3 Days in Cairo - A Local's Guide

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Itinerary by: Lulu Kordi
12 days ago
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Start location: Sakkara Pyramid Complex (2.5 hours) - Al Giza Desert, Giza Governorate, Egypt
Duration: 3 days
We love to discover our city like tourists so we decided to cover the highlights of our beloved Cairo in only 3 days. I have to say the schedule was fully packed but it was worth every minute. Cairo is a diverse city and there’s always something interesting for you to check out. The city is full of contrasts, so be prepared. In Cairo you will see old vs. new, rich vs. poor, chaos vs. peace, culture vs. nature, sand vs. water, green vs. blue and of course a lot of spices, flavors and the beautiful River Nile, the longest river in the world. Cairo, one of the largest cities in Africa and the Middle East, is more than 1000 years old. We decided to see the city in just 3 days - Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And here’s why: Friday and Saturday are weekend days and so the usually busy roads and driving jungle are calmer and traffic is way less congested. Sunday is still calm because some schools are off and as as well some shops too. This saved us plenty of precious time that Cairenes usually lose daily in traffic and commutes. We went sightseeing, we took our water bottles and some snacks for when thirst and hunger attacked us. We always had a caffeine fix before starting. Some tips: - Down Town area and Tahrir Square are the best spots for accommodation. - To get out of the airport; ask for Cairo Airport Shuttle Car or call an Uber. - Uber is the best way to move through the city. - The underground will be useful sometimes. - Spring and Fall are the best seasons to enjoy Cairo and spend less. Photo credit: Simon Berger on unsplash.com

Day 1
08:00 - 11:00
Sakkara Pyramid Complex (2.5 hours)
Al Giza Desert, Giza Governorate, Egypt
Leave the hotel at 7.30 – We chose fall time because fall and spring are the best time to enjoy Cairo (and prices are better too!) Although the Giza Pyramids plateau is more famous and it’s for a valid reason, we started our tour with Sakkara Pyramid Complex. The perfect way to witness the first attempts that preceded the mystical Giza Pyramids is by watching the stepped pyramid of King Zoser – A UNESCO World Heritage Site. *Great news: the Pyramid of Sakkara was restored and inaugurated last March, after 14 years of hard restoration works inside – It’s now open for visits, with a special ticket* - We cannot wait to visit it! We bought the tickets that allowed us to enter Unas Pyramid, another Pyramid + 3 tombs – there are various packages to choose from. The horse or camel ride there is also a pleasant experience and with lesser crowd, their prices are now fixed by low –no hassle. The open tombs are worth a quick visit. Before leaving the complex, we stopped by Imhotep museum (the genius behind Sakkara) for some of the world’s “very firsts” marvels from the ancient world. And because we love carpets, we stopped by one of the carpets school in Giza, were unique carpets are woven by locals young hands. They are on the road to/from Sakkara and you can easily spot them. Boy! Weren’t they magnificent!!! If you love carpets as much as we do, stop there and watch how a carpet is created and learn how long does it take to make one. If you fall in love with one carpet; you can buy it and they can ship it to you. Skip this stop if you are not interested. *Tip: have the same Uber driver wait for you during the whole time: so worth it!
Article By: Lulu Kordi
Culture-Historical Building Culture-Monument Culture-Museum

Getting there

We took an Uber from our hotel in Tahrir Square. The travel time is from hotel to site and it depends on the traffic. So if you follow this itinerary, it should take you no more than 40 minutes

