Egypt is a country with one of the oldest known histories. It links Africa with the Middle East and is home to the world’s longest river, the River Nile. It’s capital, Cairo, sits on the River Nile and is home to over 9 million people. With such a varied and long history Cairo has so much to offer visitors.
Getting There: Egypt is located in Northeast Africa and is bordered from all sides by a range of different countries, giving it a very interesting location between Africa and the Middle East. Egypt is bordered by Palestine and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lies Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.
The capital of Egypt, Cairo is located in the north of the country. Direct flights from London to Cairo cost about £400 and takes around 5 hours. Once you arrive transfers from the airport can be arranged through your hotel or from the car services within the airport.
Visa: British travellers need a visa to visit Cairo. You can get the visa before travelling online or from the Egyptian Consulate. You can also attain a visa at the aiport in Cairo. Before passport control there is a small kiosk, which actually looks more like a money exchange than a visa office. Visas cost £20 per person and can be paid for using British pounds at the airport.
Accommodation: Finding decent yet affordable accommodation was a little tricky. The well known hotel brands were quite pricey. The cheaper options had really mixed reviews online. We eventually found a place on booking.com that seemed to have decent reviews and price, called Crown Hotel (https://www.booking.com/hotel/eg/crown.en-gb.html)
Once we arrived at the hotel they actually moved us to partner hostel, which was a minutes walk away and suited our group booking better. Midtown Hostel was clean, had good service and one I would recommend if you are looking for a mid range, decent hotel. It is located close to Tahrir Square and not too far from the main sites including Al Azhar Masjid and Khan Khalili Bazaar. Breakfast and wifi is included in the price and costs around £11 per night per person (https://www.booking.com/hotel/eg/midtown.en-gb.html)
Weather: The weather in Cairo is generally hot throughout the year. In the summer months temperatures reach around 35 degrees. In the summer evenings temperatures are around 25 degrees. In the winter months day time temperatures are around 20 degrees and evening temperatures of around 10 degrees. Rain is not generally common in Cairo.
Language: The official language in Cairo is Arabic, with a local Cairo dialect. I was actually surprised by the number of people who couldn’t speak English in Cairo. Somehow with a few Arabic words and gestures you are generally able to communicate with the local people.
Currency and Price: The currency used in Cairo is the Egyptian Pound. At the time of when we travelled the exchange rate was around 20 Egyptian pounds to 1 British pound. I generally found the country to be very affordable. Food, attractions and taxis were all fairly cheap, particularly compared with London prices.
It is also worth mentioning that a lot of the attractions offer student discounts, so if you are a student be sure to take your ID card with you in order to pay the reduced student prices.
Safety: Cairo’s population of 9 million people are spread over 3,085 square kilometers, making Cairo a megacity. As such it is very noisy, congested and heavily polluted. It takes a bit of time to adjust to the chaos of the city but once you have adjusted there is so much to explore and discover. Generally I felt safe in the hustle and bustle of the city, even when out late in the evenings.
We travelled to Cairo during the time of the government protests. Before travelling I was unsure of the situation in Cairo but once we arrived we generally found the city to be safe. The police and army presence could be seen but generally we felt safe.
Transport: Some of the locations are close enough to walk between, for example Al Azhar Masjid and Khan Khalili Bazaar but for the other locations you will have to get a taxi. We generally travelled through Cairo using Uber as we found this to be the quickest and easiest way to travel. It was also relatively affordable. There are also local taxis. Cairo also has a metro system and public busses. I personally did not use them so cannot comment on how it is to use them.
On one of the days we did a lot of travelling between the main sites within Cairo and so hired a local driver to drive us between the sites. He was able to stay with us the whole day and this made our travel between locations much more time effecient. I would recommend looking into this if you don’t have much time in Cairo.
Food: Cairo has a range of food options from street vendors to fast food places to fine dining restaurants. Alhamdullilah all the food in Cairo is Halal and alcohol is not generally served openly.
Falafel and shawarma are popular meal dishes in Cairo. Ful, is a popular breakfast dish of bean stew. Fresh juices and delicious desserts are common. Ofcourse all major food chains are also available in Cairo including McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC. There are also lots of independent food places.
Masjid: Alhamdullilah it is very easy to pray in Cairo. There are lots of Masjids to pray in. If you cannot get to a Masjid then you will find people praying wherever they can find space including in green spaces or on the side of the road.
Hope you enjoyed part 1 of the Cairo blog posts. Be sure to come back to check out part 2 where I go into detail of things to do and places to see in Cairo.