Hey, my friends, I hope all is smooth sailing for you with beautiful skies and fluffy Clouds!
Last time, I wrote about Rome and it started me thinking about other ancient cities that are still vibrant places to live and visit. Cairo instantly came to mind!
Cairo is a huge metropolis with over 18.5 million residents in the region, making it the largest city in Africa and one of the largest in the world. The city wouldn’t have that many residents if it wasn’t an attractive and comfortable place to live. Cairo is unique and it is cool. That’s a combination that makes it a ‘must-see’ on your travels list!
Babylon Fortress was built by the Romans in the 3rd Century
Cairo is a dusty, bustling, exciting destination that offers a huge amount of fun activities. Of course, you cannot visit Cairo without seeing the Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramids are right on the western edge of Cairo. In fact, one side of the Pyramid Complex is adjacent to the metropolis so that pictures facing east must be ‘strategically’ taken to avoid showing laundry hanging on balconies within a stone’s through of the monuments. The Sphinx sits mysteriously right in front of the pyramids and is purported to be centuries older than the larger constructions.
Here’s a pro-tip: By all means, I recommend taking a personal guide around the Giza Plateau. You will see and understand more if you do so. If you want comfort, however, I would skip the camel tour in favour of a horse or donkey. The camel may be more ‘iconic’ but the ride is rough and the animals sometimes have a bad temper.
The Pyramids of Giza : Definitely facing west !
Another important place to visit is the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. This is one of the coolest but most ramshackle museums in the world! The Museum was built in 1901 without heating and air-conditioning. To this day, only the mummies and the King Tut portion of the Egyptian Museum are climate controlled. The contents of the museum resemble the world’s coolest rummage sale! This is a huge space with all sort of treasures. Most of the tourists visit Tut and maybe the mummies then quickly wander away. I love to roam the corridors of this warehouse-sized edifice and I always find interesting items. My favourite area is on the east side of the Museum that has an entire room full of artefacts from the time of Akhenaten. He was the first ruler on the earth to worship a single god, was the husband of his sister Nefertiti and the father of Tutankhamen (“King Tut”). He had a lot going on during his long-forgotten reign!
Here’s another pro-tip: You should visit Cairo soon if you want to see the collection at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. It is being replaced by the beautiful new Grand Egyptian Museum by the Pyramids which is supposed to open, after much delay, in early 2020. I will love the new facility but the older museum at historic Tahrir Square has a nostalgia and atmosphere that the new facility cannot invoke!
If your feet are sore, try a Nile cruise. Better yet, why not have a dinner cruise and enjoy sunset while viewing the pyramids! Then, enjoy the nightlife in Cairo’s many cabarets, bars and nightclubs. The city comes alive at night and offers fun for visitors and local residents.
Reaching Cairo is easier than it was in the past thanks to a huge renovation of Cairo International Airport. It is now a modern and convenient facility. Visas can be arranged on arrival for a small fee. To avoid the lines, however, I recommend that you use the many eVisa Services that will arrange the formalities prior to your arrival.
Hotels in Cairo offer a wide range that caters to the budget conscience all the way to the luxury travellers. You’ll find that the hotels in Cairo are an exceptional value to entice visitors back to this incredible city. The Four Seasons has two exceptional hotels in the First Residence and the Nile Plaza. You can stay in either Four Seasons in Cairo for the same price as a budget hotel in London! All of the major chains have enormous properties in Cairo. One very cool mid-range offering is the 1920 Boutique Hotel. Finally, the Le Riad Hotel de Charme is one of the most picturesque with fabulous service and style!
There are a huge range of delicious dishes for those of you who are foodies. Like Dubai, many of the fine dining restaurants are in the large hotels. My favourites include Osmanly Restaurant in the Kempinski that offers local fresh flavours and Sabaya at the Inter-Continental Hotel, which has my favourite Lebanese food outside of Beirut. A tasty surprise is 8 Chinese in the Four Seasons Nile Plaza – the food is artful, tasty and an excellent value! One excellent restaurant to try is the famous El Fishawi Restaurant close to the Khan El Khalili Souk. It is the most authentic, including the bubbling shishas that are ubiquitous!
Papyrus paintings make a cool souvenir to take home!
Here’s a final pro-tip: It is illegal to buy and sell antiquities without a license. If you consider buying a valuable item ask for all of the licenses and ensure that you are not buying the many fakes that flood the market. You don’t want problems when you leave Egypt!