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Egypt travel guide – Cairo & Giza

Visiting the The Great Pyramid of Giza, the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World and the most Iconic Sphinx is something you definitely have on your bucket list! And if not, it’s time to add it right now! Walking through some of the oldest archeological remains to this day is a truly fascinating experience. Although most of the people visit Cairo only to see the pyramids, and for a very good reason, there is so much more to see and do in this chaotic capital of Egypt, the largest city in all Africa and the world’s 37th most densely populated city!

The longest river in the world – River Nile flows through the city of Cairo and it has served as an important transportation route for thousands of years.


THINGS TO DO AND SEE

The Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx

Well obviously the TOP thing to do in Cairo is to visit the Pyramids of Giza and with that the one and only, last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World – The Great Pyramid of Giza which is the largest and tallest (146,7 meters) Egyptian Pyramid and served as the tomb of pharaoh Khufu. The construction of this pyramid took about 20 years and more than two million blocks of stone were used for this.

Most of the people don’t know it but there are actually 9 pyramids at Giza Necropolis and all were built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, between c. 2600 – c. 2500 BC. Which means they are more that 4500 years old!

Another thing that you might not know and what we didn’t expect is the fact that the pyramids are not in the middle of a desert. They are right next to Giza town!

The entrance ticket to Giza Necropolis costs 360EGP (10,70EUR) but if you want to go inside the Great Pyramid you will have to purchase a separate ticket which cost an extra 600 EGP (17,80EUR). It’s a bit pricey and a lot of people don’t recommend to go inside as there is “nothing to see” but in our opinion it’s worth it because it definitely gave us chills to be inside the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World! We would avoid it only if you are claustrophobic or have problems with breathing because the tunnels are really tiny and narrow and it is incredibly hot and humid inside. The entrance to the Great Pyramid is closed between noon and 1PM.

You can also go inside the other two pyramids – Khafre and Menkaure (for an extra charge) but the Khafre pyramid was closed when we visited (Nov 23).

The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. The face of the Sphinx appears to represent the pharaoh Khafre. Built more than 4500 years ago, The Sphinx is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and one of the most recognizable statues in the world.

Opening hours:

7AM-5PM (ticket office closing at 4PM) from October to March

7AM-6PM (ticket office closing at 5PM) from April to September

Note: these times are likely to change, there is no official website for the site and all the other websites share different opening times.

There are 3 different entry points: Northern entrance (the main entrance, next to the Great Pyramid of Khufu), Southern entrance (next to the smallest Pyramid of Menkaure) and the Eastern entrance (least used, next to the Great Sphinx).

In the evening there is the light and sound show happening and you can book your tickets here:

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Saqqarah, Memphis and Dahshur (day trip)

The Pyramids of Giza are the most famous pyramids in the world, but there are in total 118 pyramids in Egypt and you can visit many other during your trip to Cairo as they are not that far from the city.

The first EVER pyramid built was the Pyramid of Djoser, also called the step pyramid, which you can find in the small village called Saqqarah, southwest from Cairo. Among many other pyramids of the Saqqarah Necropolis, you can also visit the Pyramid of Teti, which many say is one of the most beautifully decorated pyramids (from the inside).

Only 20 min drive from Saqqarah, you can find the ancient capital of Egypt – Memphis (now called Mid Rahineh). Some of the highlights of your visit to Memphis are the Alabaster Sphinx (Sphinx of Memphis) and the Statue of Ramesses II.

After another 20 min car drive south of Memphis, you will arrive to Dahshur which is another ancient town mainly famous for the Bent Pyramid, which is the outcome of the first ever attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid, but unsuccessfuly. The second attempt was successful and that’s how the Red Pyramid, also called the North Pyramid was built. The red pyramid is the 3rd largest pyramid in Egypt after Khufu and Khafre in Giza.

The Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian museum located in Tahrir Square is the largest museum in Africa and it houses the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. The total of over 120,000 items, with only a representative amount on display and the rest are sheltered in storerooms.

The most important and visited part of the museum is the pavilion of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s treasure, including its iconic gold burial mask, which is widely considered one of the best-known works of art worldwide and a prominent symbol of ancient Egypt. It was not possible to take pictures inside Tutankhamun’s pavilion so you will have to come to see it for yourself 🙂

Other interesting parts of the museum are the pavilion of animal mummies and the mummies of Tutankhamun’s grandparents.

