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View of Islamic Cairo and the Citadel
The Great Pyramid and the Sphinx

Cairo (Arabic: القاهرة,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 (which regions it conveniently straddles) - it is also the 13th largest city in the world. Situated on the River Nile, Cairo is famous for its own history - preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and in Old Cairo - and for the ancient, Pharaonic history of the country it represents. No trip to Cairo would be complete, for example, without a visit to the Giza Pyramids, to nearby Saqqara, or to the Egyptian Museum in the center of town. Though firmly attached to the past, Cairo is also home to a vibrant modern society.

NB: While al-Qāhirah is the official name of the city, in local speech it is typically called simply by the name of the country, Mişr (Arabic, مصر) pronounced Maşr in the local dialect.


  • Midan Tahrir - the very centre of the modern city: big hotels, transport nexus and the Egyptian Museum
  • Downtown - the commercial heart of the modern city
  • Garden City - an upmarket 'garden suburb' close to the city centre
  • Midan Ramses - Cairo's main railway station and a burgeoning retail and accommodation zone
  • Midan Ataba

  • Islamic Cairo - the centre of historic Cairo; the Citadel, Khan el Khalili (the main Cairo souq / market), historic mosques and medieval architecture
  • Old Cairo - including "Coptic Cairo" and Fustat (Cairo's historical kernel), now located in the south of the modern city

  • Gezira - the southern part of the main island in the Nile; hotels, the Cairo Tower
  • Zamalek - an upmarket suburb in the northern part of the main Nile island
  • Giza - a sprawling western district of the city on the road to the Pyramids

  • Heliopolis - an upmarket residential and retail area close to Cairo International Airport
  • Nasr City - a growing residential and retail area close to Cairo International Airport


Get in

By plane

Cairo is served by Cairo International Airport [CAI] [1], which is the hub of the Egyptian national airline, Egyptair. Many of the world's popular airlines also fly into Cairo on a regular basis, including British Airways, Air France, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

The airport is located on the north-eastern outskirts of the city at Heliopolis. To get into downtown Cairo you can get a fixed-price limousine or negotiate a lower price with one of the small black taxis. Make it clear to the the taxi driver that you do not want to buy carpets.

By train

Cairo's main railway station - Ramses Station (Mahattat Ramses) is located on Midan Ramses. Unsurprisingly, trains run to Cairo from most other regions and cities within Egypt.

By car

For those unfamiliar with Cairo traffic, one shouldn't expect to drive. The traffic is, at the least, overwhelming for the common traveler. Road signs, lanes, right-of-ways, etc. are not adhered to. The driving has a constancy, but not in any official way.

By bus

By boat

Get around

The American University in Cairo has made a good map of Cairo . It is a must-have when you want to get around on your own. CAIRO A-Z from The Palm Press offers a more detailed city map in 300 pages.

By metro

Cairo has the only metro system on the African continent. While its two lines are all too limited in scope, they're a major boon in the areas they do go to and the flat fare of 75 piasters per trip is a steal. The key interchanges are Mubarak, at Midan Ramses, and Sadat, below Midan Tahrir. Note that in each train, the first car is reserved for women.

By taxi

The fleet of black-and-white taxis that ply Cairo's streets are convenient but a hassle: communication can be an issue and, since cabbies systematically refuse to use their meters (understandably, since the official rates are completely unrealistic), prices certainly will be. Try to get a taxi on the fly instead of those loitering outside 5-star hotels and restaurants to minimize price inflation. Using a big hotel as your destination may also inflate the price. Always choose the taxi, don't let the taxi choose you. There are two basic tactics: 1) agree on a price beforehand, which may prevent ripoffs but will mark you as a tourist and probably result in a long negotiation, or 2) get in, state your destination, and pay an approximation of the local fare once you get there. A rule of thumb is 3 LE for short trips, 10 LE for longer ones, where length is measured in distance or time. As an example, the cost from Zamalek to Midan Tahrir should be 3-4 LE, from Zamalek to Midan Hussein (Islamic Cairo) is 8-10 LE. Cabbies usually expect more money (1 or 2 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 cabby brings up the fare after you are in the car. They rarely accept more than 4 people to a taxi.

