I am a normal human being-I have wanted to visit the Pyramids in Egypt since I was old enough to KNOW about the Pyramids in Egypt. Since then I have had many warnings, read many peoples accounts of bad experiences in Cairo and finally, got the chance to go and see for myself. What I discovered in Cairo exceeded all of my expectations, from my friends warm greeting at the Cairo Airport and back again to the Egyptian man at the terminal exclaiming “where are you from? Canada? Mashallah beautiful! So beautiful!” on my departure. Cairo left me with nothing but beautiful memories and a fondness for the lovely Egyptian people. Read on for my travel experience in this historic city as well as my Cairo travel tips!
The actual site where the Pyramids and Sphinx are located is so much bigger than I expected. When we arrived we found ourselves a great guide on the ground who was just amazing with his knowledge of the site as well as his help getting the absolute best pictures with the pyramids. We were able to climb on to the pyramid and take pictures and it was just an all around magical time. A bucket list, life long dream moment.
Our great guide was so knowledgable and took us to a beautiful gallery that made art from traditional papyrus paper.
The lady at the gallery showed us how the paper was made and we picked out a few great pieces and were able to get them customized with personal hieroglyphics. You can buy cheap knockoffs of papyrus paper in the souk, so be sure to find a gallery that hand makes the authentic stuff. This is where having an Egyptian guide really comes in handy.
Khan El-Khalili Souk is the major souk in the Islamic district of Cairo and it is so beautiful in its history and cultural significance. Be prepared to get lost and enjoy wondering through the streets. It is a great place to find cheap tourist souvenirs and gifts or something uniquely Egyptian.
I loved the bustling vibe of the souk and I absolutely adored having tea at El Fishawy, a historic cafe in the middle of the souk. The experience was everything you could hope to expect in Cairo, a bustling crowd, beautiful mint tea and vendors walking past your table selling you beautiful scarfs, souvenirs and other goods. You absolutely cannot visit Cairo without coming to Khan El-Khalili and El Fishawy Cafe.
The Nile is the heart of Cairo and being able to experience it in the evening on a party felucca boat was something so fun and special. You can negotiate the price for a ride on one of these lit up boats (we got 30min for 80 Egyptian pounds-about 5 dollars but I suspect that price would increase exponentially if I wasn’t with Egyptians) and they will take you down the nile with music and beautiful views of the Cairo river bank all lit up.
Arab women know beauty. Whether it be the extravagant makeup for their extravagant weddings, or hair, nail and beauty treatments for everyday life, you will be sure to always come across the new and latest beauty techniques and processes when in the Middle East.
Doria convinced me to (finally) get my hair straightened while in Cairo-a procedure that would have cost me about 1000$ in Montreal and was impossible to turn down at around 100$ CDN here. I really couldn’t be happier with the results. Hopefully in the future I will have the opportunity to make a full Egypt beauty guide because the prices and services offered here are just too good. As a woman I would have to say it would be worth the trip to Cairo just to treat yourself to some beauty treatments 🙂
Cairo Travel Tips
- Travel with an Egyptian! I cannot stress this tip enough! Traveling with an Egyptian will give you a completely different experience than going in as a westerner with a western mentality. It is not only for haggling in the Souk, everything done in Cairo is done in a distinctly “Egyptian” way, from the driving to parking, to getting a taxi and visiting the tourist attractions. It is incredibly foreign for a westerner (even a well traveled one) to be able to adapt right way to the pace of Cairo life as well as the interpersonal way in which every interaction in Cairo is done. #1 tip, get an Egyptian guide to accompany you throughout your trip or better yet get some Egyptian friends! 🙂 The beauty of my trip was being able to stay with my Egyptian friend and her family who truly made this trip, one of my most memorable of 2016.
- Double or triple your estimated travel time. The traffic was the only negative thing that I encountered in Cairo. It was BAD. Understanding this and accepting it will positively impact your visit to the city. Don’t cut it close when getting to the airport and make sure to plan accordingly when traveling throughout the city. If you come in expecting it and embracing it, you can still get some great pictures of the city while waiting in Cairo traffic.
- Consider staying outside of Cairo. My friend who I was visiting in Cairo lives in the 6th of October Suburb, an amazingly modern and developed area that many tourists coming into Cairo will miss. The commute to 6th of October is long from the airport (expect 2 hours in heavy traffic) but it is worth it to see a part of Cairo that is reserved for the local upper class Egyptians as well as international expats. Christmas Markets, beautiful restaurants, developed malls and a refreshingly laid back attitude distinguishes this area from central Cairo and it is worth it to consider staying in this area if you think the hustle and bustle of central Cairo might be too fast paced for you.
Cairo is one those cities you absolutely must visit before you die, not only for the history and culture but to be welcomed by the amazingly friendly Egyptian people. Plan well. Know an Egyptian friend or tour guide and get yourself emersed in the unique and fun culture that makes up Cairo night life.
Here is my emotional departure from Cairo-in an uber-with a beautiful view of the pyramids (I cried lol)
I cannot recommend this destination enough and absolutely cannot wait to return to my beautiful Cairo <3