Budget Cairo: how to make the most of Cairo on the cheap



Description:

Cairo is the largest city in Africa, and one of the most exciting cities in the world. There is loads to see and do here, and much of it can be done on a tight budget. Entrance costs don’t tend to be that expensive, though quickly add up. Your biggest savings, however, will come from how you get around, and where you choose to eat and drink. This trip has been designed to include the most important sights of Cairo, on as cheap a budget as possible. Saving money in Cairo means using the metro instead of taxis, lots of walking, and eating at the cheap, local joints. Luckily, these activities are some of the most pleasurable ones in Cairo, so you don’t need to feel you are missing out! You do, however, need to have a fair amount of stamina, and be prepared to let serendipity be your guide: Egyptians are very friendly, and you never know who you might meet around the next corner, or what incredible, half-forgotten monument you might stumble across. Travelling on a tight budget means you will have to stay in one of the cheap hostels, which are mainly located around Talaat Harb street in Downtown Cairo. Which is perfect, really, because this is exactly where you want to be – right in the thick of the action! Note that it's sensible to dress conservatively at all times in Cairo. This is essential, however, on days when you will be visiting mosques or churches.

user rating

Author: Nicholas Rowlands


Day 1 - Cairo


Start early and take the metro from Sadat station in Midan Tahrir to Giza Suburban station. This is as close as you can get to the Pyramids by metro, but you are now a much shorter (and cheaper) taxi ride away. You want to aim to be at the Pyramids before 9 am, in order to beat both the crowds and the heat.

Once at the Pyramids, take the time to explore the site fully. If you aren’t claustrophobic, it’s well worth paying the small extra fee to enter one of the pyramids. There isn’t really anything to see, but the sensation of being inside such a vast mass of rock is incredible. If your budget allows, make sure you also allow enough time to visit the Solar Boat Museum.

Once you are done, walk down to the Great Sphinx, which is included in the Pyramids ticket. You can either walk along the road that the tour buses use, or you can walk directly down from Chephren’s Pyramid, along the ancient stone causeway. Have fun playing with perspective when taking photos of the Sphinx: if you get your positioning right, you can appear to be patting him on the head, and even kissing him!

Spend some time wandering around the village next to the Sphinx, perhaps investigating some of the papyrus and perfume factories. Don’t buy anything though, unless you want to blow your whole budget! There are plenty of cheap restaurants in the area, where you can pick up a falafel sandwich for lunch. It’s possible to do a camel ride into the desert to see the Pyramids from afar: ask around the stable that dot the area, and you should be able to get an hour’s ride for much less than 50 LE.

Take a taxi back to Giza Suburban metro station, and hop on the metro to Opera station on Zamalek. Zamalek is a refreshingly green island, home to embassies, trendy shops, restaurants and bars. Walk north up Umm Kalthoum street, perhaps popping in to the Fish Gardens along the way. Continue on to busy 26th July Street, and check out the al-Sawy Cultural Centre. This modern space always has some free art exhibitions, and often plays host to cheap music concerts in the evening. These can range from heavy metal to classical oud, so pick up a brochure and see if anything takes your fancy! If you fancy splashing out, perhaps stay on Zamalek for dinner. Try a funky modern restaurant such as L’Aubergine, or – if you are determined to spend some money – the delectable traditional food at Abou al-Sid (note that reservations are often necessary here). Otherwise, head back Downtown and pick up a street snack, or eat at the Greek Club – reasonable prices in an atmospheric setting.


1

The Great Pyramid

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Giza Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 383 8823


2

Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


3

Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus)

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 383 8823


4

Solar Boat Museum

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


5

The Sphinx

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 383 8823


6

Camel Ride by the Pyramids

user rating

expert pick

Location:

FB stables
Gamal Abdul Nasser St
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 20 (0)16 5070288


7

Zamalek

user rating

Location:

Northern tip of Gezira island
Cairo, Egypt


8

Fish Garden

Location:

Umm Kulthum Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


9

Al-Sawy Cultural Centre

expert pick

Location:

26 July St.
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 27366178


10

L'Aubergine

user rating

Location:

