After landing in Cairo during the small hours, we spent two nights at the Airport based Le Meridian hotel, slowly acclimatizing to the 35C Egyptian heat in close proximity to the pool! We then moved moved to the Novotel in Downtown Cairo, 5 minutes walk from Tahir Square. We spent four days in central Cairo, and while we both found it to be safe, with locals of all ages filling the streets both days and night, the apparent lack of western tourists was staggering.
Highlights of Cairo:
- The Egyptian museum off Tahir square. A fantastic collection of Egyptian artefacts including those of Tutankhamum, that are well worth visiting. Cost – EGP 75 for adults and EGP 35 for students (but you need ID). They will try and charge you EGP 50 for a photography pass, but you don’t need it (everyone snaps away regardless). That said photography is banned in certain exhibitions such as the Tutankhamun room.
- Coptic hanging church.
- The Monastery of St Simon the Tanner, a Coptic Church located in the Mokattam Mountain is a wonder in itself, carved out of rock seating 20,000 people!
Eating in Cairo
Abu Tarek (40 Sharia Champollion, Downtown) – The place came highly recommended and serves kushari, a blend of pasta, rice, lentils and fried onions with a rich tomato sauce – its absolutely delicious and deserves its roaring trade. EGP 15 for a medium meal pp.
Kushwari at Abu Tarek
Zööba (Sharia 26th July, Zamalek) – A very modern, Egyptian fast food restaurant that sells very tasty food. We both had Zööba Hawawashi that was delicious (EGP 23 each). The place is very busy, but luckily we timed it right and managed to get a seat straight away!
Hawawashi at Zööba
Setting up a local phone
We bought a pay as you go phone from Vodaphone to call local taxis and shipping agents in Alexandria. The price was EGP 18 for the sim card and EGP 10 for an international call package (EGP 2 or 20p/min to UK). We then loaded EGP 20 of credit that should be plenty for our time in Egypt. For calls to England, we have relied thus far on Wifi to use Facebook and Whatsapp.
Taxis in Cairo
- When we landed at 2 am we paid EGP 80 (including tip) for the 10 minute taxi to the hotel, which, given the time of day, did not seem unreasonable. Make sure you get into a smart looking white cab and confirm the price before you start you start the journey. It is a given that cab drivers will not take you on the meter from inside the Airport as there is a toll when entering and exiting.
- When organising a taxi to transport us from the airport to Downtown Cairo, roughly a 20/30 minute journey, I asked an english speaking concierge to book a white cab, and was quoted EGP 100. That said, before speaking the the concierge, I was quoted $35 by the hotels taxi service, which is extortionate!
We decided not to visit the pyramids at Giza from our base in Downtown Cairo, because people recommend visiting early in the day so to beat the crowds, hence we will stop off in Melvin as we drive south past Cairo towards Luxor.