Difference between revisions of "Cairo"
Revision as of 19:15, 25 January 2013
Cairo (ؓلقاهرة al-Qāhirah) is the capital of Egypt and, with a total population in excess of 16 million people, one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (the regions which it conveniently straddles). It is also the 19th largest city in the world, and among the world's most densely populated cities.
On the Nile river, Cairo is famous for its own history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo. The Egyptian Museum in the centre of town is a must see, with its countless Acient Egyptian artifacts, as is shopping at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. No trip to Cairo would be complete, for example, without a visit to the Giza Pyramids, and to the nearby Saqqara Pyramid Complex, where visitors will see Egypt's first step pyramid built by the architect Imhotep for the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser.
Though firmly attached to the past, Cairo is also home to a vibrant modern society. The Midan Tahrir area situated in downtown Cairo area, built in the 19th century under the rule of Khedive Ismail, has strived to be a "Paris on the Nile". There also are a number of more modern suburbs including Ma'adi and Heliopolis, while Zamalek is a quiet area on Gezira Island, with upscale shopping. Cairo is best in the fall or spring, when the weather isn't so hot. A felucca ride on the Nile is a good way to escape from the busy city, as is a visit to Al-Azhar Park.
Since the revolution in 2011, the tourists have fled Cairo to a large extent. This has created an opportunity for unique experiences of Cairo's and Egypt's cultural treasures without the crowds. Finding yourself alone inside a pyramid is now a real possibility. Prices are also lower.
Cairo is vast; with more than 17 million people, it's the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. The downtown core consists of the following districts:
Situated along the Nile, Cairo has ancient origins, located in the vicinity of the Pharaonic city of Memphis. The city started to take its present form in 641 AD, when the Arab general Amr Ibn Al-Ase conquered Egypt for Islam and founded a new capital called Misr Al-Fustat, "the City of the Tents", due to the legend of Al-Ase finding, on the day he was leaving to conquer Alexandria, two doves nesting in his tent. Not wanting to disturb them, he left the tent, which became the site of the new city in what is now Old Cairo. The Tunisian Fatimid dynasty captured the city in 969 A.D and founded a new city, Al-Qahira ("The Victorious") just north of Al-Fustat. Al-Qahira gave the city its English name, Cairo, but the locals still call it Maşr (مصر), the Egyptian dialectal version of Amr's Mişr. Confusingly, this also the Arabic name of the entire country of Egypt.
The best time to visit Cairo is during the winter from November to March, when daytime highs generally stay below 25°C, with nighttime lows around 10°C with occasional rain showers clearing the air. (You do not need an umbrella: even the rainiest months of the year rarely top 5 mm.)
If visiting during winter, be aware that not all buildings, including some hotels and hostels, are equipped with heaters.
Visitors should always pack a few warm jumpers and a warm jacket for evening wear.
The brief spring from March to May can be pleasant, but summer temperatures, on the other hand, can reach a searing 38°C, which is compounded by the city's terrible pollution which is at its worst in the fall before the rains.
Today's Greater Cairo is a city with at least 17 million inhabitants, where skyscrapers and fast food restaurants nestle up to world heritage monuments. Originally, Cairo was the designated name of the city on the eastern bank of the Nile, and this is where you'll find both the modern Downtown, built under influence of French architecture, today the centre of commerce and popular life, as well as historical Islamic and Coptic sights.
Outside the core on the eastern bank, you'll find the modern, more affluent suburbs of Heliopolis and Nasr City near the airport, and Ma'adi to the south. In the middle of the Nile is the island of Gezira and Zamalek, more Western and tranquil than the rest of the city. On the western bank is lots of modern concrete and business, but also the great Giza pyramids and, further to the south, Memphis and Saqqara. The city might seem like a lot to handle, but give it a try, and you will find that it has a lot to offer for any traveller.
When you approach any individual or a group of people for the first time, the best thing to say is the local variation of the Islamic form of greeting "Es-Salāmu-`Alēku" which literally means "Peace be upon you". This is the most common form of saying "hello" to anybody. It creates a friendliness between you and people you don't know, builds rapport, and helps build respect! It is also considered polite to say this if you approach someone, instead of just asking them for something or speaking to them directly.
Other forms of greeting include "SàbâH el-xēr" ("good morning"), "masā' el-xēr" ("good evening"), or the more casual "izayak" addressing a male, or "izayik" addressing a female, which means "hello" or "how are you?".
When leaving, you can say the same "Es Salamu Aleykom", or simply "Maa Salama", literally: "with safety" or "with wellness" which is used to mean to say "goodbye". More educated Egyptians will say "bye-bye" derived from the English "goodbye" or "buh-bye" when leaving others.
Smiling: Most people appreciate a smile, and most Egyptians smile when they speak to someone for the first time. People who don't smile while they speak are considered arrogant, rude, aggressive, unfriendly, etc.
However, be careful not to be too friendly or too smiley, especially if you're a female speaking to an Egyptian male, as they might mistake you for trying to befriend them or asking for them to flirt or hit on you. Even in a male-to-male conversation, being too friendly might give the other person the chance to try to take advantage of you some way or another. Always use common sense.
Tone of voice
Most Egyptians tend to have a loud voice when they speak, which is common to some other countries in the region. They are not shouting, and you will know the difference.
Expressing your opinion
Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, so say nothing that might be perceived as an insult to Islam or the Egyptian culture. The same applies to any mention of the Middle East as a whole. Your best option is to not discuss religion or politics from a Western point of view at all as this could lead to a series of unfortunate events.
Women and men should wear modest clothing. It is considered disrespectful to the mainly conservative Muslim inhabitants to see visitors walking around wearing clothing which reveal thighs, shoulders, bare backs or cleavage, except at beaches and hotels. Men should also not walk about bare chested or wearing very short shorts outside of hotels or beach resorts.
People do generally tend to dress more liberally at beach resorts, nightclubs, social outings, weddings, or when engaging in any sport, but there are no places to practice nudism or naturism as being nude in public.
Do not enter a mosque with any form of shoes, sandals, slippers, boots, etc. on., as this is very disrespectful. Always take them off before entering as they carry the dirt from the street, and the mosque (a place of prayer) should be clean. However, you can keep socks on.
Etiquette in the Presence of Prayer:
Also, avoid walking in front of persons in prayer. The reason is because when people kneel, they kneel to God. If you stand in front of someone while they are praying or kneeling, it is as if they are kneeling to you or worshipping you, a complete taboo and against the basic foundations of Islam. Otherwise, it is quite acceptable for visitors or Christian Egyptians to carry on as normal in the streets or shops that operate during prayer times.
Public display of affection
Like most other countries in the Muslim world, the Middle East, and even some non-Muslim conservative countries, affection should not be displayed in public. Egyptians are conservative and doing things like making out with your girlfriend/boyfriend in public is considered offensive, rude, or disrespectful. A public hug is less offensive, especially if greeting a spouse or family member you haven't seen in a while.
