Cairo – the gateway into Egypt and to one of the last remaining wonders of the world. I was fortunate enough to visit Cairo in the February of 2022. It was a vast metropolis; seemingly chaotic yet teeming with the rich Arabic culture that draws us to a place like Egypt – the Middle Eastern cuisine, the generous hospitality and the vibrant souks (markets).
There was one more reason people were drawn here, and probably the main reason – to witness the enormity of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Whether Cairo is a mere gateway for your journey to the pyramids, or whether you feel to spend more time exploring Egypt’s capital, my intention for this blog post is to share with you some tips and resources for your journey ahead.
Before you go
Below are some quick facts to consider before you plan for your journey to Cairo:
- You’ll need a visa to enter Egypt (See website)
- The currency is Egyptian pounds (E£) (Order a Wise travel card for the best travel rates and E£ currency)
- Get travel insurance for 4 weeks at only $45.08USD with Safetywing (Covers COVID-19)
- Islam is the dominant religion in Egypt
- The city has its warmest temperatures from May to September where temperatures can reach 40°C (105°F)
- Cairo air is more polluted than the worldwide acceptable standards due to traffic congestion and infrastructure
Getting to Cairo
Cairo is very well-connected, with multiple airlines flying into the Cairo International Airport from all over the world. I flew with EgyptAir from Athens and had a very pleasant experience. The airline maintains a commitment to sustainability with their ‘Green Service Flight’ logo marking sustainable flights that offer a 90% reduction in single-use plastics.
Search competitive flight prices using Skyscanner.
Getting around Cairo
As a solo female traveller, I would only recommend using Uber to get around Cairo, unless you have hotel pick-up/drop-off or a friend or family member. I found Uber to be very reliable and affordable in comparison to other major cities. Plus, the Egyptians know how to best deal with their congested and often dangerous roads.
See this link for some more options to get from Cairo airport to the city centre.
Where to Stay in Cairo
Useful Resource: The Best Areas To Stay in Cairo
Cairo is a very large city and it can be overwhelming to decide where to stay. The pyramids are located in Giza, which is 11 miles (17 kilometres) from the city centre and, depending on traffic, can take anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours to reach there.
I split my time between the centre of Cairo and Giza. However, I found Giza to be quite run down and barren so I would only recommend staying there if you plan to spend more than one day at the pyramids. Aside from the pyramids themselves, there was not much to do around Giza.
During my time in Giza, I did stay at a property with magnificent views of the pyramids. You could watch (or hear) the Pyramids light show every evening at around 7 p.m from the rooftop of the hotel or if you were in a room with views of the pyramids (recommended).
Sustainable Travel Tip: If you're using Booking.com, look for their Travel Sustainable search filter.
What to do in Cairo
There is a lot to do in Egypt’s largest city with a population of 10 million residents, but I will start with the main attractions and then add a few alternative suggestions for things to do in Cairo.
Visit the Pyramids and Great Sphinx
My tip: I would recommend taking a tour to see the pyramids. While you can do them on your own, it’s good to be able to learn about the history and have a tour guide to shield you from the swarms of vendors who will approach you to try and sell you souvenirs.
I chose to go with a female guide to support women’s equality in Cairo. Below is a link to the tour I took which I can highly recommend.
Entry costs to the pyramids: See website
Get directions to the pyramids.
Visit the Egyptian Museum
There are actually a number of ‘Egyptian’ museums in Cairo. The new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is said to be opening in November of 2022 after taking 20 long years to complete. However, the museum has already won a green building award and received much acclaim so it will be interesting to see the final outcome once its doors are open.
As this museum was not open when I visited, I visited the Egyptian Museum instead. The Egyptian Museum was not as grandeur and lacked in description plaques and overall organisation, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Cost to enter the Egyptian Museum: Adult: EGP 200 \ Student: EGP 100
Get directions to the Egyptian Museum.
Visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations (NMEC)
A visit to this museum was included in our tour due to the main museum being under construction. I would recommend a guide here as this is the place where you can see the mummies and learn about the magnificent history of this historic civilisation. This museum is much more modern, with audio guides and information plaques available in various languages.
Cost to enter the National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations (NMEC): See website
Get directions to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations (NMEC).
Visit the Khan el-Khalili souk
A visit to the Khan el-Khalili souk was included in our tour. However, it is a great place to visit and wander around on your own. It is a true example of the souk atmosphere that embodies Middle Eastern culture. Just be warned that you will be approached by hawkers and, in true Middle Eastern style, people will try to sell you as much as they can.
Safety tip: Always keep an eye on your belongings and (sadly to say) don’t be too trusting to strangers.
Related Reading: How to Haggle in Cairo’s Souks
Get directions to Khan el-Khalili.
Sustainable Travel Tip: Bring a tote bag or reusable bag with you when shopping so you can avoid the use of plastic bags.
