Romantic Cairo: what do do with your lover in Cairo



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Cairo is an exciting, exotic, and endlessly fascinating city, yet not necessarily one of the most romantic: it’s simply too chaotic. Having said this, some of the tourist sights are quite romantic, especially if you have a thing for ancient history, and are lucky enough to avoid the huge crowds. There are also some high end restaurants that can offer the level of service and intimacy that a couple might be looking for. More than anything else, though, it’s the activities you do that determine the romance factor. This trip assumes you are in Cairo for the first time, and so want to see all the main sights, but that it’s just as important to spend some quality time with your loved one. In particular, the trip ensures you are in the right place at the right time each day to enjoy one of the most romantic experiences of Cairo – the spectacular sunsets. For a couple, the best play to stay in Cairo is in one of the expensive resorts out near the Pyramids. This trip assumes you are staying out that way. Note that parts of Cairo are very traditional, and it’s sensible to wear conservative clothing when out in public. If visiting mosques, churches or local markets, this is particularly important.

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Author: Nicholas Rowlands


Day 1 - Cairo


Start early and aim to get to the Pyramids before 9 am, in order to beat the crowds and the heat. The easiest way to get there is to hire a taxi for the day. Your hotel will be able to help with this, though it would be cheaper to arrange it yourself. Just make sure your driver speaks enough English, and negotiate a fair price in advance.

Once at the Pyramids, take the time to explore the site fully. It really is magical, especially if you manage to get there early enough that you are not swamped by other tourists and touts. 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. Make sure you also allow enough time to visit the Solar Boat Museum.

Once you are done, drive to the Great Sphinx (included in the Pyramids ticket), stopping at the pyramids viewing point along the way. 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!

Before leaving, it’s probably wise to arrange your sunset camel ride for later on. Ask your taxi driver if he can recommend a stables. If not, there are loads of stables that offer camel and horse rides in to the desert surrounding the Pyramids. Touts who work with them hang around the Sphinx, so just ask around. Make sure to visit the stables first, and that you are comfortable with the people who run it. Negotiate over the price: an hour’s camel ride at sunset should cost less than 50 LE per person. Be very clear about what time you need to arrive in order to catch sunset in the desert, so you can plan your timing for the rest of the day.

Spend some time over lunch at nearby Andrea restaurant; if the weather allows it, make sure you dine al fresco. After lunch, have your driver take you to Saqqara. You’re going to want a good few hours here, because it’s a huge site: 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. If so inclined, you could hire a guide to help you find your way around, although this is not necessary provided you have a map of the site. 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.

Make sure you leave Saqqara in plenty of time to get to the camel stables. Sunset is a magical time to be in the desert. It’s even better when you are riding a camel, and better still when you can view the ancient Pyramids in the changing light. The only thing that could improve it, is having your lover along to share the experience. For extra romance, you might even consider sharing the same camel. Experiencing the sunset Call to Prayer from the Giza Plateau is also special – it seems almost as though every mosque in Cairo is playing just to you.

Take dinner near to your hotel. If you don’t fancy local cuisine, but you do want exquisite food and great service, a good option is the sumptuous Moghul Rooms restaurant, at the Mena House Oberoi.


1

The Great Pyramid

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Location:

Giza Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 383 8823


2

Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)

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Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

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


3

Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus)

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Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 383 8823


4

Solar Boat Museum

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Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

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


5

The Sphinx

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Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 383 8823


6

Andrea

Location:

59-60 Marioutiya Canal, Kerdasa Rd, Harem
Shara Kerdessa, al-Haram
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 3383 1133
fax: +20 (0)2 3385 4441


7

Step Pyramid of Saqqara

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Location:

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


9

Camel Ride by the Pyramids

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Location:

FB stables
Gamal Abdul Nasser St
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 20 (0)16 5070288


11

Saqqara: Mastaba of Ti

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Location:

North East of Serapeum, Saqqara
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)