You will notice male-to-male kissing on the cheeks when Egyptian men meet their friends, family, or someone they know well. This is not to be confused with the male-to-male kissing of some homosexuals in some western countries. Some Egyptian men like to walk next to their male friend with their arms attached together like a loop inside another loop. Again, this is not homosexual behavior.
Egypt is a Muslim and conservative country. Any display of homosexuality is considered strange, weird, disrespectful and may lead on most occasions to hostile reactions. Depending on the situation and the place and time, it could be anything from weird looks to physical abuse. Therefore, gays and lesbians should be discreet while in Egypt.
Sometimes, men walk in the streets holding hands, and sometimes they even kiss when they meet, and unlike the west, this does not have any sexual meanings. It is a sign of a normal friendship, so do not think it a sign that they are gays.
The gay scene in Egypt is not open and free like in the West. Gays have been arrested by the police and detained and even tortured in Cairo in the past for engaging in homosexual activity. Human rights groups have condemned such actions and the Egyptian government has been under pressure from different sources including the USA to stop this degrading treatment of homosexuals. The most famous arrests were in 2001 on a boat called the Queen Boat located on the Nile River in Zamalek district. Further arrests have occurred since then, but the exact situation of homosexuals in the last few years is uncertain.
There are no official gay places for cruising or meeting other people.
Cairo International Airport (IATA: CAI),  is the second biggest airport in Africa with more than 16 million passengers a year. It is well served by Egyptair  the national carrier and its Star Alliance partners (Singapore Airlines , Lufthansa , Swiss ], Austrian, BMI , LOT and starting may 2011 Continental), Sky Team (Air France , KLM , Delta , Alitalia), Oneworld (British Airways ), Gulf Carriers (Emirates , Etihad ) as well as budget carriers TUI-fly  and Jet-Air-Fly .
Go ahead and exchange some money in the airport - best to do this before going through customs. ATMs for all major cards are available in the arrival halls. Visas are available at the bank counters before immigration. They are USD 15 and can also be paid in other currencies. Change is given in EGP or USD.
The airport offers “Exclusive Services” that picks you up at the gate, does all immigration procedures for you and picks up your luggage while you wait in a comfortable arrival lounge for US$50, not including the visa fees. It can be pre-booked via ☎ +202 16708 
Visitors are allowed to buy duty free articles on arrival. If you are visiting European or American friends, they are always keen to get your passports to get more booze and cigarettes than the excepted quantity at customs. At the airport, the additional quantity is 4 bottles of alcohol. At the checkout, a customs official will check your passport and give approval for the purchase. You can be accompanied by the person picking you up.
The airport has three terminals, the latest of which was opened in 2009. Egypt-Air and all Star Alliance members now operate all flights to and from the new Terminal 3. Most other airlines arrive at Terminal 1. Terminal 2 is closed since 2010 for renovation works. A free shuttle bus runs between the two terminals and the bus station every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Taxi drivers trying to lure you at the airport will try to tell you otherwise regarding the shuttle bus, but if you go outside the terminal, you will find the free shuttle bus. At Terminal 3 it is located at the arrival level at the end of the bus lane (turn right after the exit). At Terminal 1 the Shuttle Bus stops are at Hall 3 in front of the AirMall and at Hall 1 at the curb side. Unfortunately the bus stops are not marked. Sometimes you have to change busses at the bus station due to the driver's coffee break.
More recently (as of June 2012), you can also use the new APM (automated people mover) which is free, clean and fast. Note, however, that stations are not located inside the terminals. If you are at terminal 3, you have to leave it throw the front door and turn right. Walk to the end of the building and turn right again. Then you might need to ascend or descend a ramp, depending on the level you are at (departure or arrival). At the end of the ramp you turn left and you'll get to the station some 50 meters ahead, on your left. Signage is not good at this point, but the APM is working and is very convenient to transit between terminals. At terminal 1 you need to leave through the main exit and turn left to get to the station.
The airport is on the north-eastern outskirts of the city at Heliopolis. If you want to spend the night at the airport, there are currently two hotels available:
A new 5-Star Hotel is beeing build at Terminal 3.
There are other lodging options in nearby Heliopolis.
Getting to downtown Cairo can be a pain. Since the revolution white meter taxis are available at the Terminals. The basic fee is 2.50 LE plus 1.25 LE per kilometer. Do insist on using the meter. Do not accept a fixed price as they tend to be double the fare by meter. Report taxi drivers who refuse to use the meter to Airport Security or Tourist Police. Refuse to pay the "ticket" (5 LE airport parking fee) for the driver. If you are going to downtown Cairo, you may be able to share a taxi with other tourists or backpackers. Another option is to use transportation arranged by your hotel or hostel, though this service is often not complimentary.
The most convenient way, however, is by one of the numerous "limousine services". Pick-Up points are in front of the terminals (curb side). The prices are fixed depending on the destination and the car category. Category A are luxury limousines (Mercedes-Benz E-Class), Category B are Micro Busses for up to 7 passengers and Category C are midsized cars (e.g. Mitsubishi Lancer). Since 2010, London Taxis are available from Sixt as a new Category D.
Current Price List (2011)
Micro Buses and London taxis can be pre-booked:
For the adventurous, catch a public bus to Midan Tahrir or Midan Ramses from the bus station (buses number 111, 356, 27 should lead there), which is conected to the terminals by the free Shuttle Bus. Ask a local if unsure, but avoid the notorious (non-A.C) green buses. In some cases, the bus destination and, or number will be in Arabic. If this is the case, be prepared to ask a driver or passengers if the bus stops at your destination. Buses run every 30 min, take 60-90 min and cost LE 2. At least on the non-A.C bus, you may be charged an additional LE 1 if you bring aboard large or bulky items. To get from downtown to the airport, board an A.C bus at the bus terminal just north of the Egyptian Museum (under the highway bridge). Finally, there are also direct express buses from the airport to Alexandria every 30-60 min ; however, the buses operate only during daylight hours (4AM - 7:30 PM).
When returning to the airport for departure, allow plenty of time (2-3 hours to be safe) to get to the airport, as the roads can be very congested. The new airport road connects the airport with the intersection of the Ring Road and Suez Road and has no traffic jams. If you depart on Friday morning or mid-day, the trip to the airport will be quick, as roads are deserted while people go to the mosque for Friday prayers.
Egyptair and all Star Alliance airlines (Lufthansa Group, Singapore Airlines, LOT etc.) are leaving from Terminal 3. Saudi Arabian Airlines leaves from Terminal 1 Hall 2. All other airlines (Sky Team, Oneworld, Emirates, Etihad, etc.) leave from Terminal 1 Hall 1.
Upon arriving, you need to pass through a security checkpoint before you can get to the ticket counter/check-in area. You must bring a printout with you of your itinerary or ticket to show the security staff to pass through the checkpoint. You will pass through a second security checkpoint just before boarding your aircraft. Allow plenty of time for getting through the security checkpoints and checking in, as lines can be long. Note that there is no baggage room at the airport.
