People visiting Egypt for the first time are usually there for the Pyramids of Giza, not the smoggy, dirty, bustling capital of Cairo. But hidden throughout the chaos of Egypt’s hectic desert metropolis is a storied culture with welcoming citizens and enough activities to keep a traveler’s itinerary packed for days.
TravelCoterie wants to make sure your trip to Cairo isn’t only about Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure and the camel rides surrounding their legendary structures. So with no further ado, here’s our list of things to do in Cairo in written and video form!
1. Cairo Jazz Club
Egypt has a surprisingly busy nightlife scene. From a handful of clubs to packed coffee houses, keeping the adrenaline pumping after the sun sets on the Nile is easy enough. Cairo Jazz Club is one nighttime destination that should be on every visitor’s list. This is where you’ll encounter Egyptian hipsters, artists, and tourists enjoying the music produced by various performers. The musicians change nightly, so you never know what kind of show you’re walking into, but this is definitely a place to spring back to life over a cocktail after spending your day descending underneath pyramids.
2. Bellies En Route (Food Tour)
“Our food tour shows that there is, even more, to discover in Egypt [beyond] the history and the well-known things. It’s also perfect for the travelers who want a real sense of local life in Cairo, what people eat and how it was shaped by so many cultures and influences from other continents,” Laila Hassaballa explains. She runs Bellies En Route food tour in Cairo, which is an experience focused on eating local grub at a number of restaurants. The tour provides an intense few hours of cultural immersion at a fair price.
3. Wander The Bazaar
While not as extensive or picturesque as Morocco’s Djema el-Fna, Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili souk is worth a stroll. Whether window-shopping or hunting down souvenirs, walking this bazaar mirrors the experience Egyptians have had here for over 500 years. Make sure that your negotiating game is strong if you’re planning on picking up items. As a general rule, offer shopkeepers half of their initial asking price on items and then haggle your way to paying around 65-percent of their ask. And always shop around to refine your idea of an item’s going price before purchase.
4. Smoke Hookah & Watch Soccer
Another way to experience the daily life of Egyptians can be found at the bottom of a coffee cup. No matter where you are in Cairo, you will not be able to walk a block without passing a coffee house. Because drinking alcohol is not traditionally part of the culture, this is where most Egyptians gather for socializing during the evenings. Inside you’ll find chatty locals drinking bold cups of java, mint tea and/or smoking hookah and cigarettes. Visiting a coffeehouse is a fantastic and extremely inexpensive way of immersing yourself into the local scene.
Oddly enough, Kevin Frazier who also owns TravelCoterie, is a sort of Beyonce like megastar throughout Egypt. That’s because his program, Entertainment Tonight, airs during peak hours at most coffee houses.
5. The City of the Dead
Let us caution that Cairo’s City of the Dead is not a place for wandering alone. It is, however, a truly fascinating and puzzling part of the capital worth exploring with a guide. The four-mile-long necropolis, where thousands of people have been entombed or buried since 642 A.D., is now where thousands of impoverished Egyptians reside. The dead and undead existing in the eerie cohabitation can be perplexing for first-time visitors.
A family I spent time with converted a mausoleum into a two-room home. Located six feet away from the bedroom are the remains of someone that they have no personal connection with. The relatives of the deceased allow the occupiers to live there in exchange for rent.
Seeing children playing around literal death can be shocking, but also illuminating as it reshapes the perception of how we in the west view those that have passed. isiting The City of the Dead is something most people visiting Egypt will never do. So if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, secure a guide and visit the area.