How to spend a day in Cairo

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To truly explore Cairo, you will most definitely need more than 24 hours. Our Egypt tours take this into consideration and make every effort to fit all of the main sights into your itinerary – we don’t want you to miss out.

If you need some inspiration for how to spend a free day in Cairo, continue reading below.

Marvel at the pyramids

We know you that you flew all the way here to snap some Instagram-worthy photographs with these iconic landmarks. That is why our Egypt tours waste no time in visiting this ancient site on the outskirts of Cairo.

These vast man-made structures are built from stone blocks and covered in limestone. The largest of the pyramids, Khufu sits next to the Menkaure and Khafre pyramids. These famous monuments are synonymous with Egypt and those who wish to, can climb down inside them and explore the inner chambers (a limited number of tickets are available for the Great Pyramid).

You will be escorted around the area by a local guide and for an even better photograph; you can ride on a camel in front of these popular tourist attractions.

Spot the Sphinx

Proudly perched by the pyramids on the Giza Plateau, the Sphinx is an architectural wonder to behold. This limestone statue is as famous as the pyramids and was thought to have been constructed by the Ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, the Sphinx is inspired by a mythical creature and its face is thought to represent the Pharaoh Khafre.

When travelling on one of our Egypt tours, we highly recommend that you book to view the remarkable sound and light show that takes place at the Giza Plateau. After the sun has set, the desert is illuminated with flashing lasers and a narrator will tell you tales of Ancient Egypt.

Wander around the Egyptian Museum

Located in central Cairo, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is the largest museum in the region. This enormous edifice is home to 120, 000 artifacts with displays scattered over 2 main floors. This museum was built in 1835 close to the Ezbekeyah Garden before it was later moved to the Cairo Citadel. As you explore further, you will see the world’s greatest collection of Pharaonic antiquities

There are an overwhelming amount of artifacts to tick off, but your expert guide will be there to escort you through the exhibitions. The main highlight of this excursion is the display of Tutankhamen – an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. This king’s golden tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings surrounded by 5,000 treasures. You can also look at the king’s renowned death mask up close.

If you need a breath of fresh air, you can walk around the charming garden outside. This serene place serves as a memorial to Egyptologists from around the world.

Explore the Citadel

When you arrive in Cairo and are taken to your hotel, you will have plenty of free time to unwind or join an optional tour. If you want to head straight to the city centre, you can take the city tour led by one of our expert guides. This tour begins with a visit to the Saladin Citadel of Cairo. Set on Mokattam Hill, near to the centre of Cairo, this Islamic fortification stands out on the eastern skyline.

The Citadel is awash with culture and you can enter an assortment of palaces, museums and mosques. From certain points, you can soak up beautiful views of the rooftops and the city. Created by Saladin in 1176 and set on a limestone spur, the Citadel served as a fortification against the crusaders. It was also the home of the Egyptian rulers for 700 years. In 1976, UNESCO declared this a memorial of historical warfare.

Walk through the Bab al-Futuh Gateway

When you make your way into the city, you will notice the prominent Bab al-Futuh Gate. This imposing entrance is also known as the Gate of Conquest and is 1 of 3 remaining gates in the walls of the Old City. Your guide will point out the intricate patterns and motifs spread across the building and the 2 towers.

Built in 1087, this gateway was constructed by Commander Vizier Badr al-Jamali of the Fatimid Caliphate. Its purpose was to mark the northern boundary of the Fatimid City. In ancient times, pilgrims would pass through this gate every year. On the other side of the gate is a labyrinth of backstreets and bazaars selling pottery, fabric, metalwork, jewelry and spices.

Shop at the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

All of your souvenirs can be bought at this souk in the historic centre of Islamic Cairo. This lively bazaar is one of Cairo’s major tourist attractions so prepare for the crowds. On our Egypt tour we will give you plenty of time to do some purchasing. Resting on the burial site of Fatimid Caliphs, this marketplace is now filled with Egyptian merchants, food vendors, coffee shops, eateries and traditional workshops.

After you have done some browsing and buying, the tour will settle down at a local coffee shop to rest your feet. Here, you can sip on a cup of Arabic coffee and try a shisha pipe. That evening, the tour will also indulge in a local dinner and you can taste Egypt’s unofficial national dish – kushari. Dating back to the 19th century, this blend of rice, tomato sauce, onions, chickpeas and cumin is hearty and delicious.

Seek serenity in Coptic Cairo

This section of Old Cairo is on the itinerary and features the Coptic Museum, the Babylon Fortress, Coptic churches and other religious structures. It was believed in the Christian tradition that the Holy Family frequented this area before the Islamic era. During this time, Coptic Cairo was a refuge for Christianity in Egypt.

This pleasant spot scattered with historic buildings dating back to the 6th century B.C. calls for ample meandering. As you walk, your guide will show you interesting sights like the Ben Ezra Synagogue where baby Moses was believed to have been found and one of the oldest and most important Islamic monuments in Egypt, the Mosque of Amr Ibn El-Aas. On the tour, you can light a candle inside the Hanging Church – a spiritual haven and one of the oldest constructions in Coptic Cairo.

Gaze at the Mohamed Ali Mosque

This striking mosque, towering over the summit of the citadel was the largest to be built in the first half of the 19th century. You will definitely not miss this shrine with its elaborate turrets and ornate profile. This Ottoman mosque was erected in memory of Muhammad Ali Pasha’s son between 1830 and 1848.

As this shrine makes use of a large amount of stone on the walls and interior surfaces, it is also referred to as the ‘Alabaster Mosque’. Your guide will tell you how and why this mosque does not have a similar design to the other religious structures in Cairo. Often regarded as a symbol of Cairo, this important Islamic monument will be visited by our Egypt tour and you will get to see it up close.

Relax on a Nile Cruise

After a busy day of sightseeing, taking to the calm waters of the Nile River is just what you need. This lengthy waterway is the longest river in Africa and runs from north of the Equator to just north of Cairo. The banks of the Nile provide a perfect escape after venturing around a city of 18 million people. From a comfortable cruise boat, you can see the city from a different angle.

Our Egypt tour suggests going for an optional dinner cruise on either your first or last night in the country. As the temperature becomes cooler and the buildings light up, you can tuck into a scrumptious feast of local treats.

To discover more about this excursion, have a look at this blog post.

Witness an Al Guri Sufi show

The last night of many of our Egypt tours will conclude with a traditional Al Guri Sufi show. This vivid spectacle of colour, music, percussion and dervish-inspired dance is bound to leave a lasting memory of your trip. This show takes place twice a week and is held at a 16th century marketplace called Wikalat al Ghuri.

This beautiful space is positioned opposite a mausoleum and a mosque of the same name. The marketplace is set around a central courtyard that boasts ornate arches, a domed roof and Islamic architecture. This is one of the best-preserved examples of this type of building in Cairo and a special place to celebrate your final evening in Egypt.

 

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