At first we wanted to visit the museum by ourselves, but when we walked in, we realised that there is not much information written about the artefacts, especially in English and we felt very lost. We really wanted to learn about the history of Egypt so we went back out and found a very nice and knowledgeable tour guide Wael who made our visit unforgettable! He charged 1000EGP (15EUR) for an hour so our 2h tour cost us 2000EGP (30EUR) – for both of us. He also does tours all around Cairo and Giza (not only The Egyptian Museum) so you can visit whatever sites you like with him!

Our guide at the Egyptian Museum – Wael Ramadan Tolba – WhatsApp: +20 01001568101 or Email: waelsalouma@yahoo.com

Coptic Cairo

Coptic Cairo is the Christian part of Old Cairo. Copts are Christian ethnoreligious group indigenous to North Africa. Egypt is mainly a muslim country but there is a significant percentage of Christians living here too. Alongside many other historical sites, monuments and churches, the main sites of Coptic Cairo are the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church and the Greek Church of St. George. In Christian tradition it is believed that the Holy Family visited this area and stayed at the site of Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga). Coptic Cairo was a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt both before and during the Islamic era. In fact most of its churches were built after the Muslim conquest of Egypt, which happened in the 7th century.

Islamic Cairo

As one of the oldest Islamic cities, Cairo is home to stunning Islamic architecture, which has earned it the nickname “The City of a Thousand Minarets”. UNESCO honoured this area of the city and in 1979 declared historic Cairo one of the World Heritage Sites in Egypt with its 600 monuments.

Bab Zuweila

Bab Zuweila (Bab means gate) is one of three remaining gates in the city wall of the Old City of Cairo. Our favourite part of visiting Bab Zuweila was climbing up to the top of its minarets and having the best view of Old Cairo right in front of us! The entrance ticket cost 80EGP (2,40EUR).

Right next to Bab Zuweila there is the beautiful Mosque of Sultan Al-Muayyad Shaykh built in the 15th. century.

Khan El-Khalili

Khan El- Khalili is the most famous bazaar and souk in the Islamic Cairo. It was established as a center of trade and nowadays the bazaar district has become one of Cairo’s main attractions for tourists. You can find many Egyptian artisans and workshops involved in the production of traditional crafts and souvenirs here, although the prices seemed to be higher than in other souvenir and artisan shops. 

Muizz Street

Muizz Street is the oldest street in Egypt and one of the longest streets in the walled city, at approximately one kilometer long. It used to be the most important artery of the city and it constituted the main axis of the city’s economic zones where its souks were concentrated.

Al-Azhar Mosque

It was the first mosque established in a city (in 972 AD) and it was definitely one of our favourite ones! The shiny white stone floor just makes it look so majestic! You need to be completely covered (including your head) and with loose fitting clothes to go inside, but don’t worry if you don’t have everything to cover yourself, they will provide you the clothes to wear on top of yours.

Al Azhar Park

Right outside of the walls of the Islamic Cairo, you can find the beautiful 30 hectares large Al Azhar Park. It is one of the only parks and green spaces in Cairo and is listed among the 60 of the World’s Great Places by Project for Public Spaces. It is open from 9AM to 10PM and it’s definitely a great place to unwind and escape the chaos of the city!

Cairo Citadel

Cairo Citadel is a medieval Islamic fortification, built by Salah ad-Din (Saladin). It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th century until the construction of Abdeen Palace in the 19th century.

Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha – Alabaster Mosque

Muhammad Ali Mosque situated in the Citadel of Cairo was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848. It is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in Cairo. Its interior is a masterpiece! The mosque is situated on the summit of the citadel which makes it the most visible mosque in Cairo. You also have the most stunning view of the city, the Nile river and the Pyramids of Giza far in the background from here.

Ibn Tulun Mosque

It is one of the oldest mosques in Egypt as well as the whole Africa surviving in its full original form, and is the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area.

Gezira island (Zamalek island/neighbourhood)

Gezira Island is an island in the Nile River, south of downtown Cairo which is connected to the mainland by two bridges and a causeway. The island is home to the Cairo Tower, Cairo Opera House and several five-star hotels.

