Known to the Egyptians as Umm as-Dunya – the Mother of the World, Cairo is packed with friendly faces and incredible architecture. Overlooked from a distance by the Pyramids of Giza, Africa’s largest city exudes a unique aura of exotic chaos: beneath the fine layer of sand and heaving walkways, you will discover a city of unrivalled beauty. When you first arrive in Cairo, you may be over-awed by the intensity of the city, whose bustling streets make most other major cities seem like quiet suburbs; however, once you get used to the mass of people, street stalls and vehicles, you will discover a city unlike any other in the world. Awash with mosques, palaces and souks, Cairo’s rich history is evident at every turn, offering a veritable feast for the senses.
Direct flights to Cairo will bring you to Cairo International Airport (CAI), just 13.7 miles from the city centre and 25 miles from the Pyramids of Giza.
Cairo is relatively warm all year around, with temperatures dropping to 18°C in the winter and rising to the mid—to-high thirties in the summer. The most popular months to visit Cairo are December – February, when tourists flock to enjoy winter sun, and June - August, when families mass to the city to visit the pyramids and enjoy long, hot days. If you are planning a more active trip, or you are looking for cheap flights to Cairo, plan your holiday in the less busy shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn, when temperatures are mid-to-high twenties, with the odd refreshing shower.
It is impossible to consider a trip to Cairo without thinking about the city’s architecture which dates back five thousand years. Cairo’s moniker, The City of a Thousand Minarets is apt, for the city’s skyline is littered with exquisite minarets which sound the call to prayer five times a day. Most of the mosques and minarets can be found in Central Cairo, where you will instantly be transported back in time. Remember to dress appropriately when visiting mosques; shoulders and legs should be covered and you ought to wear appropriate shoes, which are easy to remove. With so many mosques to choose from, planning your itinerary can be challenging. If you want to pick just two mosques we suggest you start with Ibn Tulun Mosque, which is believed to be the oldest mosque in Cairo still standing in its original form. Dating back to 879 AD, Ibn Tulun Mosque is the third largest in the word, featuring a vast courtyard surrounded by enclosed wings on three sides. Some believe that the mosque was built at the site where Noah’s Ark landed following the Great Flood – legend says that the floral carvings running along the arches were originally imprinted on the ark itself. If you have the energy for it, climb to the top of the minaret, where you will be rewarded with incredible views of Cairo. Beneath the Citadel, you will find the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrassa. The imposing and elegant structure was built in the late 1300s and is one of the largest mosques in Cairo. The entrance to the mosque is vibrantly decorated in red, white and blue, giving it a castle-like feel. You will emerge from the entrance into an exquisite courtyard, whose geometric tiling and immense central fountain will leave you filled with a sense of space, peace and awe. Each piece of artwork teaches a version of Sunni Islamic law, the fine calligraphy and intricate architecture exuding an other-worldly, ancient beauty. There is so much to see and do in Cairo, it is impossible to fit it all in, but a trip to the Egyptian National Museum will help you to understand Cairo’s extensive history and give you a wonderful insight into the arts and culture of the region. Of course, if you take a trip to Cairo, a trip to the Pyramids of Giza is a must. The only of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still standing, the Pyramids are a truly spectacular site to behold. Built on the banks of the River Nile, the three pyramids were built to entomb three kings – Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. The rich history and incredible scale of the 4,500 structures will leave you with unforgettable memories.
The River Nile runs through the centre of Cairo. The world’s longest river is 4,160 miles long and was the lifeblood of Ancient Egyptian civilisation, providing essential water and transport which enabled the people to thrive. Today, you can take a trip down the Nile in a falucca - an ancient boat which can be hired by the hour – and escape from the heat, chaos and pollution of the city for a few precious hours. Alternatively, you can take an organised cruise down the Nile, where you will see the frantic city’s skyline reflected in the calm waters. Both in the desert and along the banks of the Nile, Cairo has a plethora of exotic animals for you to watch out for. Many species are now endangered, but if you are lucky you will still glimpse giraffes, camels, ostriches and water creatures such as whales, dolphins, manatees and the Nile crocodile. At Giza Zoo you can guarantee a better look at many of Egypt’s natural inhabitants; within the 80 acre parkland you can ensure a safe encounter while you learn about the animals and conservation programmes.
Cairo offers a true souk experience. At the bazaars, you will face a dazzling array of colours: plush fabrics, beautiful art and rich upholstery. Don’t be afraid to haggle, it is part of the experience and is integral to Egyptian culture. Khan Al-Khalili is one of the oldest markets in the world and a fantastic place to get souvenirs. Here, you will find perfumes, gold, silver, copper, cloth and spices. Remember to leave valuables behind so that you can enjoy the experience without worrying about the less salubrious side of Cairo. If you are offered a tea by a shopkeeper, feel free to accept without obligation to buy anything, but if something does catch your eye, half the asking price and let the bargaining go from there.
Cairo’s culinary traditions are 5,000 years old, and food has been central to Egyptian culture for the duration of that time. The food in Cairo is typical Middle Eastern fare: plenty of spices and pulses. You will taste tahini, baba ghanoush and falafel unlike anything you have in the UK. Most dishes come with Aish (which literally translates as “life”), a traditional flatbread similar to a pitta that also serves as a spoon. Vegetarians and vegans won’t struggle to find a broad choice of delicious local dishes, although along the coast, fish does feature more heavily on the menu. A trip to Cairo will give you unforgettable memories that you can treasure for a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to dive beneath the city’s hectic surface: only once you embrace the chaos of this buzzing, smiling city will you discover its true charm. If you would like help finding cheap flights to Cairo, let Travangelo help.