You can avoid the queues by using the Exclusive Service, which will do all the check-in and emigration formalities for you while you wait in a comfortable lounge and then lets you jump the lines at the first security check and passport control. It can be pre-booked ☎ +202 16708 .
Both terminals offer a good variety of duty free shops and restaurants. In Terminal 1are some Egyptair duty-free shops opposite the gates. More shops and designer outlets are on the first floor. The lounges, a pub, Mcdonald's and Coffee Shops such as Starbucks are on the second floor. Terminal 3 has a central market place and food court. The shops in the concourses are limited. Gates in both terminals open maximum one hour prior to departure. Observe the flight data displays for delays as seating in front of the gates is very limited.
Cairo's main railway station - Ramses Station (Mahattat Ramses) - is on Midan Ramses, which is also the location of the Martyrs Metro Station. Trains run to Cairo from most other regions and cities within Egypt. Trains in Egypt rarely run on schedule and are almost always at least 15 min late, if not later. Train service is available from Ramses Station to Alexandria, while service to Luxor and Aswan is available at the Giza Railway Station. Visitors wishing to connect with trains to Luxor , Aswan , and the rest of upper Egypt should take the Metro from Midan Ramses Mubarak Metro Station , on line one to Giza Metro-Train Station which should take approximately twenty minutes.
Trains also depart to the canal cities, but buses are much faster.
It is best to purchase tickets in advance to be assured of a seat. It is also important for travellers to ensure with the ticket office that the train is not a local train used by Egyptians to visit all of the small destinations south wards in the Nile Valley , but only the major cities. For comfort visitors should also preferably insist on a first class seat but nothing less than a second class . Online ticket purchases are now available from here, learn more about the system from Seat 61 - see the "how to buy tickets" section. Note that tickets bought online are entirely in English, which can make it a bit tricky to match your train to the Arabic information on the departure board - allow plenty of time! Especially in the summer months, trains running between Cairo and Alexandria sell out, so advance purchase is advised. Sometimes it is possible to buy train tickets in the morning, for a train later the same day, or if it is not busy, you might get on the next train. There are multiple windows for different classes and destinations, so check that you are in the correct line.
There is no longer a left luggage facility.
Alexandria is served by a large number of departures through the day. Among the best trains are El-Espani (Spanish) which has a morning service from Cairo at 9AM. El-Espani and Turbine (Turbo) are the best services, going non-stop to Alexandria and taking 2 hours and 40 min. The next best service is Al-Fransawi (French), which stops at the major Delta cities on the road. The Express (French) and Turbo trains to Alexandria have first and second class, all air conditioned. Refreshments are available for purchase on the train. First class is recommended, but second class is also reasonably comfortable.
Trains heading to Luxor, Aswan, and other Upper Egypt destinations also depart from the rail station in Giza. The Sleeping Trains (Abela Egypt)  leave Cairo 8PM and arriving in Luxor 5.05AM and Aswan 8.15AM. There also is a 9:10PM departure from Cairo. Check the website for more departures, including one three days a week from Alexandria. It's relatively expensive at 60 USD for a bed in a double-person cabin one way. Tickets are bought at the office to your left as you enter the train station from the Metro and taxi station. The tickets are payable in US dollars, euros, or British pounds only. There are no exchange offices at the train station itself. It is also possible to make reservations in advance, by calling or faxing your request to Abela, and then pay for and pick up your tickets at the station. Since these trains are designated for tourists, you will stay in special cars guarded by armed plainclothes policemen.
Going to Upper Egypt, the alternative to the expensive sleeper (or flying) is the ordinary trains. One of these departs at 00.30 to Luxor and Aswan and is supposed to take 10 hours to Luxor and 13 hours to Aswan. There is also a night train leaving Ramses Station at 21:00 with both first and second class carriages. First class costs approximately 110 Egyptian pounds and has 3 large, business class style seats per row and air conditioning. There is plenty of leg room and the seats recline for a good sleep. However, the lights are on all night and you'll probably be woken several times for ticket checks.
Allow plenty of time to find your platform. There is very limited English signage and you'll need to rely on station staff to point you to the correct platform. It is advisable to check with several people as you may be given contradictory information.
Ramsis Station, ☎ +202 25753555
See also: Cairo to Jerusalem by bus
Buses arrive to Cairo from virtually all over the country. The two main destinations are Midan Ramsis and Cairo Gateway, formerly known as Turgoman, but vehicles also sometimes stop at other destinations, notably Abbasiya. From Midan Ramses and Cairo Gateway it's a quick 5 LE taxi cab ride to downtown, 7-10 LE to Zamalek. Cairo Gateway is a new, modern indoor station located approximately 500m from the Orabi Metro Station, within the new Cairo Gateway Plaza.
Uncomfortable, but cheap, micro-buses leave from Cairo to a large number of destinations. The main garages are Midan Ramsis (For Alexandria, 22LE, and to the delta valley) and Al-Marg metro station (for the north-east and Sinai). They are faster and might as such be an option for shorter trips, but have a terrible toll of accidents. There are also other places these buses leave from depending on your destination, ask locals. Be aware that at least for the Sinai, foreigners are prohibited to use the micro-bus system.
Super-jet bus to Alexandria, Hurghada and Sinai, ☎ +202 2266-0212.
East Delta bus to Sharm El-Sheikh , Arish and Rafah, ☎ +202 2576-2293.
Driving in Cairo is not recommended or necessary. The traffic is, at the least, overwhelming for the common traveler. The driving has a consistency, but not in any official way. Road signs, lanes, right-of-ways, etc. are not adhered to, and there are a large number of junctions and flyovers. Traffic signals exist in only a few locations and are routinely ignored. However, sometimes police officers are directing traffic at busy intersections. In downtown Cairo, drivers will sometimes bump other cars that are blocking their way. Also, do not be upset if your side-view mirror gets hit. At night, many drivers do not use headlights, so use extra caution or avoid driving at night. In Egypt, vehicles travel on the right side of the road. Instead of making a left turn, you will often need to make a U-turn and backtrack, or you can make three right turns.
Parking houses or official parking spots are rare. Cars may be parked two or three deep on the side of the road, and will often be left unlocked, and out-of-gear, so they can be moved. In many places, people work to look after parked cars. A small tip is expected for this service. You can also use valet parking.
To get to Beni Sueif, Fayoum, Assyut, Luxor, and Aswan, drivers from Downtown should take the The Sixth Of October-Fayoum exit at the Remaya Roundabout beside The Giza Pyramids at Le Meridian Hotel,to the Fayoum turn off at the Fayoum - Sixth Of October junction, 6 KM from Remaya Roundabout.
To get to Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia, drivers from Downtown should take the Ring Road to the Suez Road junction for Suez, and The Ismailia junction off the Ring Road for Ismailia and Port Said.
To get to Hurghada, and Ain Sukhna, drivers from Downtown, should take the Ring Road to the New Ain Sukhna Toll Road at Kattamaya.