Travel time
0 hours 40 minutes
12:30 - 15:00
Giza Pyramids (3 hours)
Al Haram, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
Once we arrived at the Pyramids, we left our Uber driver. It’s finally time to witness this marvel at a very close distance - one of the old world 7 wonders and a UNESCO world heritage site. The Giza Pyramids stand 13km from Cairo’s city center. You can actually see them from many parts of the city (hotel balcony if your hotel is on the Nile, from the Citadel or from Mokattam hill). The Great Pyramid of Giza is a work of wonder: it belongs to King Khnum Khufu (Cheops as the Greeks called him). The way it was planned remains an undiscovered mystery that hides an advanced knowledge of engineering, science and astrology. The most colossal building ever erected on earth, the Khufu pyramid is the largest of the three famous pyramids of Giza Plateau; it measures 230 meters at the base of each side and its original height was approx. 147 meters. We ventured inside the pyramid to reach the big chamber. Beware though: the way to the chamber is through a narrow tunnel that’s 30 meters long and you walk them bent and squatted. If one is not fit enough, the legs and back cramps afterwards will last for a while. The chamber is empty and a bit humid, yet, for those who are into spirituality, it’s believed to contain great energy sources and spiritual meanings (Extra ticket - ask at entry of the plateau). Three pyramids, the Great Sphinx, minor tombs, a workers’ village and several ancient cemeteries make up the archaeological site on the Giza plateau. Don’t pay attention to the people trying to sell you stuff or services, at least always negotiate, a lot! *I just read that at the reopening after COVID-19 is over, those sellers and horses/camels owners will be all regulated and offering fixed prices set by the government. For an off-the-beaten-path experience check the Solar Boat museum for a live learning experience (account for an extra 30 minutes) : therein displayed we saw the cedar wood boat that was discovered in 1954. Then, it was time for Sphinx and photos.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
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Getting there

We kept the same Uber car waiting for us during our Sakkara visit. The wait time was not expensive (50 EGP/HOUR) this rate might change anytime so please verify during booking; however it saved us a great amount of time when we headed to the Pyramids.

Travel time
0 hours 30 minutes
15:30 - 19:30
The Pharaonic Village (3 hours + 1 hour for lunch)
3 Al Bahr Al Aazam, Oula, Giza District, Giza Governorate, Egypt
The tour took us 3 hours, it may last less or more depending on what you'd like to do there. The Pharaonic village in Giza is great for a living experience about how the Ancient Egyptians performed their daily tasks and how they lived. We took a boat tour with a guide and an audio guide (during the boat trip only). We sailed in the middle of a very calm part of Nile River where we stopped frequently (remaining inside the boat) and saw replicas of some statues and listened to the explanation about them and what they represented. We also watched some lively scenes from the ancient life for example how they planted their food, how they created papyrus, how they were fishing in the Nile, how they manufactured glass and perfume, how the rich and the poor lived and the Moses scenes. Then the boat docked at an island and we started with a visit to a replica from Karnak Temple (copying the original colors that now you can no more find in the original temple), the house of the noble and the house of the peasant, etc It was really informative and the live scenes gave a great idea to imagine how life once was. It was a great hit with our little tourist. And then, we stopped to see an amazing replica of TUTANKHAMON tomb in the same state it was originally discovered in early 1900 and it left us in awe! Today, all the treasures that were found inside the tomb when Sir Howard Carter discovered it are displayed in the 2nd floor of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Tahrir square. There are also some informative mini museums displaying different eras from Egyptian history (Ancient Egyptian to Recent History). The tour starts with a small boat stopping in front of living scenes performed by artists who replay the ancient life with an explanation to each scene (you can choose your preferred language, check their website for updates). - open till 7 PM till October 31st.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
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Notes

The highlights here were the boat audio-guided tour in English language + the Karnak facade replica + replica of Tutankhamun tombs. We had our late lunch there: grilled chicken with tahini and freshly baked bread; they have few vegan options too. In alternative, you could grab a pizza from Pizza Hut that's very close to the Pyramids.

Getting there

we called another Uber

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
Day 2
09:00 - 12:00
The Citadel & Mohamed Ali Mosque (3 hours)
Salah Salem St, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
We started our day at 8 AM by visiting to the Citadel. Built in 1176 by the Ayyubid Salah-El-Din, it was a headquarter for many Egyptian/Ottoman rulers. It’s really huge and requires a lot of walking. We admired the Mohamed Ali mosque and its mesmerizing architecture. The alabaster walls are a masterpiece as well as the well worked ceiling. Mohamed Ali Pasha is the founder of modern Egypt and this mosque, where his tomb is set, pays him attribute. Mohamed Ali wanted to copy the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul and, for this purpose, he imported the same type of ceramic tiles and same carpets and lamps to embellish and ornate the mosque. In fact, it looks like a mini Blue Mosque. From the terrace of the mosque, you can see all Cairo, and if it’s a clear day, you will be able to see the Pyramids of Giza from there. We checked the other sites inside the fortress ring: The Military Museum, Carriage museum, Yussuf’s well, Police museum, Al-Nassir Mohamed Mosque and some other interesting sites.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
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Notes

