No trip to Egypt is complete without visiting the city the locals call Umm al-Dunya (‘The Mother of the World’). One of the great megacities, Cairo is not for the faint hearted. Home to some 20 million people, it is chaotic, dirty and noisy, yet somehow still manages to be beautiful, magnificent and quite irresistible at the same time.

Cairo’s boundaries are difficult to define. The main tourist neighbourhoods include Downtown, where you’ll find modern landmarks like Tahrir Square and also the vast Egyptian Museum, chock-a-block with royal mummies and treasures retrieved from the tomb of Tutankhamun; Islamic Cairo, the historic core of the city, and Coptic Cairo, a Christian stronghold before the Islamic period.

Among the many must-see sights are the Al-Azhar Mosque, renowned as a place of Muslim worship and learning; the 187-metre high Cairo Tower and the 7th century Hanging Church, one of the oldest Christian churches in Egypt.

No visit to Cairo would be complete without a day trip to the Pyramids of Giza, one of the most famous ancient sites in all of Egypt, if not the world. Located approximately 13 kilometres southwest of the city centre, the site opens daily at 8am from October to March and 7am between April and September, so get there early to avoid the crowds.

Cairo is also a shopper’s paradise with literally hundreds of different souks and bazaars to explore. The most celebrated of these is Khan Al-Khalili, a sprawling market in the heart of Islamic Cairo established in the 14th century. For a respite, head to the city’s most famous coffee shop, El-Fishawi, located in the heart of the souk.

The most popular places to stay in Cairo are those that offer green spaces, rooftop terraces with Nile views or which capture the essence of this incredible city, such as Le Riad Hotel de Charme. Designed to celebrate and reflect the history and style of Old Cairo, this luxury boutique hotel is located in the heart of Islamic Cairo facing the famous Beit el Sehemy with its exceptional old Ottoman houses.


Cairo has only two seasons: a very hot summer, with average temperatures reaching 35°C between May and October, and a mild winter from November to April when the temperatures average between 19°C and 29°C during the day. Cairo is very dry, but it does have high humidity levels in summer due to its location by the Nile.


Arabic is the official language in Cairo, and as such the most common language spoken throughout the city.


Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of entry into Egypt. British passport holders travelling to Egypt normally need a visa. Although it’s still possible to get a tourist visa on arrival, it’s better to get one before you travel. Apply online here.


Since January 2011 Egypt has experienced significant political turmoil and the political environment remains restrictive. For the latest official advice check here.

Take care of your passport and valuables. Use hotel safes and beware of pickpockets and bag snatchers.


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