To get to Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba, Ras Sidr, Al-Arish, and Rafah on the Sinai Peninsula, drivers from Downtown, should take the Ring Road to the Suez Road junction at the J.W. Marriot Hotel, through the Ahmed Hamdy Tunnel, on to the Sinai Peninsula.
You will find that it's useful to have several maps handy if you are looking to get around Cairo on your own. Spellings of street and place names can vary from map to map and from map to actual location, and not every street will appear on every map.
Cairo is home to Africa's first and most expansive metro system. While Cairo's metro system fully functioning is modern and sleek, the two lines are all too limited in scope. But they are a major boon in the areas they cover, and the flat rate fare of 1 LE per trip is a bargain. Visitors attempting to use the metro in Cairo should try not to be put off when they go to a ticket window to purchase a ticket. Egyptians do not queue, so be prepared to politely but assertively, navigate your way through the crowd to the ticket window. It is recommended that if you hope to ride the metro multiple times during the day, or within a few days of each other, that you simply purchase multiple tickets to avoid standing in "line" on your return or future trips. The key interchanges are Martyrs (formerly Mubarak), at Midan Ramses, and Sadat, below Midan Tahrir.
The Cairo Metro has stations in Dokki and Maadi, among other places. The Metro is also a hassle-free way to get to Giza to see the Pyramids, although you'll need to complete the trip taking a bus all the way (change to bus for "Al-Haram" at the Giza train station). Plans have been made to add new lines to include Mohandiseen and Zamalek, as well as the airport; however, little progress seems to be made on this.
Note that there are two cars of each train reserved for women, which are located in the middle section of the train. The metro stops running at approximately midnight and starts up again around 6AM. There are no timetables, but departures are very frequent. The metro is better to use if you wish to avoid traffic jam. It is secure, costs one pound one trip and has a clear European navigation system.
Solid-White Taxis: These are modern sedans equipped with meters that are usually used, AC, and run on natural gas. Most tourists will pay less using these taxis than they'll be able to negotiate with their non-metered brethren. They can be hailed from the street, and are common enough to be used perhaps exclusively (given a little patience) by any traveler. Compared to the black and white taxis, all tourists will find them more comfortable, and most - less expensive.
Bright Yellow Taxis: Typically available by reservation only, but sometimes try to pick up fares while en-route. Similar to the solid-white taxis, the meter starts at 3.50 LE, 1 LE/km after that. The drivers are not allowed to smoke in the cars. Referred to as 'City Cabs' or Cairo Cabs'. From within Cairo, call 0104343438 - 19155.
Older black-and-white taxis: these are the most common. However, communication can be difficult as these usually have the oldest of drivers, and the meters are extremely outdated and are not used. Prices are, however, not erratic for natives, and any Cairene knows what to pay depending on time and distance. Because of a recent 20% raise in gasoline prices, prices could be slightly higher. It is highly recommended that you have exact change before you enter, as drivers are reluctant to give change.
Ordinary Egyptians do not state prices beforehand. Instead the correct sum is paid through the window after leaving. Some drivers might protest as they expect tourists to pay more than standard. You can use the "walk away" technique. As long the driver does not leave the car, you are all rright. If this happens, consult someone nearby. As a tourist, you might prefer to state a price beforehand, which may prevent ripoffs, but will require you to quote above local prices. Try to avoid those loitering outside 5-star hotels and restaurants to minimize this. Using a big hotel as your destination may also inflate the price. Always choose the taxi, and never let the taxi choose you.
They also usually expect more money (2 or 3 LE) for ferrying more people. If you decide not to negotiate the price beforehand (this is the better method) be ready to jump ship and/or bargain hard if the cabbie brings up the fare after you are in the car. They rarely accept more than 4 people to a taxi. Also add 5-7 LE driving late at night.
In General: Never continue travelling in any vehicle which you deem to be unsafe or the driver to be driving recklessly, especially in the dark on unlit roads, or in single track highways where overtaking is dangerous. If you feel unsafe simply tell the driver to slow down, if he does not do this immediately ask him to stop and simply get out and walk away.
The large red, white and blue public buses cover the entire city and are much cheaper, but are usually crowded. However, there are the similar air-conditioned buses that charge 2 L.E. for the trip and prohibit standing on the bus. They can be found in the main squares in Cairo. Also found in main squares are the smaller mini-buses that are usually orange and white or red, white and blue. Because of problems with sexual harassment women travellers are advised only to take the small micro-buses and buses which prohibit standing.
Apart from the main bus stations, buses can be hailed from street-level. Buses are seldom marked with destination, instead passengers shout out (or use a number of sign-language like hand codes) their destinations and if the bus goes this place it will stop. On micro-buses, the fare starts at 50 piastres and goes up to 1 LE. Travellers unfamiliar with Cairo can ask bus drivers or passengers to let them know where their stop is. Simply politely blurt out the name of your destination to the bus driver or a friendly looking passenger and they will take care of you.
Late night bus riders : take note, bus frequency, length of route, and in some cases, fees can vary during the late evening hours onward. In some cases, a route may terminate, without notice, short of your destination. When this takes place, locals reply upon private citizens hoping to make some additional money, to get them to their final destination. As always, use caution, if you should choose to accept private transportation. One final note on late night bus transportation, since many mini- buses will not depart until the bus is nearly full, you should be prepared for a lengthy period of time, while the driver waits for enough people to board.
There are a number of major bus stations (mawqaf موقف, pl. mawaqif مواقف) throughout the city. One of the largest is conveniently located behind the Egyptian Museum in Midan Tahrir. Note that there are actually two stations - the main bus station for the city buses, and the micro-bus station behind it. Travellers who want to visit the Pyramids, for example, can catch a seat in a micro-bus for approximately 2 pounds. Visitors wishing to go to the pyramids and see a bus or micro-bus driver shouting Haram, should always before boarding make a pyramid triangle with your hands to ensure that the driver is driving to the actual pyramids themselves, and not just to the district of Haram, which although is fairly close to the pyramids, can terminate a fair distance from the pyramid entrance.
There are also bus stations in Midan Ramses, under the overpass. Buses run from Ramses to Heliopolis, City Stars Mall and other destinations not covered by the Tahrir bus station.
Access in Cairo is patchy. Anyone with moderate to serious mobility issues should expect to spend a lot of time in taxis.
Wheelchair users, beware as many buildings have step-only access. Pavements are variable, even around the popular tourist attractions. There is often an incredibly steep drop from the curbs and where there are ramps they are better suited to pushchairs than wheelchairs. Expect potholes, gulleys, poorly cordoned-off building works and street works, and cars parked across the pavement, where there is a pavement at all.
The white stick is recognised and help is often offered. The help that is offered can be a little misguided at times but it's usually well intentioned.
Although more expensive by far, it is probably best to arrange taxis for major trips (such as visiting the pyramids) via your hotel. Picking up a taxi on the street can be hit and miss. Do not expect to be dropped off at the exact spot that you asked for; you will often be taken to somewhere nearby. Always fix a price before you get into a taxi.
Concessions on tickets cannot be taken for granted. For example, the Egyptian Museum offers a 50% concession for disabled patrons (and students) whereas the Cairo Tower doesn't offer concessions at all.