We had breakfast at our hotel before starting the visit. The highlights are Mohamed Ali Mosque (a miniature from Istanbul Sultanahmet Blue Mosque), the terrace next to it -you could see the Pyramids of Giza from there- and the carriage museums.

Getting there

Again, we took an uber from the hotel to the Citadel.

Travel time
0 hours 15 minutes
12:30 - 17:30
Moez St + Khan Khalili & Lunch (5 hours)
Al-Mashhad Al-Hussaini شارع المشهد الحسين، شارع Hasan El-Adawy, امتداد، El Gamaliya, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
We then went to the nearby Moez street before the main sites close (5 PM). We went to see the highlights: Qalawoun complex (mosque, school and hospital) / Al Sultan barquq mosque / Bayt Al Suhaymy and Hammam. Other Medieval art gems from the Islamic era in Egypt can be admired along the street. Each of them features genius architecture styles and solutions through a wide array of different art masterpieces. Impressions from the diversified cultures that once lived in Egypt can be clearly noticed in columns, wood works, tiles, glass art, etc. If it were possible we would have spent one full day there. But, this time we wanted to cover the itinerary places as planned. We also went to see the old water reservoir as recommended by our tour guide. Skip the later if you tend to be claustrophobic: it’s a big place built underground with many stairs down and the only source of light is the torch light. Also Moez st. very beautiful when lit at night, however the main sites, except for some mosques, will be closed. From Moez st, we walked for 5 minutes back to Khan-el-Khalili bazar, one of the oldest open markets in the Middle East, and probably in the world, that is still functioning to date Now it’s time for Khan-El-Khalili bazaar and a nice stroll among the historic shops and building. Make your souvenirs shopping and enjoy a LOT of bargaining with the sellers,or just window shopping admiring the Egyptian art crafts. Recommended souvenirs: Struck iron- lightings, small lamps to big chandeliers / alabaster stone decorative item or candle holders. Brass items artworks, leather, clothing, scarves, jewelry and light memorabilia are available at all price ranges and qualities. Both iron and alabaster lighting items produce beautiful reflections in your room and make for perfect gifts. Finally, we stopped by Al Fishawy cafe. The most historical cafe in the area, dating back to 200 years ago. It was very crowded and we shared the table with other people but the experience was fun and the prices were moderate.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
Culture-Monument Culture-Mosque Entertainment-Tour Eat & Drink-Cafe Eat & Drink-Restaurant

Notes

If you have more time available: 1- spare 2.5 hrs and watch the amazing Mevlevi Tannoura Performance run by sufis of Cairo. Great soloists and band (Sat / Mon / Wed) show starts at 7 PM for 50 Pounds but you have to be there at 5.30 PM to buy the ticket (sold out quickly) and guarantee a good seat position. - And/or, enjoy an "eat like a local" dinner at Fatatry Al Hussein for a feteer-based dinner (Egyptian Pizza): they sell it sweet and savory. The custard sugar one is so yummy. The place is at the exit of Khan Khalili. - If you love to buy local spices, Khan Khalili and Hussein area are the best places to buy spices in Cairo 2-

Getting there

- Uber from Citadel (10 minutes) - The Wekalet Al Ghouri is just across the road from Al Hussein Square or exit of Khan Khalili. You have to use the passengers tunnel to get there

