You probably picture sand dunes and camels with some pyramids in the distance. Those pyramids must be the city of Cairo right?
This place is jam packed with culture. The pyramids are only a piece of this city. Like Luxor and Aswan in the South, Cairo is split in half by the Nile River. Because of the River there is some greenery, but the landscape reminds me of southern California and Arizona’s deserts, dominantly sandy and rocky. Cairo has a dusty haze hanging over the city much like Los Angeles has their signature floating smog. The city is extremely overpopulated with people and cars, and because Egypt is full of sand, the massive amounts of people stir it up 24 hours a day like a big dust bowl. At the end of each day after walking around the city, I can feel a dust buildup caked on my eyelashes in the shower.
The first thing you notice in the plane when descending into Cairo is the same sandy tan color throughout the many small to mid size apartment buildings. Houses are rare, it is common for families to live in apartments. Once landed and into the city, you immediately notice the massive overpopulation of people. Then you realize that those thousands of apartment buildings is the only way to cram that many people into one city! Therefore, car traffic is a 24/7 issue in Cairo. These photos are taken from the Citadel in central Cairo. So many apartment buildings.
All smiles from a few locals spotting an American In Egypt. Egyptians are patriotic and always seem pleased to see foreigners enjoying their country.
Don’t forget that Americans are apparently famous here! Expect to be asked many times from a local to have a photo taken with you!
Each person came up to me and said “Welcome to Egypt” and “Can we please take a photo with you”. It wasn’t just me; I met an American studying at the American University of Cairo, he said it happens to him quite often.
Traffic is never-ending here. The driving is simply insane in Cairo. It’s not uncommon for motorcyclists to cut across a busy intersection while cars are passing through. There’s no waiting for the lights; it’s a battle of who inches closer to who in order to back the other down and pass by. The traffic at midnight still looks like Los Angeles at 5pm rush hour. I know there’s a certain boasting from NYC and especially LA locals that claim they have the worst traffic. Regardless of time or day, trust me, those cities are nothing compared to the endless traffic of Cairo.
Mcdonalds, one thing from America that spills over into all cultures worldwide. It never fails to be spotted no matter where I go. But anyways back to the traffic.
Funny story, I once saw an ordinary van drive by on a busy highway. The driver was half outside the door, one hand holding his door fully open, one hand on the steering wheel. Another person was sitting in his drivers seat, because that’s how crammed they were in the van. I pictured him like a dog hanging out the car trying to catch some wind in his ears. He wasn’t even in his own seat, as the driver! Wish I took a photo.
Even on the airport tarmac they drive wild. I was taking off from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh and we were being bussed from the gate to the plane on the tarmac. I watched a truck and a luggage transporter come to an intersection. They inched up to each other, neither slowing down. The truck barreled through nearly missing the train, so the little transporter train had to slam on the brakes. Also the bus that we were in I watched the driver step on the gas, go outside the tarmac lines and pass another bus in front of us. We were on the Tarmac! Planes and heavy equipment were all around! It just shows how different cultural rules and regulations are in different countries.
Much like the driving here, people are walking in all directions and they’re stuffed close together. But I guess that’s not much different from the NYC subway or the trains in Rio.
It does get you from A to B, and it’s extremely cheap for Americans at 1 Egyptian pound (about $.20 per ride). Does not boast the cleanest stations, and sometimes the lights flicker. That being said, I have a neutral feeling about the metro here, compared to other metro systems I’ve used. It’s not great but it’s not all that bad. I didn’t use it a lot because I had a friends car or used Uber. Bottom line if you need to get around the city somewhere and are on a tight budget, use it. Like many other places in the city there are station signs in English, and you can download the Cairo Metro app, and the app is actually a very helpful guide.
Museum of Cairo:
The Museum of Ancient Antiquities. This place is huge. This museum alone was established in 1902. Many rooms filled with never ending artifacts. So many artifacts that they have some extra tombs just sitting outside lining the museum building. For this reason, after walking through for a couple hours became monotonous, for me at least. Regardless, this place is packed with thousands of years of history. The museum holds just over 120,00 artifacts in every corner of the museum. Also they have a separate room for artifacts of King Tutankhamen, the boy king which made such an impact on Egypt. I give this place a higher rating than a basic museum because of that exhibit, and they have a separate exhibit within the museum, The Mummy Room.