Other things to do in Cairo
Watch a traditional Sufi dance show
One of the highlights of my trip was watching a traditional Sufi dance show at the 15th-century Wekalet El Ghoury arts centre. The setting is in an open-air atrium which makes for an intimate but spectacular experience.
Note: You do not need to take a tour to see this show. Shows run on a first-come-first-serve basis and can be watched on certain nights of the week. Simply head to the Wekalet El Ghoury arts centre at around 6 p.m. and join the line. The cost is 30 Egyptian pounds for non-Egyptians.
Get directions to Wekalet El Ghoury
Take a cruise on the Nile
The Nile passes through Cairo and it is well worth taking a riverboat ride on the famous river, especially at dusk. In central Cairo, there is a light display each evening that is spectacular to watch and enjoy from the vantage point of a boat.
You can either join a tour with GetYourGuide or AirBnB experiences, or simply head to the water’s edge and be prepared to haggle your price with the cruise operators.
The below tour also offers a Sufi dance in case you missed it at the Wekalet El Ghoury.
Take a walk through Cairo’s trendy neighbourhoods like Zamalek and Maadi
The more progressive areas of Cairo, Zamalek and Maadi, have a lot to offer in the way of food and overall vibe. I enjoyed window shopping in Zamalek, visiting some of the renowned restaurants and getting a glimpse of the nightlife scene. I enjoyed working from the Beano’s cafe in Maadi, dining at local restaurants and walking the streets that were greener than many other parts of Cairo.
Useful Resource: An Insider’s Guide to Zamalek, Cairo
Take part in some spiritual activities
Cairo has a sprouting spiritual underground scene and you’ll find access to activities like yoga classes, meditation retreats and ecstatic dances. Follow the Instagram account @healersandguides or visit the Facebook group, Yoga Events Egypt to find the latest events.
Shopping in Cairo
As a blogger with a focus on sustainability, I have hesitations to promote consumerism unless the type of consumerism is known to be supporting local producers whose products are produced ethically, or stimulating the circular economy. Unfortunately, these days, it’s becoming harder and harder to discern whether products are, in fact, ethical. However, if you feel inclined to fill your travel bag with souvenirs from Egypt, below are some known ethical brands in Cairo:
Fair Trade Egypt
MARKAZ aims to identify and promote the value of diverse traditional crafts from Egypt’s remote rural areas, many of which are threatened with extinction.
Get directions to MARKAZ.
Useful Resource: A Guide to Thrifting in Cairo
Related Reading: Sustainable Brands in Egypt
Volunteering in Cairo
You may also take a look at my ethical volunteering guide for more resources on how to make a positive impact on the places you visit.
Related Reading: 3 Sinai Farms That Accept Volunteers
My thoughts on solo female travel in Cairo
My time in Cairo felt no different to how I would feel in any city of that enormity – I felt the overwhelm that comes with navigating a new metropolis, especially one that feels foreign – the language, the culture, the air quality. For the first few days, I was accompanied by a friend of Egyptian heritage. During that time I felt the safety that comes with passive familiarity, I was guided on where to go, how to cross the intense streets, how to haggle the prices. They didn’t speak Arabic and we still managed. Most people in Cairo speak English. Cairo is progressive, especially in areas like Maadi and Zamalek.
Walking through the streets, I didn’t often feel like I was being gawked at. Aside from the occasional stare and singular hiss, I wasn’t bothered. Most people just went about their day. It is not uncommon to see tourists in Cairo, and women aren’t forced to wear hijabs. Uber did offer me a lot of safety in getting from one destination to the next. They are very commonly used by ex-pats in Cairo and Uber puts a lot of responsibility on their drivers to maintain professionalism.
I had a small incident at the time of my departure when I was alone at Cairo airport. I was scammed into buying a pre-departure PCR test. It seemed to be a scam that consisted of multiple stakeholders and their manipulation. What I learned from that experience is that there are people who will try and take advantage of tourists, and Egypt is somewhat of a lawless place where corruption is rife. Was it because I was female? And alone? Probably not. It could have happened to anyone.
I love Egypt and the culture and history it provides. Was I as relaxed and comfortable as I would be in a place like Malta or Thailand? No. Would I return? Yes.
I have found that, oftentimes, big cities deserve renditions. Because they all have layers upon layers of complexities. And eventually, you find the gold you seek.
Useful Resource: Is Egypt Safe For Solo Female Travellers
Some safe communities I recommend for solo female travellers –
- Greether Female Safety Travel App
- HerHouse Female Accommodation App
- Girls Love Travel Facebook group
- The Solo Female Traveller Network
Like this post? Share on Pinterest –
Have you been to Cairo? Do you have any questions not answered in this blog? Leave your comments below and I’ll do my best to answer.