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
Day 3
07:30 - 09:00
Breakfast at Felfela cafe
15 Hoda Shaarawy, Bab Al Louq, Abdeen, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
We walked from our hotel in Tahrir Square to Felfela again for a traditional Egyptian breakfast: Foul (fava beans stew with olive oil and/or tahini and/or salad) and Taameya (Egyptian Falafel). We also had Eggs with Pastrami and some salads. The restaurant is open till midnight and they serve lunch and dinner as well -Egyptian specialties-. The atmosphere was fresh and calm. *They serve beer for lunch and dinner. The place opens as early as 7.00 am. We were there at 7.30 am. And it was super cool to walk in down the streets that early in the morning with air that was still fresh. Note 1: Foul & Taameya – Kochary – Bessara – Lentil soup – Baba Ghanough – Hummus – often times Stuffed Vine Leaves are among many Egyptian dishes that are suitable to: vegetarian – vegan – dairy free and gluten free diets (Kochary has wheat pasta). And as a bonus, they are usually very budget-friendly. Note 2: Egyptian bread (eish baladi) is an amazing whole wheat bread that tastes amazing especially when hot and freshly baked. It’s a great companion to all the amazing and colorful dips you will find around Cairo restaurants and it works great as a sandwich pocket. Once we were done, and on our way to the Egyptian Museum, we decided to stop at the historical Groppi café in Soliman Pasha square for an espresso and baklava. We started our day fully re-charged. Then we continued our stroll to the Egyptian Museum on the other side from Tahrir Square (the main square of Cairo), always admiring the calm of the streets and the sense of peace that otherwise is impossible to find in Cairo. We enjoyed stared at the beauty of the old buildings that were telling us the story of a past they lived.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
Eat & Drink-Cafe Eat & Drink-Restaurant

Notes

Authentic Egyptian breakfast. Eat like a local :) foul, falafel (taaemya) are so suitable for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, nuts-free and soy-free diets and they taste sooo yummy. The bread is also great but it contains gluten!

Getting there

by foot

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
09:30 - 11:15
Egyptian Antiquity Museum (2.5 hours)
eltahrir sqair, قصر الدوبارة، عابدين، محافظة القاهرة‬، Egypt
We arrived at 9.30 am and bought our tickets at the gate. We hired one of the guides who are present in the museum garden after agreeing on the price with him. Our guide lead us through the first floor main rooms to see different pieces from different ages (Ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Ptolemaic etc) and we also toured the halls filled with plenty of pieces each reflecting the life during its own era and what tools did they use while creating their civilization. The guide showed us the only statue that was found for King Khufu (the king behind the Great Pyramid of Giza): amazingly, the statue is only 7 cm long and it’s finely sculptured in a way that we could clearly define his features. Make sure to visit the 2nd Floor and Tutankhamon and all the treasures that were discovered in his tomb. There, the king’s mask (made of pure gold) is displayed in a special room. * note: stay tuned for the opening of the opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum that will replace this one and is really way much bigger (website: www.gem.gov.eg) It will display the current collection plus all the treasures that are currently stored in the basement of Tahrir. Once done with the Egyptian museum, we grabbed a sandwich from Al Tahrir square (we wento to La Poire Café’)
Article By: Lulu Kordi
Culture-Monument Culture-Museum Culture-Statue

Notes

Make sure to visit Tutankhamun Pavilion and watch his amazing mask. If you are visiting Cairo Next year, keep an eye on the opening of Grand Egyptian Museum: it will replace the current one and will have to be combined with the Pyramids visit. In this case, you can replace it with either Sakkara or the Pharaonic Village