A visit to the pyramids is a must. How one does it is either through one of the many stables around the site who will charge anywhere between 350LE and 650LE for a horse/camel ride around the site , or taking a taxi to the Sphynx entrance and attempting to walk. It is important to note that the site is amazingly up and down. A good level of mobility would be required to attempt it by foot. If you opt for a horse/camel ride, make sure that you haggle hard. (28/07/12 - July is the quiet season, it was possible to get a 2 hour camel ride for 100LE each ... albeit when with someone who knew the owner of the stables)
If you are visually impaired or in any other way disabled it may be possible to gain permission to touch the pyramids. The outside of the pyramids are usually off limits to tourists and surrounded by a cordon. To arrange permission to touch a pyramid, approach one of the many tourist police dotted around the site. (Since the revolution with decreased tourism it is a lot easier to do things like climb on the pyramids, go inside the Sphinx fence or inside the pyramids - for a charge!)
A selected list of Cairo highlights:
Coffee & sheesha
Have a coffee, mint tea or Cola at El Fishawy's coffee shop in Khan El-Khalili. Smoke a sheesha water pipe (try the "double apple" flavor) and watch the world go by. Great cheap entertainment.
Ride a felucca along the Nile River. A great way to relax and enjoy a night under the stars in Cairo. Feluccas are available across from the Four Seasons Hotel in Garden City. To charter your own, negotiate a fair price of no more than 20 to 30 LE for about a half hour for the boat, or 50 LE for an hour, no matter how many people are on it. Pay after your ride, or you may get much less than you bargained for. Public boats with loud Arabic music and a giggling crowd are also available for LE 2 for 1/2 hour.
Cairo has a shortage of parks, but a few of them exist.
You can also take a stroll along the Corniche el-Nil, and there is a river promenade on Gezira Island.
Other options for relaxation include visiting the Giza Zoo and the Cairo Botanical Gardens, or watching horse racing at the Gezira Club in Zamalek, or, when you need a break from city life, try a round of golf on the famous Mena House Golf Course overlooking the Pyramids, or The Hilton Pyramids Hotel tournament Golf Course and nearby Sixth Of October City , Ten minutes drive from Giza Pyramids.
Or if the family, and especially children are fed up looking at monuments and museums, a ten minute trip from the Giza Pyramids by micro-bus, taxi, or car, will take you to two of the biggest and best theme parks in Cairo, Dream-park, and Magic land, both in nearby Sixth Of October City.
Magic land is also part of The Media Production City complex, including The Mövenpick Hotel, where visitors can take a tour of the Egyptian TV and drama sets, and studios which house many of the Egyptian and other Arabic TV stations.
Citystars is Egypt's premier shopping mall and is quite comparable to a foreign mall. It offers most international brands and most international food chains. It offers a cinema and amusement park. McDonald's, TGI Fridays, Fuddruckers, Ruby Tuesday, and more are all here.The clothes cost $35.45 .
Go horseback riding in the desert from one of the Nazlet El-Samaan stables such as FB Stables (contact Karim +20 (0)106 507 0288 or visit the website :  ) in Giza. Ride in the shadow of the Great Pyramids or further afield to Saqqara or Abu Sir or camp out over night with a barbecue and fire. Popular with expats who keep their horses at livery, FB Stables is also great for a 'tourist' type ride to view the Pyramids from the desert. Longer rides to Saqqara and Abu Seer can be arranged in advance, as can sunrise, sunset and full moon rides. Other than the horses and good company, one of the best things about FB is their amazing rooftop terrace (with bbq) with unrivaled views over the Pyramids - a great place to relax with a drink whilst watching the Sound and Light show.
Music and culture
According to a recent survey by the Egyptian government in May 2011, there are at least 3 million expat foreignors working in Egypt. This is strange considering that Egypt is a developing country, with a high rate of local unemployment and suppressive economic conditions, especially after the 25th of January 2011 revolution, which has seriously affected the economy. However, there are no strict labor requirements like other developed countries that receive immmigrants such as the EU, Canada, or the USA. Even so, the law is not very often applied as employers easily play around the law to hire their needs from foreignors. That being said, it really depends on the kind of job and field you are applying for.
Factory Work/Industrial Labor There are many thousands of people from South East Asia, China, and the Far East working low-paying jobs in factories and similar places. They're hired because they're cheaper than hiring locals. Some well-to-do families also like to hire foreign workers to work in their houses as cleaners, houskeepers etc. The majority come from poorer African countries or places like the Phillipines and Indonesia.
If you come from the West however, the situation may be very different depending on your qualification. The most demanded are those who come from native English speaking countries (i.e. the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, etc). The most demaded jobs for these people are English teachers at schools and some university professors. There are many foreign schools in Cairo and some other big cities that prefer to hire native English speakers as part of their school staff. The reason obvioulsy being that the ability to teach English with a native accent and more importantly their foreign qualifications. Other opportunites may arise in similar institutions if your native language is French, less if it's German, and even less if it is some other European language.
There is some demand for Russians also in nightclubs, and hotels. The tourism industry in general may be willing to hire foreigners from European backgrounds to work in countless diving centres and small business around the Red Sea area in Dahab, Hurghada, and Sharm El Sheikh, where many tourists come from Europe to take diving courses in their native langue (German, Dutch, French, Italian, Russian, English, Polish) and other languages being the most popular.
Call centres/customer service reps
Recently, there has also been a huge demand for anyone who speaks fluent English with a clear native or neutral accent to work in most of the country's ineternationally based call centres located in and around Cairo. During the past 10 years, Egypt has become a major player in the telecommunications and call centres industry in the the Middle East. Many companies including Vodafone, Teleperformance, and other large local call centres are in constant need of English language speakers to work in their call centres, as there aren't that many Egyptians capable of speaking English fluently and clearly enough to serve these companies' offshore accounts. Examples include Vodafone UK, Vodafone Australia, and Vodafone New Zealand, which are currently being outsourced by the call centre of Vodafone Egypt, which basically hires anyone to work as a call centre agent, who speaks fluent English regardless of their nationality. Even if English is not your mother language, the only requirement is the ability to communicate in the language and work shifts. Pay is not bad considering the much lower living expenses in Egypt compared to the West. Salaries for these positions may range from 2,500 LE to 3,500 LE (1 USD=5.93 LE) per month and many companies offer free transportation, medical insurance, social insurance, and other benefits like a mobile allowance.
Job and employement resources
The American International School in Cairo (AIS), (2 locations in 6th of October City Sheikh Zayed) and Fifth Settlement (EL Tagamoa El Khames ) the 2 being on the Western and Eastern corners of the city.
CAC (Cairo American College) in Maadi, with a long history of American curriculum and American/Foreign staff, and foreign students.
The American University in Cairo
Canadian International College
German University in Cairo (GUC)
For Call Centre jobs, mainly customer service representatives/agents serving offshore companies in Europe and North America, (outsourced by the call centres in Cairo) try:
Vodafone Egypt (located in Smart Village on the Cairo/Alexandria Desert Road) (the Call Centre is located in 6th of October 6th Horizon Building in the 4th Industrial Area.
