Cairo: 7 Reasons To Visit Now

Cairo has been on our travel bucket list for years, but the timing was never right. The instability of the 2011 and 2013 revolutions felt too unpredictable and dangerous to take our young children. Egypt received ample negative publicity since 2011, but despite the turbulent past, we were excited to stop in Cairo on our 2018 trip to the Middle East and take in the historical sites and vibrant city life. We based ourselves on the island of Zamalek in the heart of the city, and welcomed 2019 from a rooftop party in Cairo overlooking the River Nile.

new year in cairo from zamalek with shadi alfons new year in cairo from zamalek

We shared this exciting dusty city with 19.5 million of our closest friends.  Cairo is incredible!

pyramids of giza in cairo egypt riding camels pyramids of giza in cairo egypt

Here are 7 reasons to visit Cairo now

1. Cairo is Safe

When we told friends we were spending three weeks visiting five Middle Eastern countries, they thought we were insane.  Tourism to Egypt hit an all-time high in 2010, but dropped significantly after the 2011 and 2013 revolutions, and has yet to fully recover. Egypt is perceived as unstable and dangerous, however the political situation has now stabilized and tourists are flocking back to this historic city.

pyramids of giza in cairo egypt

Egyptians are extremely welcoming to tourists. In fact they were almost grateful we were there and wanted us to spread the word that Cairo was safe and open for business again! We felt extremely safe at all times, and it’s very apparent, by the massive security presence and check points at the historical sites, they do not want a problem with Americans on their watch.  Like any big city you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, negotiate your taxi price BEFORE getting into the car, and leave the flashy jewelry at home.  According to Forbes, “Security is number one now in Egypt. All tourist sites are fully secured inside and out.”

2.  The Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum is located on Tahrir Square and it’s easy to imagine the chaos of the revolution when you approach this busy location. There’s nowhere in the world where you can see so many Egyptian artifacts in one place.

the egyptian museum cairo egypt

It’s easy to purchase entrance tickets when you arrive, and there’s an extra charge for the mummy exhibit and also to take pictures inside the museum.

The museum is divided into two floors. The first floor is dedicated to the three dynasties, and the second floor is dedicated to King Tutankhamun.

cairo Egypt museum cairo egypt museum with mummies

King Tut was 19 years old when he died and was buried with large amounts of treasure. Viewing the Tutankhamen exhibit artifacts recovered from his tomb was pretty spectacular and we were able to see his famous death mask and throne.  Egyptologists differ on what killed King Tut and recent tests on his mummy show he suffered from malaria.

king tut museum, cairo king tut exhibit in cairo egypt

Our highlight was the Royal Mummy Hall containing the most important Egyptian Kings and Queens. Each mummy lies in a temperature-controlled case, and you can clearly see their toe nails, teeth, finger nails and hair. King Ramses II reigned for 67 years, fathered more than 100 children and is very well preserved. It’s a strange feeling looking at the almost perfect remains of a person who lived over 3000 years ago. We only had three hours to spend here, and could have used a full day to truly appreciate this museum.

egyptian museum on tahrir square, cairo Egypt

3.  The Pyramids of Giza

The Pyramids of Giza are the only surviving standing structure of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and we were ecstatic to finally visit!  We arrived early in the day to avoid the intense heat and crowds, and negotiated for a camel and guide to take us around the pyramids.

pyramids of giza on camels in cairo pyramids of giza on camels in cairo pyramids of giza on camels in cairo

The sheer magnitude of these structures is incomprehensible and seeing them in person was incredible. They are massive, and you can’t help but wonder how on earth the Egyptians built them over 4000 years ago!

** Be sure to bring a hat, water, and plenty of sunscreen as there is zero shade.**

pyramids of giza on camels in cairo
Of course we had to stop for the prerequisite cheesy tourist pictures!