After paying a separate entrance fee you enter a special room where they have partially mummified bodies of kings within climate controlled glass casings from 6,000 years ago. It is possible to still see the face of these rulers without total deterioration because of the ancient Egyptian mummification process. King Ramses, his dynasty, King Thutmose and more. Those names may not mean much to you, but when you visit where they were buried thousands of years ago down south in Luxor, and see their mummified bodies in person you feel the significance they had to their time period. It’s like looking into the actual face of our current president 6,000 years from now.
It’s a roundabout near center Cairo with the Egypt flag planted in the middle. The president was in the building next to Tahrir square giving a speech so roads were blocked and security was all over. Nobody was allowed to take photos in the area because of this. We actually had to ask for permission to take this photo of me in the square; because there were armed forces and police all around.
This is the site of where the protesters gathered for the recent Egyptian Revolutions. I believe 2 million people gathered around and called for the impeachment of the president at the time in 2011. It has interesting history because of the deep and important significance to the city, alot of lives lost here during the recent revolutions all over politics.
More so recent history ties into the Cairo Tower. It’s worth looking into. You can go up to the top day or night and see a great view of surrounding Cairo. Right below the top observation deck they have a revolving restaurant; we ate lunch there and the food was outstanding.
It’s got a view from atop Mokattam hill near the center of Cairo. It was a fort built to protect the city. It is nearly 1,000 years old, and has tons of history; too much to list. It’s significance in Cairo’s history, the views of the city and the times it has been through made it an enjoyable experience for me. It has seen many battles. Inside it there are mosques, old war jails, current day museums, old war artillery, and a great view of the city. If you visit Cairo this will be the main attraction to visit after the Pyramids. Don’t forget to take your shoes off before entering the mosque!
This was perhaps the coolest night hangout spot in Cairo. It was my favorite by far, I just remember being so exhausted from the day to fully embrace it! It’s a back-alleyway gathering of different little tea & coffee shops and sheisha spots. It’s strung out in between historical buildings in Old Cairo, literally in their alleyways with dangling overhead Christmas lights and lanterns.
It’s got such a relaxed off the grid feel, as if you escaped the main touristy traffic areas. Of course, still it’s packed with people here. Undersized chairs and tiny coffee tables are everywhere lining the alleys, where people are sitting packed together with friends. I look up from my table and content people everywhere; drinking tea, smoking sheisha, eating snacks I can’t pronounce, having genuine conversations and overall adding to the invisible overhead community cloud of good vibes. Gotta say again it was one of my favorite places.
Pyramids of Giza:
A wonder of the world. Thousands of years old. Mysterious construction. Unlike anything else. The main attraction of Egypt.
Tall buildings can be very cool looking, but they exist all over the world. The Pyramids are the only of their kind, right here in Cairo. There are 3 large pyramids and a couple smaller ones. The thousands of squared stones that make up each pyramid are about the size of a Mini Cooper. I stood at the base looking up, wondering how they hoisted these stones up that high. It’s a lost technology; some people have their theories but I’m going to stay with the lost over time answer. The mystery and age here absolutely adds to the excitement and wonder of the Pyramids.
You can spend half the day here, taking hundreds of photos and trying to climb up the smaller pyramids without security catching you. Don’t forget about the Sphinx, the lying down statue of the cat where everyone lines up a kissing face at just the right angle. Many Egyptians are floating around looking to take a photo for you for tips, or ready to give you a camel ride around the land.
Im not going to get into a pitch on visiting Cairo to anyone. The main reason people have besides money is the idea of lack of safety here. My next post is covering all about that; in the meantime do your research outside of the American news channels and let that aid your decision.
I recommend this city to visit for the deep culture you will engage with and the significant number of things to do. Cairo allowed me to understand the idea that culture can vary so greatly, and I’m glad I was able to experience that.