Teleperformance Egypt (another multinational company, originally French located in 50+ countries worldwide) and based in downtown Cairo. Go to teleperformance.com and choose Egypt to get the full contact and address details. Here again, you can work in either French or English accounts with a salary package around 3,000 LE per month, plus medical and social insurance.
Xceed Contact Centre, a local contact centre with a good reputation located in Smart Village, with English, French, Hebrew, and many languages
Raya Contact Centre, in 6th of October
Wasla Contact Centre
Egyptian Contact Centre Operator (ECCO), in Imtedad Ramsis, near Heliopolis and Nasr City
C3 The Call Centre Company
Stream Call Centre, in 6th of October, with English and French
You can find all address details and websites of these companies if you search them on google or on the internet in general. Most of them are in constant demand of fluent English speakers regardless of your nationaltiy because of the booming telecommunications and call centre industry in the Egyptian economy. Many of them outsource other companies originally based in Europe and the West.
For other kinds of jobs, the best option is to have a technical background or previous managing experience in a multinational company and get transferred to the local branch of the company in Egypt.
Other opportunities include teaching English as a free-lance instructor, but it may take a while before you are able to gather enough students to make a good living. Current rates range from 50 LE to 100 LE per hour/lesson in private lessons. Many people in Egypt want to learn English or improve it as it is always demanded in the Egyptian market.
If you have professional qualifications there are many possibilities for work in Cairo. Try any of the local employment or job websites:
Career Mideast (www.careermideast.com), one of the oldest job websites in the country, serving the entire Middle East Region, even other countries
Bayt (www.bayt.com) you will find jobs in the entire Middle East including Egypt in all sectors
The American Chamber of Commerce Website (they have a comprehensive database of all kinds of jobs in all sectors and industries (www.amcham.org.eg)
Wazayef Masr (it can be easily found on google search)
There are several job fairs/employment fairs that take place every few months in Cairo. Most of them are free to attend by anyone looking for a job. They usually are advertised in English adverts in the Arabic newspapers such as Al Ahram Newspaper. The ads are easy to spot as they are large picture advertisments and written in English, even though the newspaper is in Arabic. They normally take place in well-known places like large five star hotels or the City Stars shopping complex. Examples include Job Master Job Fair, Wazayef Masr Job Fair, and the American Chamber of Commerce Job Fair. You can meet lots of different employers, with mostly multinational companies based in Cairo and other local well-known Egyptian companies. Most recruitment teams at the fairs speak fluent English. You must bring your cv/resume as most employers expect you to apply for a job on the same day, then you will be called for an interivew a few days/weeks later if they have a suitable vacancy. Take at least 20-30 copies, one for each employer and dress semi-formally or formally.
Another option is any of the foreign embassies located in Cairo.
You can also try the English weeklies al-Ahram and al-Waseet for job vacancies. Otherwise, if you have some connections, you can always network with people that you know, and sometimes it may lead to landing a job somewhere.
Please note that Egyptian work conditions may be very different from Western ones. It is more of a friendly casual environment, but everybody is still treated with respect. Working hours are normally 9-5 pm, and the weekend is Friday and Saturday (Friday substituted for Sunday because it is the day that Muslims go to pray at the mosque). Annual leave is normally 21 days, and most national holidays are days off as well.
ATMs, are conveniently located in various places throughout downtown. A more secure option are the ATMs in the five star hotels. There also are numerous places that handle currency exchange, or you can try any major bank such as HSBC or Commercial International Bank for currency exchanges or redeeming travellers cheques. There also are a number of Citibank  branches in Cairo.
Foreign currencies can also be exchanged for Egyptian pound in all the Egyptian banks like Banque Misr  , National Bank of Egypt , Banque De Caire , Arab African Bank  , The United Bank , or the large branches of Bureau De Change.
Be aware that many merchants will try to scam you out of as much as they possibly can. A particularly common trick are the papyrus museums. They come in many different flavours, but they often call themselves galleries, museums or workshops. You will be given a brief talk or demonstration on how papyrus is made, and warned against cheaper shops that make their papyrus from banana leaf (though no matter where you go, no one has a sample to show you, questioning the legitimacy of this "warning"). The prices will be in the hundreds, and you will be offered what appears to be an excellent discount. If you look around, however, you will see most of what they offer is worth 1-5 LE at the most. Tour guides, taxi drivers and hotel staff are all in on this, and will often get a 50% commission if they lead an unwitting tourist into this trap.
Diwan, in Zamalek, is a very nice primarily English-language bookstore.
Egyptian and middle eastern food
Traditional Egyptian staples are available almost everywhere. In stalls and street restaurants you will find traditional dishes like fuul (bean paste), taa'miya (falafel), muzagga (the Egyptian version of the Greek moussaka), kushari (rice, macaroni, lentils, chick peas, and sometimes a tomato sauce), fetyeer (pancakes with different fillings) and shawarma (a recent import from Lebanon and Syria — pieces of roasted meat usually wrapped in bread). Cheaper places will only serve up vegetables and maybe beef hot dogs or corned beef. Eggs, fried potatoes and salads are also usually available. Hygiene varies wildly and the best advice is to go for the most visited places. Avoid empty restaurants as the food will be less fresh. Especially downtown, you can find many good kushari shops, including many outlets of the excellent Kushari Tahrir chain. Delicious and cheap fuul , falafel, and shawarema sandwiches can be bought at the many outlets of popular GAD fast food chain dotted around Cairo. The average price for a tub of takeaway kushary is between 3 to 5 Egyptian pounds, fuul falafel sandwiches is between 1 to 1.5 Egyptian pounds, and shawerma sandwiches are between 4 and 8 Egyptian pounds.
In the medium and upper price range your choice of traditional Egyptian food will be more limited. Although the situation is improving, traditionally Egyptian gastronomical experiences are still mostly restricted to private homes. Quality chain restaurants like Felfela (several outlets), Abou El Sid (Zamalek, Maadi and Dokki), and Abou Shakra  offer authentic Egyptian food.
Otherwise Arabic and oriental restaurants tend to mix styles or completely go for more Lebanese-style eating, considered more stylish by rich Cairenes. The good side of this is that Cairo is blessed with many quality Lebanese outfits, from chains like Dar Al-Qamar to stylish restaurant establishments. Additionally, Turkish food and restaurants catering to Gulf visitors can be found.The food is $43.20.
Western and asian food
Cairo has a growing number of Western fast food outlets available - these are, incidentally, some of the best places to see young Cairenes relaxing together, as fast food restaurants are apparently considered amongst the hippest places to hang out. McDonalds, Hardees, Pizza Hut , and KFC  are spread about the city, but they are relatively more expensive. Most of these also offer free wireless internet.
The Tahrir Table 11 Tahrir square next to KFC. Owned by a swedish lady, meals from locally inspired food to international dishes. View of Tahrir square in the second floor. Beer and wine served.