Getting there

by foot - otherwise it will take you less than 5 minutes by Uber or a taxi

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
12:30 - 16:30
Coptic Cairo (3 to 4 hours) - Free activity
Mar Girgis, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
We took the underground from Tahrir Square to Mar Guirguis stop. It took us around 6 minutes and we stepped out in front of the hanging church. We again hired one of the tour guides there to accompany us and answer all our curious questions. The first thing we saw close to the church were the remains of Babylon fortress that show the borders of one of the old city centers of Cairo and date back to the Persian and Roman eras in Egypt. Coptic Cairo is built around this fortress and upon its walls. The area contains historical places of worship for the 3 main religions that existed and still in Egypt: Hebraism, Christianity and Islam. In this unique religions-complex we started with an explanation of the road that the Saint Family pursued during their stay in Egypt followed by a visit to St. Sergius & Bacchus church. It was built above the crypt where it’s believed that the St. family sheltered during their stay in Cairo. He then lead us through more small alleys to Ben Ezra synagogue and where we saw the impressions of so many cultures that once lived in Egypt, all expressed in the form of art and represent a fusion of traditions. On the other hand, Ben Ezra is considered the first synagogue in Cairo and it was built on what is claimed to be the place where the Pharao’s daughter found Moses. Furthermore, we went to check the Greek church, built following the Greek traditions and art (the Byzantine church) We followed it by a quick tour inside the Coptic museum and enjoyed learning about records from the arrival of Christianity in Egypt through the Ottoman era and the display of the art mixture witnessing the multi-cultural history of Egypt. It showcases a lot of Christian treasures, actually it has the largest collection of Coptic art. After that, we toured the hanging church (it won its name because it was built upon the remains of the fortress) and its tower and we ended our tour by visiting Amr Ibn el As mosque (the first mosque in Cairo). In this tour, we only paid 300 EP to the guide.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
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Notes

The highlights here were St. Sergius church, Ben Ezra Synagogue and the Hanging Church of St. Mary

Getting there

We used the underground from Tahrir Square. One ticket = 7 EGP

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
18:00 - 21:30
Dinner in a Nile Cruise (3 hours)
Nile Corniche, Athar an Nabi, Maadi, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
We wanted to spend the evening by the River Nile. And the best way we option was a dinner cruise (7 PM) with Andrea Nile Cruise in Maadi Corniche. You have to show up minimum 30 minutes before sailing. Always check the timing with them and book your table ahead. We usually take the cruise with the set menu dinner and show (a salad bar and a dessert bar, a belly dancing show, live music and a mini tannoura show). This time we were up to fresh air so we decided to take the tour on deck with dinner a` la carte: The tour lasted two hours. We were still enjoying our dinner so we sailed we them for a second tour experiencing Cairo Nile by night. At arrival to the dock station, we went directly on deck enjoyed a drink by the Nile. It was right before sunset and the sun looked mesmerizing setting down on the water with all its sparkle. We enjoyed the view and fresh breeze on the large deck in total quietness because it was so calm that day. Their specialty is Greek grilled chicken with mezzeh. We ordered their specialty: juicy Greek-style grilled chicken, some dips, salads and side dishes (fries and rice). They have alcoholic drinks too. Both options are very valid and enjoyable: set menu with show or a` la carte on deck. Booking is required. * Another budget-friendly way to experience the Nile in absolute peace is to bring your food and drink and hire a felucca from Dok Dok (Garden City area, no pre-booking required) and start a sunset felucca sailing. Sailing time is up to you.
Article By: Lulu Kordi
Diverse-Excursion Music-Club-DJ Music-Dance Music-Rock/Pop Nature-River Eat & Drink-Bar Eat & Drink-Cafe Eat & Drink-Cocktail Bar Eat & Drink-Restaurant Settlement-City

Notes

This Nile cruise is different from other ones in that you can book the set menu dinner with live show including belly dance show and tannoura mini performance -which is a lovely and cultural experience for first timers- and then enjoy sometime on deck including another sail enjoying desserts and drinks (very chilling and romantic) with a separate bill. Since we did the set menu dinner and buffet man times before, this time we opted for the on-deck dinner. *take care: this is Andrea Nile and not Andrea Nile Peking. The second on your way, in front of As-Salam hospital *if you choose the dinner with show, you must book through their facebook or by phone

Getting there

With Uber, 20 minutes from Tahrir Square because there was some traffic on the way.

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
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About the author

A Mediterranean momma and wifey with a love for travel instilled in my genes. International Sales Consultant by career, traveler by nature and a global citizen by choice and a dairy-free cook and baker by fate. I love to write about my city and my travels and share my experiences with you.. I also love to learn from all fellow travelers. I discovered that traveling well informed and prepared gives you that warm local citizen feel and makes you part of the place as soon as you reach your destination. Never stop exploring the world!

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