In the late 19th century, the island was home to a working-class neighbourhood however this community was displaced in the early 20th century and the island was transformed into a residential district for the wealthy. Nowadays it is a great place to unwind, enjoy the greenery, shop in fashionable boutiques and eat in cool restaurants.

Cairo Tower

The Cairo Tower is a free-standing 187m tall concrete tower on Gezira island. It was the tallest structure in Egypt for 37 years until 1998, when it was surpassed by the Suez Canal overhead powerline crossing. It has an observation desk and the revolving 360° Panoramic restaurant. The entrance ticket costs 250EGP (7,60EUR) but you need to wait in the line for your turn to go up. If you want to skip the line, you can purchase an extra VIP skip the line ticket for 300EGP (9,10EUR) and redeem the full amount in the 360° Panoramic restaurant, which in our opinion was totally worth it! We also highly recommend you to come here for sunset and stay after dark.

The Grand Egyptian Museum

The Grand Egyptian Museum is not fully open to the public yet (should open in late-2023), but it’s said that it will be the largest archaeological museum complex in the world! For the first time ever, King Tutankhamun’s entire treasure collection will be on display (at the moment only a part of it is on display in The Egyptian Museum) alongside artefacts from pre-historic times through Egypt’s many thousands of years of pharaonic civilisation through the more modern ancient Greek and Roman periods of Egyptian history.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation

National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation displays a collection of 50,000 artifacts, presenting the Egyptian civilization from prehistoric times to the present day. The main hall includes 22 Royal mummies, 18 Kings, and 4 Queens, from the 17th until the 20th dynasty. The most famous mummies are the longest reigning female pharaoh Hatshepsut and one of the most successful warrior pharaohs of ancient Egypt -Thutmose III.

HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY FOR?

Cairo is a humongous city filled with a very rich and diverse history, starting from the Ancient Egypt, the Arab conquest all the way until the modern Cairo, so there is definitely a lot to see and do. You could probably spend even 2 weeks in Cairo and still haven’t covered everything, however we would recommend you to stay for at least 3 full days (if you have time) to visit the most important sites. If you can only stay 2 days, use one full day for the pyramids and the other one for the Islamic Cairo, the Citadel and The Egyptian Museum.

ACCOMMODATION

If you are not staying in Cairo & Giza longer than 2 nights, we would suggest you to stay in an apartment or a hotel in Giza with a beautiful view of the pyramids. If you are staying longer, we would say to split your stay and spend a couple of nights in downtown Cairo too. But the room with the pyramids view is a must!

First 2 nights we have stayed at the studio apartment – Jacuzzi by the Historic Giza Pyramids – Apartment 4 . Not gonna lie, the jacuzzi with the pyramids views sold us! They also have 2 more identical apartments Jacuzzi by the Historic Giza Pyramids – Apartment 3  and Jacuzzi by the Historic Giza Pyramids – Apartment 2 . Check all 3 for the availability.

And the last night we stayed at the beautiful 2 bedroom – The Great Pyramid Duo 2BDR Stunning Stay! which was so dreamy! Fully equipped and beautifully decorated.

The apartment also has a private rooftop which they use for the most incredible photoshoots! We highly recommend you to book the sunset & night photoshoot! It was so magical. If you want to book the photoshoot just contact: MEDJET Travel & Tours – Website: https://medjettravel.com IG: @pyramid_duo_rooftop_ WhatsApp: +20 1288005080.

Or you can book the photoshoot directly here – Pyramid Duo Rooftop Photoshoot

If you prefer to stay at the hotel rather than an apartment there is the most fabulous Marriott Mena House, however for a much higher price.

Some lower priced hotels with pyramids view are  Pyramids View Inn and Great Pyramid Inn. But keep in mind that not all the rooms have pyramids view.

If you are looking for hotels in Cairo, there are numerous great hotels like Kempinski Nile Hotel, Sofitel Cairo Nile El Gezirah, Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino, Fairmont Nile CityFour Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza.