12

Moghul Room at the Mena House Oberoi

Location:

Mena House Oberoi
Pyramids' Road
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 20 2 33 77 3222


Day 2 - Cairo


Again, hire a taxi for the day, and leave early to be at the Egyptian Museum by 9 am. Browsing the incredible exhibits of the Egyptian Museum is like wandering the annals of history, and you could easily while away hours or even days here. Be warned that the Egyptian Museum is huge, and not very well laid out or labelled, so you might want to hire a guide there to help you to navigate all the history. Whether you do or not, make sure you see the diorite statue of Chephren and the bizarre Amarna art downstairs, and of course the treasures of Tutankhamen on the first floor. Once you have had your fill of ancient history, it’ll be lunchtime. If you fancy something Egyptian, in charming surrounds, head for Estoril restaurant on Talaat Harb street. If you fancy something a little more upmarket, the garden café/restaurant at the Nile Hotel is an exceedingly pleasant place to spend some time. After lunch, have your taxi take you to the Citadel. Make sure you visit all three mosques, 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 gorgeous 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 possible, you should try to time your visit so you can enjoy the romance of yet another Cairo sunset, again accompanied by the haunting Call to Prayer. In the evening, head to the Semiramis Hotel in Garden City and book your place on to the Scarabee boat for a Nile dinner cruise and belly dancing show. The Cruises last around 2 hours, and leave at about 8 and 10 in the evening. Some people find these cruises a bit tacky, but you certainly can’t argue with the romance of the setting.


2

Estoril

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Location:

12 Talaat Harb Street
11111 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 25743102


3

The Citadel

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Location:

Salah Salem Highway
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 512 9619


4

Citadel: An-Nasir Mohammed Mosque

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Location:

The Citadel
Salah Salem Highway
11211 Cairo, Egypt


6

Citadel: Mohammed Ali Mosque

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Location:

Citadel Historic Complex
Salah Salem Highway
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

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


7

Scarabee

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Location:

Corniche el-Nil Street
11511 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2794 3444, +20 (0)2 2794 3198


Day 3 - Cairo


Again, hire a taxi for the day and this time head to Ibn Tulun Mosque. This huge mosque is considered to be the oldest in Egypt that has survived in its original form, and really is breathtaking. 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. This is a great place to get some photos of beautifully restored, 16th Century Arabic architecture.

Head to Khan al-Khalili for lunch, and eat at the Naguib Mahfouz café, in the heart of the bazaar. Although somewhat expensive, the café is a haven of tranquillity in the chaos of the Khan, and the atmosphere is subdued. There are often musicians playing classical Egyptian music. Once refreshed, spend a few hours wandering the narrow maze of alleys, haggling for souvenirs, and joking with the effervescent stall holders. Make sure you shop around to get a feel for the prices, and don’t let yourself be pressured into buying, or into selling your loved one! When you need to take the weight off your feet, head to the world famous al-Fishawi coffee shop, and complement your people-watching with a cup of thick, black Turkish coffee, and perhaps share a water pipe.

After the frenetic energy of Khan al-Khalili, have your driver take you to nearby al-Azhar Park to relax. Despite being a former rubbish tip, this is Cairo’s most attractive green space, and is very popular with young lovers. Spend an hour or so wandering around the beautifully sculpted gardens, and indulging in a bit of people-watching. Make sure you climb to the top of the park in time for sunset: this is the best place in Cairo to catch the final rays of the day.

Afterwards, eat your dinner in the classy Citadel View Restaurant, before heading back to Khan al-Khalili for the Sufi Dancing show in the Wikala of al-Ghouri. The show is a colourful demonstration of the spectacular “Whirling Dervish” style of Sufi worship (strictly, the Whirling Dervishes are a Turkish Sufi sect), and will make you dizzy just watching it! The show is free, and starts at 8.30 pm. It’s best to arrive early to get a good seat.