5a Sayed El Bakry Street
12151 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 20 27380080


11

Abou el Sid

expert pick

Location:

157, 26th of July Street, just down from Diwan book store
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2735 9640 / +20 (0)10 100 8500
fax: +20 (0)2 3748 8109


12

Greek Club (The)

user rating

expert pick

Location:

21 Mahmoud Bassyouni Street
Midan Talat Harb
11111 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2575 0822


Day 2 - Cairo


Start early by taking the metro from Sadat station to Mar Girgis station, in the heart of Coptic Cairo. The station is directly opposite the interesting Coptic Museum, but if you don’t want to shell out for the entrance fee to the museum, it’s easy to while away the hours wandering around the beautiful cobbled streets of Coptic Cairo, without spending a penny! Make sure you visit the Hanging Church and the Cathedral of St George, before walking down the alleyway that leads to the picturesque, enclosed religion compound behind the main street. Here you will find numerous other churches, including the Church of St Sergius, where the Holy Family are believed to have sheltered. Don’t miss the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the oldest in Cairo, and take the time to check out the book shop that spills into the main alleyway: it’s one of the best places in Cairo to pick up books about Egypt, the Middle East, and different forms of religion. If you have time, it’s well worth visiting Amr Ibn al-Aas, the oldest mosque in Cairo. You can get there by walking along Mar Girgis street, or by wandering through the serene Coptic cemetery. You might also want to visit the craft shops along Mar Girgis street: the vendors are very friendly, and poking around the bric-a-brac can turn up some antique gems at bargain basement prices. There is also a covered souq called Souq al-Fustat on the right of Mar Girgis street, just before the mosque, which contains traditional craft-work. Grab a spot of lunch in one of the simple cafes on Mar Girgis street, before taking the metro back to Sadat station. There’s no getting around it, you are going to have to cough up the cash for the Egyptian Museum! The museum is absolutely spectacular, with ancient masterpieces scattered around with gay abandon. The problem is that it’s not that well laid out, or labelled, so you will benefit from a guide book if you have one. You could spend anything from two hours to two years exploring the museum, but whatever you do, make sure you don’t miss the diorite statue of Chephren and the bizarre Amarna art on the ground floor, and of course the treasures of Tutankhamen on the first floor. If you don’t want to spend the extra money to visit the mummy room, then check out the animal mummies instead, which are just as eerie. Spend the evening strolling around the streets of Downtown Cairo, and doing a bit of window shopping. You’re spoiled for choice with budget eateries here. Two of the best are Felfela on Talaat Harb street, or Abu Tarek on the corner of Ma’ruf street and Champollion street. Abu Tarek is a famous koshary restaurant: a unique Egyptian dish that is like a carbohydrate bomb. It’s a mixture of pasta, lentils, chickpeas and fried onions, served with tomato salsa and chilli. It’s tasty, filling, and very cheap. When you need to take your weight off your feet, nip into a local café for a hot drink, a game of backgammon, and perhaps a water pipe.


1

Babylon Fort

Location:

Mar Girgis Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


2

The Hanging Church

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Mar Girgis Street
Coptic Cairo
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


3

Greek Church of Saint George (Mari Girgis)

Location:

Mar Girgis Street
Coptic Cairo quarter
Cairo, Egypt


4

Church of Abu Serga (St Sergius)

user rating

Location:

Near Mari Girgis Street
(Downtown)
11728 Cairo, Egypt


5

Ben Ezra Synagogue

Location:

Coptic Cairo quarter
Coptic Cairo
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


6

Coptic Cemetery of Old Cairo

user rating

Location:

Religion Compound
Mari Girgis
11728 Cairo, Egypt


7

Amr Ibn el-Aas Mosque

Location:

Sidi Hasan al-Anwar Street
Fustat
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


9

Felfela

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Talaat Harb Street
11111 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2392 2833


10

Abou Tarek Koshary Restaurant

expert pick

Location:

16 Champollion Street, on corner of Maarouf Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2577 5935 / +20 (0)2 2576 1911
fax: +20 2 576 1911


Day 3 - Cairo


You don’t need to leave too early today, since you are going to spend all day around Khan al-Khalili, which is at its best once it’s livened up a bit. Either walk along Adli street (just off Talaat Harb), or take the metro from Sadat station, to Ataba. Ataba is a crazy local market area where, with a bit of hunting, you can buy anything you might conceivably want. From here you can easily walk to Khan al-Khalili, up Muski street. If you can’t find it, just ask a local for directions.