Egypt is a Muslim country and when you book a room as a couple, they will ask you for the marriage license and if you are not married, you can’t stay in the same room. This rule applies 90% of the time only to Muslims, but there are some hotels that don’t allow this not even for foreigners. We had this problem on our last night in Cairo at Ocean Blue Studios Cairo. We had to cancel our booking and find a new hotel. So just check the rules properly or contact the hotel if you are not sure. All the above hotels and apartments that I mentioned don’t require marriage license for foreigners.

FOOD & DRINKS

Not sure whether we were unlucky in Cairo, but we actually enjoyed the best local food in other parts of Egypt like Luxor and Aswan more than in Cairo. Some of the typical must try dishes are Hawawshi, Koshary, Chicken Shawarma. Pastries Simit and Pita and the dessert Om Ali.

When you visit the Pyramids of Giza, we highly recommend you to have breakfast or lunch at the 9 Pyramids Lounge. You will have the most incredible view of the pyramids while eating your breakfast!

In the downtown Cairo we found a very cool café called Klakit Art Space, however the service was not very good. Maybe we were just unlucky, but they were very slow with our orders, they even forgot everything and we had to order again. So we wouldn’t recommend you to eat here but it’s definitely worth it for a quick drink because they have the cutest tables at the balconies and also the interior of the café is very artsy. It is located right next to The Egyptian Museum so stop here before or after your visit to the museum.

If you would like to have a meal with the river Nile view, there is a complex called Nilelounge with multiple restaurants and cafés. We ate at Carpaccio and the food was quite good.

On the other hand if you would like to have a meal with the entire city view, we can highly recommend you to visit the revolving 360° Panoramic restaurant at Cairo Tower.

TRAVELLING INDEPENDENTLY VS. WITH AN ORGANISED TOUR

We have travelled all Egypt independently and not with a tour, however we did book a 2h tour with a private tour guide when we visited The Egyptian Museum. We believe that in the major historical sites, having a guide is the key because if you don’t know the history, you will be just walking around with no purpose.

Our guide from the Egyptian Museum Wael Ramadan Tolba – WhatsApp: +20 01001568101 or Email: waelsalouma@yahoo.com

He also does tours all around Cairo and Giza (not only The Egyptian Museum) so you can visit whatever sites you like with him!

We also met another tour guide Bob, with who we booked the private transport from the airport. We haven’t actually gone on a tour with him but during our journey from the airport he was explaining us everything about Cairo and told us many cool facts about the city. We learned so much from him in such a short time and had a great time reaching our apartment from the airport. So if you need a tour guide, we can also highly recommend Bob.

Bob – WhatsApp: +20 1128160086, IG: bob_tour_guide_egypt 

And now finally if you are looking for an organised tour from the beginning until the end of your time in Egypt, we highly recommend you to book it through MEDJET Travel & Tours. You can either choose one of their packages or you can tailor your entire trip with them. They are a big company that handles not only individuals but also big groups. We had the pleasure of meeting the owner of the company, Nader, who is also the owner of The Great Pyramid Duo Apartment & The Pyramid Duo Rooftop and we were very impressed by everything that he accomplished with MEDJET Travel & Tours! The next time we will be coming to Egypt, we will definitely book a tour with him and his company.

MEDJET Travel & Tours – Website: https://medjettravel.com IG: @medjet.travel WhatsApp: +20 1288005080

Travelling Egypt independently might give you more freedom, which we mainly needed for creating content but it can also give you a big headache at times! It definitely isn’t for everyone. We both agreed that if we weren’t content creators and didn’t need so much time taking pictures and videos, it would have been easier to travel with a tour. Especially if you book a private tour, you can tailor everything according to your wishes!

We do not discourage you to travel Egypt independently as we did have a great time, but we do highly recommend to hire a guide at least at the main historical sites so you can learn all about the history. Because let’s be honest, that’s the most important aspect of your trip to Egypt!

TRANSPORTATION

If you are travelling independently, the best way to get around Cairo is with an uber. It is the most affordable uber experience we had in our entire life. We were literally taking a 45min drive for only 3EUR and couldn’t believe it. In our opinion it is also the safest way to get around the city. If you want to use a taxi instead (which honestly at this point I don’t see the reason why you would), get ready for some negotiating and don’t get into the taxi before making sure you both agreed to the price.