1

Ibn Tulun Mosque

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Location:

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

Contact:

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


2

Gayer-Anderson Museum

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Location:

4 Maydan Ibn Tulun
Ibn Tulun Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 364 7822


3

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

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Location:

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


4

Al-Azhar Mosque

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Location:

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

Contact:

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


5

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

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Location:

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


6

Naguib Mahfouz Cafe

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Location:

5 El Badistan Lane
Khan El Khalili Bazaar
11211 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2590 3788
fax: +20 (0)2 25912346


7

Al Azhar Park

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Location:

Salah Salem Street
Al Darassa
11562 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 510 3868 / +20 2 510 7378
fax: +20 2 512 1054


8

Citadel View Restaurant

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Location:

Al=Azhar Park
Gizeh
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 2510 9150, +20 (0)2 2510 9151


9

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


Spend the morning exploring Coptic Cairo, the serene old Christian quarter of Cairo. Again, it’s best to hire a taxi for the day, and to aim to arrive before 9 am and the rest of the tourists. The beautiful cobbled streets of Coptic Cairo are a wonderful place to meander around, taking in all of the religious monuments. Start your visit at the Coptic Museum (opposite Mar Girgis metro station) and spend an hour or so there, tracing the evolution of Coptic Christianity. Make sure you also visit the Hanging Church and the Cathedral of St George, before walking down the cobbled 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. The oldest mosque in Cairo, the Mosque of Amr Ibn al-Aas, is well worth a visit. You can get there by walking along Mar Girgis street, or by wandering through the serene Coptic cemetery. Make sure you also find time 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. 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. Once you are finished, drive down to Maadi: a leafy expat suburb a little further south of Old Cairo. Have your lunch at the Grand Café on the Corniche: although it can get quite busy, the Nile-side setting is very romantic. This is also the best place in the whole of Cairo from which to do a felucca ride, since there are no bridges to get in the way. You can arrange anything from a quick 30 minute jaunt to a couple of hours. Riding a traditional sailing boat on the longest river in the world is incredibly romantic, and is a magical place from which to enjoy your fourth, and final, Cairo sunset. In the evening, head to the Pyramids again for the spectacular Sound and Light Show. Note that the timings vary at different points of the year, so you need to call in advance to check. Make the most of your last chance to experience the wonder of the Pyramids, as the Great Sphinx narrates a story that takes you back to the dawn of civilisation. If you cannot bear to leave Cairo without one final view of the Pyramids, take your dinner at Christo’s on Pyramids street: although the décor feels a bit shabby, the wonderful seafood is matched only by the splendid views of the Pyramids from the terrace


1

Babylon Fort

Location:

Mar Girgis Street
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

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


2

The Coptic Museum

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Location:

Mar Guirguis Street
In the center of Old Cairo, across from the exit from the Mar Girgis Metro stop
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 2 362 8766 / + 20 2 363 9742


3

The Hanging Church

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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)


4

Greek Church of Saint George (Mari Girgis)

Location:

Mar Girgis Street
Coptic Cairo quarter
Cairo, Egypt


5

Church of Abu Serga (St Sergius)

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Location:

Near Mari Girgis Street
(Downtown)
11728 Cairo, Egypt


6

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)


7

Amr Ibn el-Aas Mosque

Location:

Sidi Hasan al-Anwar Street
Fustat
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

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


8

Felucca Ride on the Nile

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Location:

Maadi ferry, next to Grand Café
Maadi Cornice
Cairo, Egypt


9

Grand Cafe

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Location:

Merryland Gardens
near TGI Friday
Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: 20 2 451 2316


10

Giza Pyramids: Sound and Light Show

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Location:

Giza Pyramids Plateau
12561 Cairo, Egypt

Contact:

tel: +20 (0)2 386 3469 / +20 (0)2 385 2880 / +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Egyptian Tourist Authority)
fax: +20 (0)2 384 4257 / +20 (0)2 285 4363 (Egyptian Tourist Authority)


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