Lighter meals like sandwiches and salads as well as pastries can be found in western-style bakeries and cafes. Popular chains like Cilantro, Beanos, Costa, and The Marriott Bakery as well as individual outlets all offer more or less similar dishes. Most of these places also offer free wireless internet.
There is also a cute TGI Friday's  on the Nile banks at the entrance of Maadi, serving beer but no wine. Gezira also has its very own Chili's. For burgers, you can also try Fuddrucker's [www.fuddruckers.com/] (Maadi and Mohandesseen) or Lucille's [www.lucillesrestaurants.com/] in Ma'adi (54 Road n° 9) which is owned by an American woman. Maison Thomas has several branches throughout Cairo, including Mohandiseen, Zamalek, and Maadi, and serves some of the best pizza in Cairo. There is an Italian place called the Mint in Mohandesseen 30 Gezirt Al Arab ST. open 9AM till 1.30 AM, which boasts a very stylish interior, however it's alcohol free. If you prefer more stylish international dining, Cairo offers a wide variety: Italian, Chinese and Japanese outlets in addition to the ambiguous continental cooking abound, especially in areas like Zamalek, Mohandseen and Dokki. Rossini fish restaurant 66 Omar Ibn El Khatab ST +202 2291-8282 , Cedars 42 Gezerit Al Arab Mohandeseen +202 3345-0088, this Lebanese restaurant is a favorite with Mohandesseen's ladies who can order grills and salads in a specious outdoor terrace.
Hygiene and diet issues
For health reasons it is advisable not to drink tap water or eat unpeeled fresh fruits and vegetables -- at least for the first few days of the visit. There are few solely vegetarian options, L'aubergine in Zamalek is a good restaurant for vegetarian food. Otherwise, Egyptian cuisine is dominated by vegetable courses, but be aware of "hidden" meat in stock, sauces and the like. One should also be cautious about sushis( slushees?) or ice creams sold outside of main hotels. Also, if served eggs, one should be cautious to ensure that they are fully cooked (sunny side up eggs may allow certain organisms to be transmitted).
The Metro chain and Alfa Market dotted around Cairo are convenient supermarkets. They often stock Western brands. Otherwise vegetables and fruit are plentiful and cheap. Bakeries such as The Bakery chain sell western-style bread and pastries. Organic food from the local ISIS brand is available at the supermarkets Metro and Carrefour and the Sekem Shop in Ahmed Sabri Street (شارع احمد صبر), Zamalek.
By far the cheapest and most satisfying option, buying from Souks and outdoor markets makes for a crash course in Arabic and haggling, not to mention that the produce is often superb! Bread can be found on nearly every corner and comes in two types - whole wheat aysh baladi and white flour aysh shami. Both are baked fresh daily and delivered by thousands of kids on bicycles to every corner of the city. Every neighborhood has a few streets dedicated to produce and other goods. Always wash fruit thoroughly before eating. Eating a fresh Roma tomato in the heat of Summer straight from a market seller after being washed is a delight, hard to match. The fruits and vegetables in Egypt may not conform to EU or US standards of size, but their taste is far superior.
Small bakeries (furne) sell every kind of baked good imaginable - ranging from Italian style bread sticks with nigella and sesame seeds to croissants, donuts and anything with dates in it. Fresh goods from these bakeries offers a nice alternative to the standard Egyptian breakfast of beans, beans, and beans, as well as the fact that this bread is very cheap.
Cairo has a wide range of drinking options from the very traditional to fashionable and modern. At the other end of the scale, almost any street in Cairo has a traditional coffee house, ´ahwa, a traditionally male institution of social life tracing many hundreds of years back in history. Besides that you'll find everything from fruit stalls to patisseriés and bakeries and modern cafés whipping up all varieties of modern European coffee. In addition to the traditional Turkish coffee and shai tea, virtuall everywhere you'll find drinks like hibiscus tea kerkedeeh, served warm or cold depending on season, sahleb, a milk-based drink usually served in winter, fakhfakhenna (a kind of fruit salad), sugarcane juice, mango and tamarind juice, Tamr hindi.
Traditional coffee houses
Cairo remains one of the best cities in the world to sample the traditional coffee house culture of the region. They are called maqhâ in Standard Arabic, but in the local dialect this is turned into ´ahwa. The Turkish coffee remains an invariable ingredient in any Cairene coffee house, and water pipe (sheesha) and tea is even more popular. While considered "old fashioned" for a time, these places are again turning fashionable among younger crowds and even smoking a water-pipe is no longer a male-only pastime. Places vary from just a small affair--plastic chairs and tables put out on the street--to more elaborate cafes especially in upscale and tourist areas.
Turkish coffee (´ahwe turki) is served either sweet (helwa), medium sweet (masbout), with little sugar (sukr khafeef) or no sugar (sâda). Sweet means very sweet. Tea (shai) is served either as traditional loose tea (kûshari, not to be confused with the Cairo macaroni-rice stample kushari), known as dust tea in English, or in a tea bag. Most coffee shops usually offer fresh mint leaves to put in your tea, upon request. A range of soft drinks are usually available. Most typically you will find hibiscus tea (karkadee), served warm in the winter season and cold during the warmer parts of the year.
Fruit juice stalls
During the hot Cairo summer, fruit juice stalls selling fresh juice (and occasionally fruit salads and other soft drinks) are a delight not to be missed. Basically these places sell fresh-pressed juice of whatever is in season. Typical choices include orange (bortoqâl), lemon (limon), mango (manga) and strawberry (farawla), guava (gawafa), pomegranate (Rummān). Prices and quality depend on season and availability. These places are spread out around the city and available at almost all the places tourists typically visit and in all local residential districts. Traditional coffee houses or fruit juice stalls might sell all or some of these drinks.
A health reminder Use extra care if you choose to consume beverages from fruit stalls. In general, food handling procedures are not up to Western food sanitation standards. It should also be noted that some vendors mix their fruit juices with less-than-perfect tap-water.
Modern cafes and pastry shops
Modern cafes and patisseries are spread out around the city. Typically they serve light food like sandwiches and salad in addition to espresso-based coffees and pastries. Many of these places are chains, like Cilantro, Beanos, Cinnabon, Orangette, The Bakery and Coffee Roastery. Most of these places, including all the chains mentioned above, offer wireless internet connection as well. International chains such as Costa Coffee and Starbucks are also widely available throughout Cairo.
For the capital of a majority Muslim country, Cairo is relatively liberal when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. A wide range of bars and dance clubs is available, basically in every major hotel, and some are open 24/7. If you would like to explore the less fancy drinking places in Cairo, Downtown is definitely the place to go. Upscale nightspots are found in and around the Zamalek area
The main post office  of Cairo is on Midan Ataba (open 7AM - 7PM Sa - Th, 7AM - 12 noon Fr and holidays). The poste restante office is to be found along the side street to the right of the main entrance to the post office and through the last door (open 8AM - 6PM Sat - Th, 10AM - 12 noon Fr and holidays) - mail will be held for 3 weeks.