By bus

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.


Central courtyard of Sultan Hassan mosque
  • Pyramids of Giza. The only remaining monuments of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is the country's most famous touristic attraction and the icon that is most associated with Egypt.
  • Egyptian Museum. The world's premier collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts.
  • Saqqara.
  • Memphis.
  • Citadel. A grand castle built by Mohamed Ali.
  • Al-Azhar Mosque. One of the pillars of Islamic thought and home to the world's oldest university.
  • The Coptic Museum.
  • the "Hanging Church" (Church of the Virgin Mary).
  • the Al Rifai & Sultan Hassan mosques (19th C & highly decorated: 14th C & beautifully austere).


Coffee & shisha at el Fishawy

Ride a boat along the Nile river. Negotiate a fair price of no more than 10LE for about a half hour. A great way to relax and enjoy a night under the stars in Cairo.

Have a coffee, mint tea or Cola at El Fishawy's coffee shop in Khan el Khalili. Smoke a Shisha pipe (you simply hire them: try apple tobacco) and watch the world go by. Great cheap entertainment.




Withdrawing cash is relatively easy in Cairo: ATMs are conveniently located in various places throughout downtown. Moreover, the publically accessible foyers of all the five star hotels downtown (the Nile Hilton, the Seimeramis, etc.) all have secure ATMs.

  • Khan El-Khalili bazaar


Cairo has a fast-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.

For a convenient experience of Egyptian cuisine, travelers should visit one of the Felfela chain of restaurants throughout Cairo. The original (and probably the best) is located Downtown:

  • Felfela - Meals LE 20-35 for two. Open 8am - midnight daily. Also has great take-away restaurant around the corner. 15 Sharia Hoda Shaarawi. 392 2751.
  • Vegetarian travelers shouldn't have too much trouble with Cairo menus, as most have a large selection of meat-free dishes. For the totally dedicated, there is only really one vegetarian restaurant in town: L'Aubergine - An ever changing selection of quality dishes. Main courses LE18-35. Open 10am - 2am daily. 5 Sayyed al-Bakry, Zamalek. 735 6550.
  • The Coffee Roastery - An excellent restaurant as well as coffee shop, also has good, reasonably priced deserts. LE ~12-30. Zamalek, at the western end of 26th of July St., just before the bridge to Mohandiseen.
  • Maison Thomas - The best pizza place in town, and one of the few places that serves pork. Be sure to leave room for dessert--both the chocolate mousse and cheesecake are excellent. Zamalek, 157 26th of July Street


You should try Fakhfakhenna (a kind of fruit salad), and also Karkadeeh, sugarcane juice, mango, kharoob and Tamr hindi. Also available are green tea and red tea, which are popular in café shops.


Hotel El Hussein 5918089, Hussein Square at the Khan El-Khalili bazaar is a clean basic hotel in an interesting area. Prices from EL 45 for single rooms with shared baths on each floor to LE 75 for doubles with en suite bathroom. AC is extra, but the ceiling fans works well. Ask for a room with a balcony.



The main post office of Cairo is located 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 - 6 pm Sa - Th, 10am - 12 noon Fr and holidays) - mail will be held for 3 weeks.

There are two kind of mail boxes for international and domestic use. They are typically found on the street in pairs, coloured red and blue. It is said that your mail will be delivered no matter which one you use.


The Internet is a rapidly growing concern 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. You should have absolutely no difficulty finding a suitable internet outlet for email and other services. A growing number of cafés provide wireless internet service. (Consult district guides for suggested venues).

The normal price for one hour in downtown net cafes is between 3LE and 5LE:

Stay safe

Avoid the City of the Dead after dark. Women should avoid it at all times unless traveling with someone who knows what he's doing there.

You can walk around the main streets anytime you feel like roaming its fairly safe and you always find lots of people around smiling and offering to help (preferabilty for women to walk in a company of someone).

Get out

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!