Cairo is the largest and capital city of Egypt. It is situated on the Nile River and is famous for its rich history. Being the largest metro city in the Arab world, it has a population of approximately 21.3 million people (2021). The total area of Cairo is almost 3,085 square kilometers. The climate is a subtropical desert with mild winters and sunny hot summers. The lowest average temperature in winters is 9.5°C with an average high of 23℃ in summers. The best time to visit Cairo is between March-April and October- November.
We have made a list of 8 must-visit places in Cairo this year.
1. Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza are a must-visit place for everyone visiting Cairo. Located right on the edge of the city, these fourth-dynasty funerary temples have always been a mystery and have been wowing travelers for centuries. The Great Pyramid (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops or the Pyramid of Khufu) is the largest pyramid of all these, and its interior can be explored through narrow passages. Directly behind this pyramid is the Solar Boat Museum displaying one of the ceremonial solar barques which were unearthed from this area and then restored. Along with this is the Pyramid of Khafre (also known as the Pyramid of Chephren) which has an internal tunnel area that can be explored and a smaller Pyramid of Menkaure (Pyramid of Mycerinus). Guarding these temples is a pharaoh-faced and lion-bodied Sphinx which is one of the ancient world’s most iconic monuments.
2. Egyptian Museum
Cairo’s Egyptian Museum is one of the world’s great museums due to its amazing collection of antiquities displayed. Only a small fraction of the total holdings of this museum are actually on display due to limited space. This museum was founded in 1857 by Auguste Mariette, a French Egyptologist. If you have a tight schedule, head straight for the Tutankhamun Galleries. The treasures found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, son-in-law and successor of Amenophis IV are displayed here. The highlights here include the pharaoh’s lion throne (Room 35), his fascinating wardrobe collection (Room 9), and Tutankhamun’s death mask and sarcophagi (Room 3). In Room 4, you can find the Egyptian jewelry collection, which is so huge that you might not have seen so much jewelry in your lifetime. In short, this is one of the must-visit places in Cairo.
3. Al-Azhar Mosque
Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the earliest surviving mosques of Cairo which was constructed in 972 AD and is the finest building of the Fatimid era. It was bestowed with the status of a university by Caliph El-Aziz in 988 AD and is one of the oldest universities in the world. Currently, it is the leading theological center of the Islamic world. The main prayer hall is 3,000 square meters. The rear half part of the mosque was added by Abd el-Rahman, while the front part was part of the original building. From the central courtyard, you can get a complete panoramic view of the five minarets that cap the building.
4. Coptic Cairo
Within the walls of Old Babylon lies the small church-filled cluster of twisted laneways where the Roman Emperor Trajan built a fortress right along the Nile. In the main street, parts of Roman towers still preside. The Coptic Museum contains a lot of information on the early Christian period of Egypt and displays several finest collections of Coptic art. The 9th Century Hanging Church right next door displays some fine examples of Coptic architecture. The real highlight for Christian travelers is the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, where it is said that the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, and family took shelter during the massacre of male babies by King Herod.
5. Saqqara and Dahshur
The vast necropolis sites of Dahshur and Saqqara are home to several pyramids, located approximately 30 kilometers south of Cairo. The most popular tourist attraction of Saqqara is the Step Pyramid. However, the entire area is full of amazingly painted tombs as well. Saqqara has a huge area and a vast burial site. The excavations here continue to unearth and make headlines worldwide. Also, down the road are Dahshur’s Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid which are also worth visiting.
6. National Museum of Egyptian Civilization
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) is dedicated to portraying the entire story of the human history of Egypt under one roof. The museum opened in 2017 and has been increasing its inventory ever since. The most famous star attraction arrived in April 2020 when the Royal Mummies Collection was displayed here. There are 22 mummies displayed in its specially designed Royal Mummies Gallery, some of which include Ramses II & III, Hatshepsut, Seti I & II, and Amenhotep I.
7. Maze of Khan el-Khalili
The Khan el-Khalili bazaar of Cairo is one of the greatest shopping experiences in the whole world. It is a collection of small alleyways established as a shopping district in 1400 AD and still rings with the clings of silversmiths and metal workers. The surrounding alleys of the main street offer some of the best tiny stores and cultural workshops to pick up traditional products in Egypt. This bazaar will find everything ranging from antiques and metal lampshades to locally woven textiles. For shoppers, the main bazaar road of Al-Muski Street is one of the best places.
Located at the foot of the Mokattam Hills, Cairo’s Citadel was built by Saladin in 1176. Except for the Eastern walls, the old structure has disappeared with time. The most famous monument is the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, which is the main reason for visiting. Also known as the “Alabaster Mosque”, its white stone and tall, disproportionately slender minarets are one of the greatest landmarks of Cairo. Also, you can get an amazing panoramic view of the city from the Gawhara Terrace. For architecture lovers, a collection of half-hearted museums (National Military Museum, Carriage Museum, and the Police Museum) are a worthwhile visit due to the amazing architecture of the building.