The bustling metropolis of Cairo is a blend of history and modernity. Cairo’s busy, dusty streets and city centre contrast starkly with the haunting pyramids and rich history of this fascinating city.
Once upon a time, Cairo was known as the Paris of the Middle East and you can see the echoes of the French capital in the many heritage buildings of Cairo, which the former ruler, Ismail Khedive, tried to emulate when he remodelled the capital city.
The chaos and energy of the city is immersive and has its own charm. The rich history can be experienced through some of the best preserved ancient monuments in the middle east, and you can visit the towering pyramids, muse at the mysterious smile of the sphinx and lose yourself in the souks and marketplaces all within the same city.
From Cairo you can explore the rich history and culture of Egypt, past and present. Its history can be experienced in the sounds and heady smells of spices in the local bazaars, the towering pyramids and numerous museums with artefacts from the time of the pharaohs, and its modern heartbeat can be felt at Tahrir Square, the site of the Egyptian Spring uprising which shapes Cairo today.
Due to terrorist incidents in the recent past, tourism in Egypt has seen a steep decline and due to the fact that the political landscape has gone through many changes, it is advisable to consult your country’s travel warnings prior to planning a trip. As in many countries in the Middle East, you will find that Cairo always has an active travel warning. Trips to the pyramids and to some historic sites are usually conducted under the vigilance of a special police force often present at tourist sites and hotels. In 2018, tourism increased in the country and police presence means that risks at tourist sites are reduced.
On the whole, travelling around Cairo is pretty safe, even for female travellers. You need to be aware to blend in and wear modest clothes and female travellers will still attract some verbal catcalls and whistling, despite being modestly dressed. For your comfort, you can always hire a local guide, an affordable luxury, who will help you negotiate and read the situations around you as well as serve as a translator.
This guide is perfect for those who only have 48 Hours in Cairo – A 2 Day Itinerary. We will show you what to do in Cairo, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether its a weekend in Cairo or just a quick trip.
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How to get around Cairo
There are many ways to get around Cairo, the most popular and easiest method being the metro. The metro was constructed in the 1980s despite having been in the plans since the 30s. Every year they continue to expand the metro lines to serve different areas of the city. Though there were plans to introduce a metro card, they haven’t yet been implemented and you will have to buy individual metro pass tickets for each journey.
A word of warning to people who are claustrophobic, as Cairo is such a populated city, there are certain peak hours where the metro becomes overcrowded and any people who suffer from claustrophobia should avoid the metro during these rush hours.
Cairo also has Uber and Careem, two private car rental platforms which are reasonable and safe as a means of transportation around the city.
If you have a lot of time to kill, there is also a Nile Bus that goes down along the river, so if you’re not in a hurry and don’t mind the traffic, the Nile Bus is a good option. Alternatively, a new method of transportation will allow you to travel down the Nile itself! The Nile Taxi is a boat which you can hop on and wait for it to fill up before it sets off down the river, or pre-booked taxi boats which you can organise in advance for any time of the day.
Where to stay in Cairo
Paris Hostel – This charming hostel rates highly amongst tourists for its central location which is just 10 minutes’ walk from the Egyptian Museum. The staff are friendly and helpful and rooms are equipped with air-conditioning and balconies. There are double and triple rooms as well as a dorm, some of the rooms have shared facilities but all of the rooms include a delicious breakfast and WIFI. Rooms start at €32 per night.
Brothers Hostel – Well-known on the backpacker scene as a relaxed and clean hostel in the centre of Cairo, the rooms all come equipped with WIFI, air-conditioning and a continental breakfast. The hostel is in a superb location just 10 minutes’ walk from the Nile and the Egyptian museum. They also organise airport shuttle pickups for an additional cost and can even organise tours to visit the pyramids. The hostel also has an on-site laundrette so you can do your laundry whilst on holiday. Double rooms start from €27 per night.
Talisman Hotel de Charme – This charming boutique hotel may be a little difficult to find at first, being situated on the fifth floor of a rather non-descript building and accessed via an antique elevator, but has great staff, air-conditioned rooms that are very quiet and comfortable. It’s made to feel like home away from home. Prices start from €83 per night.
Longchamps Hotel – The hotel offers modern rooms that are well-decorated and stylish, complete with air-conditioning and has a Casablanca feel, as if you’ve stepped into the movie. The rooms are tasteful, large and comfortable and the staff are professional. Each room has a balcony which looks out over the city and is highly-rated by tourists. Prices start from €116 per night.
Osiris Hotel – This oriental-inspired hotel is incredibly cosy and homey and is situated in a quiet area despite being in the heart of Cairo. The hotel is just a short walk to the Egyptian Museum and the metro station. The rooms have air-conditioning and are clean, the hotel has a restaurant serving tasty homemade local food and a roof terrace where you can see the panorama of the city. Prices start from only €24 per night.
48 Hours in Cairo – A 2 Day Itinerary
Day 1 in Cairo
Wake up early and head to the Giza Pyramids just beyond the city of Cairo. You can visit the last standing ancient wonder of the world, the Pyramid of Khufu, you can also visit the Khafre, Menkaure and Queens Pyramids and even venture inside the narrow tunnels of the pyramid to see them from within. These incredible structures that date back to over 2,000 B.C. have mystified architects and historians alike for centuries with their precision and accuracy and are a wonder to behold. Heading there early will help you avoid the crowds, entrance into the pyramids cost 120 LE if you choose to go independently.