Egypt-Post livery is green and yellow.
There are two kind of mail boxes for international and domestic use. They are typically found on the street in pairs, colored green and yellow. It is said that your mail will be delivered no matter which one you use. Always use the register mail facility to post anything valuable or important. It takes longer but each step of the journey is recorded, as many letters do not arrive at their destinations when using regular mail service.
The Internet is rapidly growing in Cairo as in many other Egyptian and Middle Eastern cities. There is now a profusion of established internet cafés and venues, with many more opening for business each month. An hour in a downtown net cafe will set you back 3-5LE. A growing number of cafés including Cilantro and Beanos provide wifi for free, and if all else fails, you can always drop into a McDonalds and try their network. Luxury hotels often provide WiFi at a premium. Also, mobile providers offer relatively high speed internet access via a USB dongle. For example, a Mobinil or a Vodafone USB dongle and sim card will cost you 99LE with 50LE of credit.
If you have access to a traditional telephone line in Cairo, then you will be able to access the internet through dial-up connection for 1.25 LE per hour by dialing 0777 XXXX numbers.
In Egypt, cell phone are a way of life. Walking down any street, or on a crowded bus, it seems that most Egyptians are addicted to cell phones (similar to what you may find in Japan or Korea). Instead of using your phone from your home country (which often tend to carry very high roaming fees), consider obtaining an Egyptian SIM card or cheap unlocked phone. The 2 main carriers in Egypt are Mobinil  and Vodafone Egypt , with UAE's Etisalat  a growing 3rd player in the Egyptian market. Mobinil  and Vodafone  offer the best coverage, but for tourists Etisalat is the best option because it gives the most bang for your buck with minutes and seems to have the lowest calling rates abroad out of any of the 3 (a difference of paying $0.55USD per minute for a call to the States than paying $2.50 USD for using your home GSM provider on roaming).
You can find mobile dealerships in every section of Cairo (frankly, you can't avoid them), and getting set up is fairly easy. SIM cards for any of the 3 providers go for about 5-20 LE (about $1-5 US). You will need to bring your identification (its recommended to bring a copy of your ID, as you may not want someone walking off with your passport in a shady shop to make a copy). If you don't have an unlocked phone, many shops will sell cheap older models (usually Nokia phones) as secondhand phones. But beware, make sure that the phone is fully functional before purchasing it, and buying a used one is at your own risk (as a good percentage of these tend to be stolen ones).
The Egyptian Tourist Authority http://www.touregypt.net has offices in Cairo City Center, 5 Adly Street, phone: 3913454, Pyramids, Pyramids Street, phine: 3838823, fax: 3838823, Rameses Railway Station, phone: 5790767, Giza Railway Station, phone: 5702233, El Manial, Manial Palace, phone: 5315587, Airport, phone: 2654760, fax: 4157475, New Airport, phone: 2652223, fax: 4164195 and Cairo International, Airport' phone: 2914255 ext.2223.
You can walk around the main streets anytime you feel like roaming. It is fairly safe and you will always find lots of people around smiling and offering to help. Women alone can expect to be the target of an excessive amount of catcalling, but it rarely, if ever, goes beyond that. You should bear in mind that around the more touristy locations there is an abundance of 'helpful' people, but be careful who you go with and under no circumstance let anyone push or guide you anywhere that you do not want to go! If you get lost look for the security and police officers. Many speak some English, and most know their local area very well as well as the tourist spots.
Crossing streets is another major challenge in Cairo. Traffic lights, which only exist in a few locations, are routinely disregarded. In downtown Cairo, police officers may be controlling traffic at key intersections at busy times. Crossing the street is like playing the video game "Frogger", hurrying across the street one lane at a time, when there is a small break in traffic. One way to cross a street that proved to be effective is to place yourself next to an Egyptian who wants to cross the street and follow.
Also, when riding in a taxi, the driver may go quite fast and drive erratically. If at any time you feel unsafe simply tell the driver to stop and get out.
As Egypt went through a revolution between January and February 2011, the city, especially the Tahrir Square district, and the whole country were filled with protesters demanding the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and for the country to transition into a democracy. After Mubarak resigned, most protests subsided and many travel alerts have been lifted. Occasionally there will be some protests, usually in Tahrir Square. Although the protests are mostly peaceful, travellers should avoid all crowds and demonstrations. The situation can change rapidly and it is recommended that you follow events on local and international news and seek advice from tour operators. There are no travel restrictions currently in place for Egypt.
As elsewhere in Egypt, be careful with what you eat. Raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise and minced meat are particularly risky. Avoid cold salads and puddings from buffets even in the 5* hotels just to be on the safe side.Opinions on tap water vary, but most visitors choose to stick to the bottled stuff. Large bottles of water can be purchased for 2-3 LE. Avoid ice in drinks, and only eat fruit with a skin you can wash or peel. You may find that tummy medications you bring from home simply don't work. All visitors would do well to buy from any pharmacy Egyptian brand drugs. The best and most common being Entocid and Antinal. Diarrhea and vomiting can almost always be stopped by taking 2 of these tablets with a glass of water in a few hours. If symptoms persist, it is wise to consult a doctor as dehydration in Summer can come on quickly.
Smog can reach extreme levels, especially in late summer and fall before the rains. This, coupled with the summer heat, can make spending time outdoors in the summer quite unpleasant.
Mosquitos are in some parts of Egypt so you might face them. They are active from dusk till dawn, and then find a dark sheltered place to sleep during the heat of the day. They love humidity and wet environments where they breed. They also love leafy green gardens, and hedging. Sitting around lakes, pools, or in a garden at night can be suicide. Only the female bites, and one female in a bedroom can cause much discomfort by morning, so it is always wise to kill any before sleeping. A fly swatter is best as they move due to air pressure, swatting with a newspaper will not work. Mosquito repellent sprays are of little value either.
Most hotels will have smoke sprays at dusk to quieten them down but they will revive and attack later.
The best defense is to kill any in hotel rooms. Wear long sleeves and long trousers when out at night. When outside, sit in a breeze or in front of a fan as they do not like moving air. The mosquito tablets and burners merely make them sleepy, they do not kill them. It is better to spend a few minutes going round the hotel room killing any you see than suffer days of itching and painful bites.
For medical care, hotels usually have a house doctor on call. Any major operations are best performed outside Egypt, but the following hospitals are generally considered the best in Cairo:
Backpackers will see doctors' offices dotted all around Cairo on board signs. They are speciality specific. Just look for one and then inquire. Note most surgeries open after 5PM and run late till sometimes midnight.A consultation fee will give you a consultation and one follow up appointment.
Travellers can also visit private hospitals like El Salam, Dar Al Fouad,6th October University Hospital, Ain Shams University Hospital,Kasr El-Eney during the day. Each has an outpatient clinic with various specialists on duty. Usually no appointment is necessary and you will be seen depending on how early you arrive. The fee for the outpatient clinic of 6th October University Hospital for a consultation and follow up is 40le.