Without question, a first-time visit to Cairo is all about taking phenomenal sights from the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza to the ancient Citadel and the National Museum, which is cluttered with a breathtaking collection of sarcophagi and statues of Ancient Egyptian gods.
But when you’ve checked these historical items off your to-do-list, it’s time for entertainment and relaxation; for a drink and a bite to eat.
Cairo is a huge city and the traffic is absolutely crazy, what with with four million cars on the road. Taking a taxi is the easiest way to get from one part of the Egyptian capital to the next. Even if you’re an expert at haggling, you will be paying more for a cab than the Egyptians do, but it’s still a lot cheaper than it is in most European cities.
Once you’ve accepted this fact you can sit back and enjoy the roller coaster ride that is a cab trip through the cradle of civilization, as the Cairenes like to call their city.
Start off in downtown Cairo to get a feel for the energy in this city, which truly never sleeps. See the shops, bargain for souvenirs and go have a drink in El Horreya Pub on Bab el Louk Square. For a quick snack you can get an inexpensive falafel sandwich.
After checking out the downtown area you might feel like heading somewhere with a more relaxed atmosphere. Take a cab to the green urban “island” of Zamalek, surrounded by the mighty river Nile. Here you’ll find bars, restaurants, bookstores and loads of Egyptian students strolling along the boulevard along the Nile, chilling out with a cup of mint tea in one of the many coffee shops or starting a big night out.
It’s the perfect place to end a day in the great city of Cairo.
Where to stay:
Odeon Palace Hotel in downtown Cairo, Abdel Hamid Said 6. This three-star hotel has an authentic Egyptian look and feel, lots of woodwork and a rooftop bar and restaurant open around the clock with stunning views over Cairo. Close to the National Museum, near a shopping centre. From about $17 per night for a single room and $19 per person for a double room.
Where to eat:
Restaurant Abou el Sid, 26th of July street 157, Zamalek. This beautifully-decorated restaurant offers delicious Egyptian cuisine with Turkish and Lebanese influences, served up by friendly waiters. A variety of dishes on your table costs about $10. You may have to wait 20 minutes to get a table, but it’s worth it.
Where to drink:
For a cheap beer and great atmosphere visit El Horreya Pub in downtown Cairo, on Bab el Louk Square. You can get half a litre of Stella for about $1 and drink it in the company of Egyptians and foreigners of all walks of life, and lots of creative types. El Horreya is also known as Freedom Café.
Where to see live music:
With live music almost every night, the Cairo Jazz Club in Zamalek is a nicely crowded, energetic place with good prices for food and drinks. The crowd consists of older students and young professionals.