Egypt's bustling capital city Cairo is an ideal holiday destination for immersing yourself in culture and heritage. As both a popular holiday destination and a city where people go about their everyday lives, the city offers a tantalising mix of history and modernity. While the locals live their lives, working and socialising, Cairo's landscape stands as a sort of living museum to Egypt's iconic heritage. Of course, no holiday to Egypt would be complete without seeing the legendary Pyramids. The most iconic are the Gizah Pyramids, which continue to draw in countless visitors from across the globe each year and will leave you lost for words. This series of ancient monuments features three pyramid complexes which are collectively known as the Great Pyramids as well as the legendary Great Sphinx monument. The Great Pyramid was named by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is the oldest and only ancient wonder still in existence. Shopaholics can head to the bustling commercial quarter at Khan el Khalili to hunt for bargains and authentic souvenirs.
Khan el Khalili is also a great place to really dive in and experience modern Egyptian culture. Another Egyptian icon, the River Nile, runs through Cairo, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a number of activities around the river such as a Nile Sightseeing Cruise or a waterside meal. Cairo is of course known for its vital role in the history of Egypt, one of the world's best known historical sites, so history buffs won't want to miss a trip to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (also known as the Museum of Cairo) to see its 120,000 items on display. The capital also hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, including the Arab Music Festival, Pharoah's Rally and the International Film Festival.
Things to Do
Cairo looks and feels like a living museum, embodying and reflecting much of Egypt's iconic heritage. As the proud owner of some of the country's most iconic attractions, you can experience some unforgettable adventures in the city including seeing the world's only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.
The last Ancient Wonder
The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu) is a must-see attraction for those visiting Cairo. This imposing monument is the oldest and only remaining building of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Standing at 756 feet wide and 481 tall, this is the biggest of the three main pyramids of the Giza Necropolis. The pyramid stayed the tallest man-made building for close to four millennia and stands as a testament to the fortitude and dedication of the 100,000 Egyptians that built the structure with more than 5 million tonnes of limestone.
Monument to a Pharoah
The Sphinx remains one of Egypt's most popular tourist attractions, a huge limestone monument featuring a lion's body and a human head that stands at 66 feet tall. This ancient marvel was sadly buried in sand for centuries and was finally fully excavated in 1936, revealing the fact that the head is missing its beard and nose. The Sphinx is something of a mystery as no one definitively knows who it was built in honour of, with theories including the Pharoah Khafre or his father King Khufu, who also oversaw the building of the Great Pyramid.
Cairo is home to the Muhammed Ali Mosque, the largest mosque built during the nineteenth century and the foremost mosque in the city. This majestic building was constructed between 1830 and 1848 in the Ottoman style with alabaster and limestone. The mosque has a striking central dome which stands 51 metres tall and 21 metres in diameter, and it is decorated with ornate golden globe lamps, scenic stained-glass windows and a set of domes.
For lovers of history
The Egyptian Museum, also known as Cairo Museum, is the proud owner of the world's largest collection of treasures from Ancient Egypt. This historic building was established in 1902 on Tahrir Square and has amassed a well-curated collection of a staggering 120,000+ artefacts. The star piece here is the Golden Mask of Tutankhamen, an 11-kilogram solid gold mask that rested over the King's bandaged-covered face in his ornate sarcophagus.
There's so much heritage and culture to experience in Cairo that it's easy to overlook the capital's modern offerings. While the market itself dates back to 1382, the Khan El-Khalili Souk is the citys largest outdoor market and represents modern Egyptian living. Here you can shop for authentic Egyptian wares including jewellery, spices, food and souvenirs, and you can try your hand at bargaining with the street vendors, with many items eventually selling for around half of their original price.
Calendar of Events
Cairo's bustling streets and desert landscapes are host to numerous cultural events and festivals throughout the year, with events celebrating everything from fashion to food, art, music and film.
- Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival. Each year for three weeks between March and April, Downtown Cairo welcomes a series of stunning contemporary arts events. This event is very well-curated and brings together local and international events celebrating music, movies and other arts.
- International Film Festival. Cairo is one of the foremost tourist destinations in Africa and hosts one of the Africa and Middle East region's best-loved film festivals annually (at varying dates each year). The festival brings together actors and directors from across the world and features film screenings over a wide range of categories of film. The festival is both entertaining and culturally important, as it works to help fund Arab filmmakers and promote Egypt's movie industry around the world.
- Cairo Bites. The food-based Cairo Bites festival takes place each year in April or May and features the country's biggest line-up of both local and regional cuisine and food-related industries. There are more than 100 eateries that participate each year, attracting more than 10,000 foodie visitors from across the globe.
- Sphinx Festival. Each December, the city hosts the popular Sphinx Festival, a cultural event celebrating an eclectic blend of science and art at the Pyramids of Giza. This festival showcases spectacular dance performances, well-curated musical arrangements and animated seminars on a wide range of topics including geometry and cosmology. The Sphinx Festival aims to preserve important work and provide a welcoming space for teachers, artists and students to learn about and discuss the direction of Egyptian art and culture.