Our camels slowly walked around all of the pyramids, stopping for the best pictures. We were able to climb into the inner chamber of the main pyramid. It’s a steep climb into the tomb, and you have to crouch down low pretty much the whole way.

inside the pyramids in cairo

This is deep inside the inner chamber of the pyramid

If you are even slightly claustrophobic, this is not for you. It’s hot, stuffy, dark, crowded, and at many points there’s only room for a single person to pass. We climbed to the top room to see the large stone sarcophagus. After we climbed back down and out of the stifling pyramid, we were dusty, hot, and ready for a cool beverage.

family at pyramids of giza on camels in cairo pyramids of giza on camels in cairo

4.  The Great Sphinx

The Pyramids and The Great Sphinx go together hand in hand, and can be viewed from the same location. The Great Sphinx is built of limestone and is 240ft long, 66ft from the base to the top of the head, and 62ft across.

sphinx in cairo, pyramids of giza sphinx in cairo, pyramids of giza in egypt wiht family

A sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It’s unknown who built the Sphinx, but it’s widely believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre.  Regardless, The Great Sphinx has stood guard over the three remaining pyramids for over 45oo years, and it’s hard not to soak in the history of this impressive monument we have all grown up reading about in books and watching on TV.

5.  Delicious Food

Middle Eastern cuisine is filled with fresh veggies, beans, lentils, delicious spices and lots of olive oil. Meats are typically grilled, and one of our favorite dishes is shawarma. Juicy slices of meat carved from a slowly revolving skewer, and added to a bread pocket with salad and sauce.  Amazing!

bread in cairo

Aish Baladi is an ancient Egyptian Flatbread similar to pita bread, made with 100% Whole Wheat flour and is Vegan.  It looks a lot like pita bread but it’s unique to Egypt, and found everywhere.

Aish Baladi bread in cairo egypt

Pigeons are a delicacy in Egypt, traditionally served in a rice dish.  Our rule is we must sample the local delicacies, and it was actually delicious. I hate to sound corny… but it tasted like chicken! 😉

6.  Khan El Khalili Flea Market

Khan El Khalili is the oldest flea market in Cairo dating back to 1382, and is located deep in the Islamic area next to a beautiful mosque.

mosque in cairo

Julian wanted to shop for souvenirs, so we took a taxi to this old market and were dropped outside the beautiful mosque. Hearing the call to prayer in that environment was incredible, and we wandered around the huge market shopping and exploring.

Khan El Khalili markets and mosque in cairo Khan El Khalili markets and mosque in cairo

We attracted quite a bit of attention since we were not in a typical tourist section of Cairo, but we felt completely safe as we bartered for our treasures.

7.  Driving in Cairo

Driving in Cairo is crazy!  There are no traffic lanes (or people don’t use them), no crosswalks, no speed limits, and only a handful of traffic lights. Over 19 million people live in this dusty city, so you can imagine the roads. They felt comparable to Delhi. Honking is a way of life on the roads of Cairo, it’s comical, and I’d suggest you sit back and enjoy the show.

traffic in cairo

driving in cairo

Because there are no crosswalks in Cairo, it’s quite precarious when you need to cross the road.  The four of us linked arms and slowly shuffled across the hectic roads as cars swerved around us.  Fortunately drivers are used to people crossing and will stop if they have to. Cairo traffic is not for the faint of heart at all.

driving in cairo egypt

In conclusion, visiting Cairo was one of our most memorable cities we have ever visited and we are trying to find time in our schedule to go back and explore more of Egypt.  We LOVED it and recommend you move Egypt to the top of your travel bucket list now!

10 Tips for Visiting Cairo

  1. Purchase travel insurance just in case.
  2. Carry hats, sunscreen and water at all times, it is very hot.
  3. Negotiate for camel and taxi rides before you begin.
  4. Do not ask the price of something unless you are genuinely interested in purchasing it.
  5. Friendly bartering is part of the experience.
  6. Driving in Cairo is crazy! I’d advise only driving with a native of Cairo or in a taxi.
  7. Carry hand sanitizer and tissues. Cairo is extremely dusty and many bathrooms do not have toilet paper
  8. Respect the culture and dress appropriately. If you wander around in skimpy shorts and a t-shirt, you WILL attract unwanted attention.
  9. Expect to see many teenagers carrying semi-automatic weapons.  There is security at every hotel, embassy and tourist attraction.  Follow their directions and you won’t have a problem.
  10. Egyptians are friendly and might look different to Americans, but if you smile at them in the markets and on the streets I promise you’ll be greeted with a warm, authentic hello.

pyramids of giza on camels in cairo

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising feral wolves teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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