A trip to Cairo is like no other place in the world for that perfect gel of the ancient, the medieval and the cosmopolitan, all beautifully blended into the most exciting city on Earth. Explore the wonders of the ancient world, sample international cuisine, and luxuriate at the finest hotels in Africa for the ultimate adventure holiday that has no limits.
When planning your next visit to this bustling city, be sure to take a stock of everything you would like to see and budget your time and finances accordingly. This is not only essential for the independent traveler, but also for those who will be booking tours, as there are plenty of free days in between scheduled itineraries. To enhance a limited stay in Cairo and its environs, a time efficient day begins with breaking down the attractions into their relevant districts. Cairo traffic can be brutal at peak hours, so it would be wise to schedule your visits and lodging in carefully selected areas.
Downtown is a favorite lodging district for the first-time visitor to Cairo, as the major hotels are lined up along the Nile and offer spectacular river views. The major thoroughfare is called Corniche el-Nil, connecting Cairo's top five star hotels, dining and night life with a peaceful and tranquil setting against the water. One of your first stops in this timeless city will be the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, located right next to the Nile Hotel. Additional attractions in the city center include the Cairo Opera House, Nilometer, the Nile Bus watercraft, Gezira Promenade and Nile dinner cruising for a spectacular city lights tour at night.
Although the downtown district is teeming with restaurants to suit every budget and taste, there is one place in particular that is worthy of a stop. Kentucky Fried Chicken, in the enclave of Dokki, is the only KFC in the world to hire deaf people exclusively. This neat and tidy KFC is a joy to visit and run by a congenial and efficient staff. So, if you have a chicken wing on your mind for dinner, this is the outlet to support with your patronage and set an example for the world.
To the north of the downtown district lies the upscale neighborhood of Heliopolis, a 5,000 year old metropolis updated to receive the most discriminating traveler. Heliopolis is the international airport region, but is also one of the best places to stay for quiet nights with high-end dining and entertainment at your fingertips. The traffic is lighter up here, and the mood moves at a slower pace than that of Cairo's city center or the edge of the desert at the Giza pyramids. For the return traveler or those who want to unwind and relax at night, Heliopolis is the place to be for fine food, wines, and a sophisticated atmosphere.
Some of the most famous streets for sumptuous restaurants include Sharia Baghdad, Loqqany and Chantilly for fine European, Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine. In addition, some of the city's attractions include the Heliopolis Palace, Baron's Palace, and the tomb and memorial for Anwar Sadat.
Heliopolis shopping is a thrill at the newly opened City Stars Mall, the largest indoor retail complex in Africa. The action-packed six floors are comprised of state-of-the-art cinemas, two indoor theme parks, restaurants and shopping for everything under the sun. The retail outlets provide name brand merchandise and offer a wide range of wares for budget, moderate and high-end shopping sprees. And dining at City Stars remains one of the best deals in Cairo, with dozens of corporate eateries excelling in quality and cleanliness, with most of them offered at a fraction of the cost of the nearby five star hotel restaurants. In addition, the City Stars Complex is host to three upscale hotels, conveniently located within the concessions for easy access to all the mall amenities.
Perhaps the most well-traveled district in Cairo is Giza, where you will visit the Great Pyramid and sphinx. No trip to Egypt is complete without a visit to these timeless antiquities and everything else the region has to offer. The Giza Plateau lies on the desert's edge, with monuments so massive that they may be seen from several kilometers away. To enhance your journey to Cairo, you may wish to book a hotel in the Giza district for a breathtaking pyramid view from your balcony and cool desert breezes at night.
The city of Memphis and necropolis of Saqqara lie just beyond Giza, and make an excellent combination for an active day in the desert. Bus tours via air conditioned motor coach remain the most popular mode of transportation, but for those who prefer the wind in their hair, try a four hour horse trek from the Great Pyramid to Saqqara, or a wild self-driven dune buggy adventure over the Rippling sand. In addition, ATV's are available for the Giza to Saqqara commute, however, you are advised to book early as they fill up fast. Both dune buggy and ATV vehicles are fully escorted to their destinations, but rest assured that you will have plenty of time to play at the base of the pyramids, with popping wheels and flying over the rugged terrain.
Moving southward from Saqqara lies the accused Bent and Red Pyramids, located in the necropolis of Dashur. This destination is a favorite with return visitors to Cairo that may not have had the time to schedule the trip before. Plan at least a full day to include the Giza Plateau, Memphis, Saqqara and Dashur for the well-rounded and complete ancient monument tour from Cairo. And on the way back, try a stop at the Saqqara Carpet School for a chance to watch the young artisans weave top quality rugs, made available for sale at the end of the tour.
Most travelers to Cairo will stay twice, once upon arrival, and again before departure. To maximize your time and cover all the bases, chart your course before you go and make a list of all you wish to see in each district: downtown, airport, and pyramids. The tour and travel desks at the hotels are experts in economizing your time and money, but will need a little informative input from you to understand your priorities. And with some wise planning and foreknowlege of your trip, you may expect to see and do it all.