Cairo, Egypt: how to get there, what to see, where to go
Located on both banks of the Nile, Cairo is not only the capital of Egypt, but also the largest metropolis of the African continent. Not as popular with tourists as the resort regions of the country, this city, however, attracts connoisseurs of history, as well as those who want to feel the real spirit of the eastern state.
1. How to get there?
Finding a package tour to Cairo is not an easy task. Unfortunately, most tour operators undeservedly deprive this promising direction of attention, relying on fans of a beach holiday.
True, almost all resort towns offer excursions to Cairo, but they last, as a rule, no more than two days. This time is categorically not enough to properly explore such a large, colorful and original city. Therefore, those thinking about the trip should consider options for organizing it independently.
You can get to the Egyptian capital by plane. Regular flights of several airlines are made to Cairo airport from Moscow, Mineralnye Vody, Grozny, Orenburg and Perm. Upon arrival, travelers have several options for how to get to their accommodation.
• Taxi. The most expensive (sometimes obscenely expensive!) way. Local taxi drivers instantly figure out tourists and raise the price tag several times. If you still want to get to the place in comfort, you should choose a car equipped with a meter and not succumb to the persuasion of a taxi driver to go at a “fixed price”.
• Bus. Bus stops are located near terminal 1. From here you can go to any part of the city, having previously studied the flight schedule and found the right one. The interval between flights is small, on average, 20 minutes. Some routes operate around the clock.
• Shuttle. These are more comfortable than regular buses, which follow non-stop to a certain point. The trip on them will be faster, but also more expensive than on a regular bus.
• Transfer. The preferred option, however, in Cairo, it may be difficult to do so, since there are few package tours and, accordingly, transfers from operators. Not every hotel provides this service.
Cairo is a really big city, besides, moving around it is greatly complicated by heavy traffic. Therefore, the choice of place of residence should be approached with all responsibility. There are four main areas of interest to tourists in the city.
Actually, part of Cairo is Zamelek, located on an island in the middle of the main artery of the country, the Nile River. This area was created artificially, especially for tourists.
It is here that the best hotels, good restaurants and other tourist infrastructure are located. Due to the location near the city center, it is convenient to get to key attractions from here.
By the way, in Zamalek itself there is something to see, in addition to picturesque parks, bridges, a well-groomed embankment and an unusual view of the city. Here are several museums and palaces, the opera house, the Cairo Tower and the famous aquarium. And this area is considered the most calm and safe for visitors.
• Garden City
This area is the very heart of Cairo. The locals call it the Center. All major transport interchanges pass here, thanks to which you can get to any part of the city.
The area itself boasts wonderful panoramas of the Nile, an abundance of greenery and impressive architecture of ancient structures.
But the hotels here, in contrast to Zamalek, where there are many expensive, but not sparkling with novelty hotels, for the most part are new and comfortable. Among them you can find both options with high quality service, and budget, but decent accommodation.
• Coptic Cairo
A more budgetary area, located around the fortress of Babylon. In addition to the fortress itself, the Coptic Museum and the monastery of St. George are key local attractions, as well as several other iconic sites of early Christianity. Despite this, the area is in a rather deplorable state.
There are no luxury hotels and prestigious hotels, but a lot of unfinished housing. Coptic Cairo is also not rich in shops and entertainment, so tourists rarely stay here for a long time, arriving for 1-2 days, which is enough to view the relics.
Planned as an exclusive «white» area in which only Europeans were to live, Geopolis was generously endowed by designers with lush architecture.
However, after the failure of the project, the area gradually lost its visual appeal. Beautiful buildings with columns and stained-glass windows were lost among typical high-rise buildings, and most of the park areas were cut down and built up.
Nevertheless, the area is very clean and calm, the locals are friendly and welcoming, there is quality accommodation and well-developed infrastructure, which is why many visitors to Cairo prefer to stay here.
The original culture of Egypt, the fragrant spices of local markets, the finest fabrics and other delights of the East are, of course, wonderful, but most tourists go to Cairo precisely for the world-class sights located here.
• Pyramids of Giza
Perhaps one of the first associations that arises in a Russian person when mentioning Egypt is majestic structures, the walls of which have withstood the onslaught of nature for thousands of years, and the construction technology is still a mystery.
There are no pyramids in Cairo itself, but they are located in the immediate vicinity of it, in the neighboring city of Giza.
It is here that the three large pyramids of Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Khephren) and Menkaure (Mykerin), as well as a complex of eight pyramids of queens, are located.
- And, of course, the Great Sphinx living here is calmly watching what is happening.
• Hanging Church
One of the world’s oldest Christian churches, al-Muallaqah, is nicknamed «The Hanging One» because of its location above the gates in the wall of Old Cairo.
- To get to the temple, you need to climb the stairs, consisting of 29 steps.
The interior of the church is decorated with barrel vaults, the screens of the altar are inlaid with ivory, and the carved marble pulpit rests on 13 columns, symbolizing the 12 apostles and their Teacher.
• Coptic Museum
Surrounded by a beautiful garden that can be called a landmark in its own right, the Coptic Museum is located in the famous fortress of Babylon.
The museum exhibits samples of exquisite Coptic textiles, ivory carvings, paintings raised from villages that are now flooded by Lake Nassar, as well as papyri with gospel texts. The rooms of the museum are richly decorated with fountains, paintings and carved screens.
• Mosque of Ibn Tulun
- Islam is the most widespread religion in Egypt, and there are a lot of various mosques here.
But for those who do not plan to inspect the string of religious buildings, we can recommend stopping at this, the oldest mosque in the city.
Despite the scale of the structure, it looks light and elegant. During its construction, pointed arches, which later became classics, were used for the first time.
- For a fee, you can climb to the top of the minaret, which offers amazing views of the city.
• Cairo Egyptian Museum
It is in this museum that the original artifacts found during excavations in the country are collected.
- In the museum, in addition to the treasures of the pharaohs and the famous tomb of Tutankhamen, you can see household items, jewelry and other items from a long era, from ancient Egypt to the Greco-Roman phase.
In total, there are more than 100,000 artifacts in the exposition, so at least half a day should be allocated to visit the museum.
• Cairo Citadel
A huge fortress towering over the city is a favorite tourist attraction, its scale and historical value are almost equal to the pyramids.
- There are several interesting museums inside the church, and from the observation deck, a significant part of the city is visible at a glance.