Nearby you can see the mysterious smile of the Great Sphinx, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Near the pyramid complex you can ride a camel and experience the glory of the pyramids from the top of one of these “ships of the desert”. Seeing the complex from a camel will allow you to see the sights quicker and have more time to visit the other attractions of Cairo and remember to haggle with the camel handler to ensure that you get a good price, though it seems like a touristy thing to do it is a fun experience, just be aware that you can get seasick on a camel!
A trip to the pyramids followed by a wander through the Egyptian Museum is a perfect way to continue with your exploration of Cairo. The museum is situated in Tahrir Square, which was the site of the Egyptian Spring uprising in 2011. This museum boasts over 160,000 historical relics and artefacts in its collection and you can get up close to mummies and discover the tradition and culture of one of the most fascinating civilisations on earth.
Visit one of Cairo’s oldest restaurants on Sharia Talaat Harb, known as Café Riche. This old-world café with its wooden façade was once the meeting place of Egyptian intelligentsia that would sip coffees and talk about the affairs of the world. From here you can visit Cairo’s tower, where you can see panoramic vistas over the whole city and finish off with a lazy boat ride down the Nile River at Sunset. Boats can be negotiated for around 150 – 200 LE for a private boat to take you for a one or two-hour river cruise, but remember that temperatures drop quickly at night and a jacket should be brought with you if you intend to stay out after sundown!
Day 2 in Cairo
Start your day with a big breakfast, Egyptian style! Head to the Arabiata to keep you fuelled for the day and enjoy a plate piled high with fried cheese, fried eggs, beans, falafel and more, shoulder to shoulder with the locals. This beloved chain of restaurants only cost LE40 and you will be energised for another day of exploration.
Today, we will explore the other side of Cairo, its Coptic Christian past in the heart of the city. The perfect place to start is by visiting the Hanging Church from the 7th century which was said to have been suspended of one of the original gates of Babylon. Marvel at the stunning Arabian style architecture and the beautiful mosaics in the Church’s courtyard. You can learn more by following up with a visit to the nearby Coptic Museum.
Head to the Muhammad Ali or Saladin Citadel where you can climb up the towers to catch the sweeping views of Cairo from above, followed up by a trip to the Mosque-Madrass of Sultan Hassan.
Have lunch in a nearby restaurant before heading to Cairo’s medieval bazaar from the 14th century known as Khan Al-Khalili. Once upon a time, this bazaar was the site of the tomb of Cairo’s founders and today is a market filled with spice sellers, gold and copper smiths and other wares. You can visit Midaq Alley, the setting for one of the Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz’s most famous works.
You can while away the afternoon by sitting and sipping coffee or smoking shisha in a small coffee shop and watching the world go by as Egyptians have done for centuries. There are excellent places in the market where you can savour the local street food at a steal! Try the local, Kushari, a street food dish made of rice, spaghetti, lentils, macaroni and chickpeas slathered in a deliciously spicy tomato sauce and scattered with fried onions.
For the perfect goodbye to Cairo, a visit to the Pyramids of Giza at night will reward you with a sound and light show. You can see the show from Abol Hoal Square, and it is entertaining and unmissable. Sometimes due to the political situation, shows may not be scheduled. Alternatively, catching a traditional belly dance show at the Almaz may be a great option to end your amazing 48 hours in the city.
Almaz is one of Cairo’s hotspots for nightlife and there is oriental music and a more relaxed atmosphere than some of Cairo’s other popular clubs. You can visit the club situated at the Swiss Inn Hotel and enjoy an evening of immersion in the local culture before bidding goodbye to Cairo, the perfect combination of past and present.
Tours to do in Cairo
This comprehensive tour is a guided one around the main sights of Cairo and even includes a camel ride, so if you prefer to relax and not worry about getting from one place to another you can join this tour with hotel pickup included.
This 8-hour tour is perfect for history buffs who want to explore Egypt’s past in greater depth, the guided tour will take you to visit the iconic pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley temple and the Saqqara necropolis. Tour includes pickup from the hotel and entry into some sights.
See the skyline from the Nile River and enjoy a two-hour cruise and a two-hour buffet dinner and live entertainment from a belly dancing and a Tanoura dance performance includes pick up and drop off from your hotel.
Recommend budget tours in Cairo
- Book online 9 Days 8 Nights with Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor With flight
- Book 2 days 1 night Luxor and Aswan and Abu Simble by round flight from Cairo
- Full-Day Tour from Cairo: Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis, and Saqqara
- 8-Hour Private Tour of the Pyramids, Sphinx, Egyptian Museum and Bazaar including Camel Ride and Lunch from Cairo
- Full-Day Giza Pyramids and Cairo Tour
- Nile Dinner Cruise in Cairo with Belly Dancing and Hotel Transfer
- 1-Hour Felucca Sunset Sail on the Nile in Cairo
- Downtown Cairo Half-Day Tour with Egyptian Dinner
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