Spend some time exploring the chaos of the tourist bazaar, haggling for souvenirs, and trading jokes with the lively stall holders. Make sure you visit al-Fishawi coffee shop in the heart of the bazaar, and accompany your people-watching with a cup of thick Turkish coffee, and perhaps a water pipe.

Once you’ve had enough of the main bazaar, head north up al-Mu’izz li-Din-Allah street, to the west of the market. This street takes you past a series of stalls selling household goods and shisha spare parts, as well as the garlic market.

There are a wealth of beautiful Islamic monuments along this street that have been lovingly restored. Make sure you pop in to the Beit al-Souhaymi – a fine example of 17th Century Islamic architecture. Also make sure you visit the stunning al-Hakim mosque at the north end of the road.

Take your lunch at Zizo’s, a Cairo institution located opposite the northern gate. This spit and sawdust restaurant offers up the finest spicy sausage sandwiches in the whole of Egypt, no contest!

After this, retrace your steps past the Khan and continue heading south towards the Street of the Tentmakers and the medieval south gate, Bab Zwayla. Spend some time wandering around the beautifully restored Islamic monuments in the area, and check out the craftsmen making the traditional appliqué pavilions along the Street of the Tentmakers, a unique Egyptian craft. The vendors here are very friendly, and more than happy to chat about their work. Although still quite touristy, the prices here are much lower than in the Khan itself, and you can pick up some great bargains.

As the evening approaches, head once more to the main Khan al-Khalili bazaar. Check out the beautiful al-Azhar Mosque, seat of Egypt’s head Imam, and one of the most important mosques in the Sunni Muslim world. Return to the main square next to the Khan, Midan Hussein, and pop in to al-Hussein Mosque, the holiest mosque in Egypt.

Take your dinner at the nearby Egyptian Pancake House, making sure you arrive at the Wikala of al-Ghouri – behind al-Azhar Mosque – well before 8.30 pm. You are going to watch the Sufi dancing show: a colourful demonstration of the spectacular “Whirling Dervish” style of Sufi worship (strictly, the Whirling Dervishes are a Turkish Sufi sect), that will make you dizzy just by watching it! The show is free, and you have to make sure you are there in plenty of time in order to get a seat.


1

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Off Hussein Square
(Across from El Azhar Mosque)
11211 Cairo, Egypt


2

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

user rating

expert pick

Location:

El-Fishawi Alley
(Khan al-Khalili)
Cairo, Egypt


3

Beit Al Souhaymi

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Darb al-Asfar Street
Around Bab el Futuh
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 285 4509


4

Hakim Mosque (Al)

Location:

Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


5

Bab el-Futuh

Location:

El Muizz El Din Allah Street
Facing Al-Banhawi Galal Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


6

Zizo's

expert pick

Location:

1 Midan Bab al Futuh
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 2025926530


7

Bab Zwayla

user rating

Location:

Sharia al-Muizz el-Din Allah Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


8

Al-Azhar Mosque

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Al-Azhar Street
Opposite El-Hussein Square
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 59 3893
fax: +20 (0)2 59 3893


9

Al Hussein Mosque

expert pick

Location:

El-Hussein Square
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Tourist Information)


10

Egyptian pancake house

expert pick

Location:

Midan Hussein
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 2024505871


11

Wikalet al-Ghouri

Location:

Muhammad 'Abduh Street
11211 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2285 4509 (Tourist Information)
fax: +20 (0)2 2285 4363 (Tourist Information)


Day 4 - Cairo


Today you have a choice, depending on whether you want to explore more Pharaonic sights, or more Islamic ones. Either way, you will need to take a taxi.

