the pyramids. Set on the Giza Plateau, the Sphinx is an easy half mile walk from the largest pyramid, Khufu, and definitely worth a visit.
The Egyptian Antiquities Museum
A trip to Cairo wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Egyptian Antiquities Museum. The museum houses close to 200,000 ancient pieces, some dated as far back as 3000 BC. The most impressive pieces are King Tut's incredible artifacts -- his famous headpiece, chariots, furniture, and jewelry -- as well as tombs, paintings, and royal mummies.
The museum is open daily from 9am-7pm and tickets cost 60 EGP / $3 USD.
The largest and most famous shopping bazaar in Cairo, Khan el-Khalili, has a variety of shops, coffeehouses, restaurants, and street food. Explore the winding alleys, buy local spices, taste Arabic coffee, and get a temporary henna tattoo at this bustling market.
Sunset Felucca Ride on the Nile
There's no better way to end your trip to Cairo than with a sunset felucca ride down the Nile River. A felucca is a wooden sailboat, seats about ten people, and is the main mode of transportation on this world famous river. A two hour ride, including hotel pick-up and drop-off, will cost around 350 EGP / $20 USD.
We highly recommend hiring a tour guide in Cairo. We booked a private 2-day excursion with Egypt Tailor Made Tours and it was fantastic! They organized a custom itinerary for us based on where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. They also purchased all of our entrance tickets ahead of time so we didn't have to wait in any lines. Our driver and guide, Amal, picked us up at our hotel, drove us to all the sights and gave us insightful information along the way. It is a fabulous way to get around Cairo without worrying about getting lost, getting ripped off, or being hassled. Check out their website to book your tour!
Best time to go - Cairo is a year round destination, however, the months of May through September can bring sweltering heat and large groups of tourists. We recommend visiting during the months of October through April as the temperature is much more comfortable and the crowds are fewer.
Safety - We felt very safe during our entire stay in Cairo. I believe this is due to having a tour guide. A guide will keep you in the safe areas and away from any pushy salespeople and/or potentially dangerous situations.
Hotels - We stayed at the Sofitel El Gezirah and it was perfection. Located at the tip of the Nile River peninsula, you'll be about thirty minutes from the airport, thirty minutes from the Giza Plateau, fifteen minutes from Khan el-Khalili, five minutes from the Egyptian Museum, and three minutes from a felucca ride. Rooms start at $135/night.
Another suggestion is the budget friendly Pyramids View Inn, located right outside of the Giza Plateau. The rooms start at $27/night and have jaw dropping views of the Pyramids & Sphinx. We ate lunch at their rooftop restaurant and the owner, Kamal was one of the kindest people we have ever met. We didn't see the rooms, but the guests we chatted with said they were loving their time at this hotel.