Alternatively you could try to use the metro (which we haven’t done ourselves) but a little fun fact for you – Cairo Metro is one of the only two metros in Africa (with the other one being in Algiers, Algeria) and it is considered the 15th busiest metro across the globe!

CURRENCY

The local currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound. However it is one of the most unstable currencies in the world and it’s loosing its value day by day. Therefore every local in Egypt begs you to pay in USD or EUR, because that way they will get to keep the original value of your payment. Most of the time they also give you a lower price if you pay in dollars or euros and if you want to pay with the local currency they put the price higher because they know that already the next day they will have less money than you originally gave them.

For this reason we don’t recommend to exchange or withdraw a lot of Egyptian Pounds, because most of the time you will be able to (and asked to) pay in euros or in dollars, which anyway is a better thing for us tourists too. At the time we visited, all the major historical sites were accepting payment only by card, but we also heard that this rule is constantly changing.

In this blogpost I shared prices of everything in EGP and in EUR as of November 2023. But for more accuracy, take the EUR price into account as the EGP changes rapidly all the time.

Look at the drop of the value within a week!

AVOIDING SCAMS

Now let’s talk about the less glamorous side of visiting beautiful Egypt. As a tourist you can get scammed probably in every country but it seems like in Egypt it’s way more than anywhere else in the world. You really have to be paying attention 24/7 of your time here.

I will give you one advise and after reading it, you should be able to discover almost 90% of the scams happening in Egypt.

WHOEVER COMES UP TO YOU AND FOR WHATEVER REASON THEY ARE TELLING YOU, IT’S ALWAYS BECAUSE THEY WANT MONEY FROM YOU.

Never ever underestimate this and think they are just trying to be nice (for free). NO THEY ARE NOT!

If someone offers to take a picture of you in front of the pyramids – it’s because they want money in return. If someone is telling you to take picture of THEM – it’s because they want money in return. If someone is telling you that they know the best spots, viewpoints, a secret spot with no tourists etc. – it’s because they want money in return for showing it to you. Never follow them anywhere. At the airport there will be people trying to take your bags and ask money in return so don’t let them take your bags, unless you want them to help you of course. But then prepare yourself to give them some money. I could go on and on… But you get the point. So just politely refuse and walk away. They will be insisting and asking you multiple times which can get really annoying, overwhelming and tiring at some point, but you will just have to get used to it.

If you are travelling with a tour or you are having a private tour guide, they tend to let you be and don’t bother you as much as when you are alone, because the tour guides always tell them off.

But be careful especially at the Pyramids of Giza because there are many locals with fake IDs pretending that they work there or that they are official tour guides. They are not. If you want a tour guide, book one upfront, before entering the pyramids.

Also ALWAYS double check the change they give you as it happened to us multiple times that they gave us less change hoping that we wouldn’t notice. The same goes for card payments. Just always check before you put your pin if the price is the one you are supposed to be paying.

TIPS

Just like in the USA it’s expected to give tips for basically any service. In the restaurant, to your tour guide, to the taxi driver, to the hotel employees etc. When the service is good, we are happy to give an extra tip but some people are asking for tips without providing any service to you so be careful with that, but that goes right back to the “scams” topic.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Generally the best time to visit Egypt is between October-April. We have visited mid November and it was still 30+ degrees during the day, which is great if you are visiting the Red Sea towns like Hurghada, Marsa Alam or Sharm El Sheikh, but for sightseeing it was still a bit too hot. At least for us 😀

TRAVEL INSURANCE

We recommend to book a travel insurance for every trip as you never know what could happen. It’s not easy to deal with any kind of problems when you are abroad, so it’s definitely worth it to be covered and travel with peace in mind.

We use IATI travel insurance and you can book yours through our link and receive 5% discount.

Book here if you are from EU: https://www.iatitravelinsurance.com/en-eu/?r=96181493877707

Book here if you are from outside EU (rest of the world): https://www.iatitravelinsurance.com/en/?r=96181493877707

We hope this blog post was helpful to you and you are gonna have a great time while exploring beautiful Cairo and Giza. For more pictures and videos check out our IG story highlights (Cairo & Giza) and our reels/feed posts. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment bellow or contact us via email or even better via Instagram @borntotraveldiaries. Thank you for your time and stay tuned for our next diary page 🙂.


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