If you want more of ancient Egypt, hire a taxi to take you to Saqqara. This is a huge site, and so offers good value for money. It’s home to the first pyramid ever built, and a number of tombs and other monuments. In contrast with the Giza Plateau, relatively few tourists visit Saqqara, so the site is a very atmospheric place to wander around. Make sure you take sun protection and plenty of water though, because there isn’t much shade.

Start out at the museum, to give you an overview of what you are going to see, before heading to the main site. As long as you have a map of the site, you don’t need to bother hiring a guide (though obviously it will be easier to appreciate the significance of what you are seeing). Spend some time exploring the area around the Step Pyramid and Funerary Complex of Djoser, before getting your taxi to take you to the tombs towards the north of the site. Make sure not to miss the Mastaba of Ti, whose detailed reliefs have provided Egyptologists with a wealth of information about everyday life in the Old Kingdom. The restaurant at the visitors centre at Saqqara is quite expensive, so you’ll probably want to wait until you get back to the centre of town before you eat.

If you fancy more Islamic monuments, hire a taxi to take you to the Citadel instead. Make sure you visit all three mosques there, because they each have their own unique personality. It’s best to start with the Mamluk one, then head to the Ottoman mosque (and the old fortress walls) before exploring the Citadel’s show piece – the huge, opulent mosque of Mohammed Ali.

Spend some time soaking up the incredible views out over Cairo that the Citadel offers – you can really understand why Cairo is known as the “city of a thousand minarets”. If it’s a clear day, you may be able to see the Pyramids again.

If the idea of uniforms, guns and carriages gets you going, it may be worth checking out the museums in the Citadel complex. There is a Military Museum, Police Museum and even a small Carriage Museum.

Once you are finished at the Citadel, get your taxi driver to drop you off at Ibn Tulun Mosque. Again, you could ask him to wait for you here if you want. Note that it is only a short walk from the Citadel to Ibn Tulun, if you fancy trying it: just head down al-Salbiya street, and don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

This huge mosque is considered to be the oldest in Egypt that has survived in its original form. Make sure you check out the floral friezes that run around the arches, because local legend maintains they were originally a part of Noah’s Ark. Climb the unique, spiral minaret for yet another perspective of Cairo from on high.

Next to Ibn Tulun Mosque is the zany Gayer-Anderson Museum, home to an eclectic collection of art and furnishings from all over the Near East. You do have to pay a fee to get in, but this is a great place to get some photos of beautifully restored, 16th Century Arabic architecture.

Note that if you want to, and your budget permits it, it’s possible to combine both the Pharaonic and Islamic options in to one long day.

Spend your final evening downtown. Find one of the cheap eats to begin your farewell to Cairo - Felfela, Abou Tarek and Fetatri Tahrir are all good options. After that, it’s a short walk to al-Horeya, downtown Cairo’s most popular watering hole, and a great place to finish your trip.


1

The Citadel

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Salah Salem Highway
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 512 9619


2

Citadel: An-Nasir Mohammed Mosque

user rating

Location:

The Citadel
Salah Salem Highway
11211 Cairo, Egypt


4

Citadel: Mohammed Ali Mosque

user rating

Location:

Citadel Historic Complex
Salah Salem Highway
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


5

Ibn Tulun Mosque

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Off 'Abd al-Magid al-Labban (Al-Salbiyya) Street
Ibn Tulun Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)


6

Gayer-Anderson Museum

user rating

expert pick

Location:

4 Maydan Ibn Tulun
Ibn Tulun Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 364 7822


7

Step Pyramid of Saqqara

user rating

expert pick

Location:

North Saqqara
(32 kilometres south of Cairo)
12561 Cairo, Egypt


10

Fatatri El Tahrir

expert pick

Location:

165 Tahrir Street, Bab El Louk
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2795 3596, +20 (0)12 5699 793


13

Saqqara: Mastaba of Ti

user rating

expert pick

Location:

North East of Serapeum, Saqqara
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)


15

Horeya

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Midan el-Falaki
Bab el-Louk
Cairo, Egypt


© 2014 NileGuide.com   ·   Blog   ·   Facebook   ·   Contact Us   ·   About Us   ·   Privacy Policy   ·   Terms & Conditions