Cairo Tourist Attractions for First Time Visitors

Food fiesta at Kebdet Elprince by Passainte Assem


Discover Cairo tourist attractions like never before.

Cairo, the capital of Egypt might shock you a lot or surprise you a little before making its peace with you. It will leave you speechless, unable to believe what you see, incapable to grasp what makes you love it so much. But in the end, you’ll feel sad to leave it.

Something about Cairo just sticks with you. Is it the people who would invade your personal space, yet make even a complete stranger feel at home? The food that might get a little heavy on your stomach, yet you can hardly wait for the next meal? The warmth, generosity, & genuine kindness you won’t experience elsewhere? That glamour mixed with chaos? That energy of a city that barely sleeps? The loud honks, scary driving, over-loaded traffic or those people crossing the streets, making you pee in your pants?

It can be a bit challenging for a newbie to Cairo to get the best out of it, but we are here to tell you how ;)..

Read first our guide to getting around Egypt.

The Pyramids of Giza via pixabayThe Pyramids of Giza via pixabay

Cairo Map

Where to stay

Luxury

Mid-Range

Budget

Tip: though the Giza Pyramids are gorgeous, you’re better off staying downtown (“wust el balad”), in Zamalek, or even Maadi, NOT in Haram.

Booking.com

Check out this interesting read about what a trip to Egypt would cost?

What to Wear in Egypt

This post will tell you everything that you need to know.

Where to go

Cairo Citadel by Passainte Assem

Cairo Sightseeing

  • The Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx & Sun boats –check out this insightful guide to a perfect day at the Giza Pyramids
  • Step Pyramid of Saqqara
  • The Pyramids of Dahshur (a.k.a. Djoser)

  • Cairo Tower for panoramic views of Cairo — Entry: EGP 25 for Egyptians/EGP 150 for foreigners
  • The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Downtown, which I HIGHLY recommend that you visit it on a guided tour which can be booked through us
  • Saint Simon Monastery a.k.a. the Cave Church in Mansheyet Nasser – Garbage City
Saint Simon Church from inside by Passainte AssemSaint Simon Church from inside by Passainte Assem
  • Cairo’s Downtown with its history, cafes, & architecture
  • Mosques of Al-Rifai, & Al-Sultan Hassan
  • Take a Nile boat -commonly referred to as Felucca- at sunset, docked in Zamalek, Maadi & Dokki. You must always negotiate the price before hopping-on, another hassle-free way is to book your felucca excursion here
  • The Cairo Citadel — Muhammad Ali Mosque is a twin of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
  • Al-Azhar Park — open till 10 PM

  • The Nilometer in Manial
  • Palaces of Al-Ministerly, Abdeen & Aisha Fahmy
  • Gayer Anderson’s house known as Beit El-Keretleya opposite to Ibn Touloun Mosque in Sayeda Zainab
  • The three remaining gates of Islamic Cairo: Bab Zuweila, Bab El-Foutouh, & Bab El-Nasr
  • The Jewish Quarter in Mosky
Panoramic View of the Citadel from a rooftop at the Garbage City next to Saint Simon Church by Passainte AssemPanoramic View of the Citadel from a rooftop at the Garbage City next to Saint Simon Church by Passainte Assem

Old Cairo (a.k.a. Al Fustat — Egypt’s oldest capital)

& Bacchus by Passainte AssemSaint Serguis & Bacchus Church by Passainte Assem
  • The most famous attractions are the Hanging Church, the Coptic Museum, Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus (with the cave of the Holy Family), the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Saint George Greek Orthodox Church, Ben Ezra Synagogue, Amr Ibn El-Aas Mosque, & the newly built Souq Al-Fustat

In one day you can tour Salah El-Din Citadel, Old Cairo & Khan El-Khalili old bazaar by booking this tour, however it’s recommended to return back to Islamic Cairo -where Khan El-Khalili is- on some other day as it has lots of attractions, worth seeing as mentioned below. 

Islamic Cairo

Ibn Touloun Mosque by Passainte AssemIbn Touloun Mosque by Passainte Assem
  • A ticket that costs EGP 10 for Egyptians, EGP 50 for foreign students, and EGP 100 for foreigners will grant you access to the Qalawun Complex at Al-Muizz Street.
  • You must walk Al-Muizz Street at night as it is beautifully lit, but also during the day to access its attractions;
  1. Bab Al-Foutouh
  2. Al Nasser Muhammad school
  3. Mosque-School of Al-Sultan Barquq
  4. Prince Beshtak Palace
  5. Al-Hakem bi-Amr Elah Mosque

Worth a visit as well

The Mausoleum of Al-Saleh Najm Al-Din Ayuub by Passainte AssemThe Mausoleum of Al-Saleh Najm Al-Din Ayuub by Passainte Assem
  • Beit El-Sehemy (costs EGP 5 for Egyptians, EGP 50 for foreigners & EGP 25 for students to enter the house)
  • Khan El-Khalili (the old souq)
  • Al-Fishawy iconic Cafe and/or Naguib Mahfouz cafe
  • El-Kheyameya street where Kheyameyah traditional art is made

Tip: please note that most attractions & sights close at 4 PM.

Local Art Performances

Tanoura Show at Wekalet El-Ghouri by Passainte AssemTanoura Show at Wekalet El-Ghouri by Passainte Assem
  • The Tanoura Show (whirling dervishes) at Wekalet El-Ghoury every Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday at 7:30 till 9:00 PM — EGP 5 for Egyptians & EGP 30 for foreigners
  • Makan (Egyptian Center for Culture & Art)
  • A Nile River dinner cruise with a belly dancing show that can be booked here

Movie Screenings, Cultural & Art Centers

Night Scene

Read also: Cairo in 48 Hours

Where to eat

Egyptian Food

Molokheya making at Kebdet Elprince by Passainte AssemMolokheya making at Kebdet Elprince by Passainte Assem

Must Eats/Drinks

Vegetarian Local Eats

  • Koshary: a carb-fiesta of rice, pasta, vermicelli, chickpeas, garlic with vinegar sauce, tomato sauce, & fried onions
  • Messa’a’a (Egyptian version of Moussaka): eggplants with peppers, garlic, tomato sauce,  and sometimes dried raisins — always ask if it contains minced beef or not
  • Ful Medames: fava beans cooked in a special way, eaten with bread
  • Falafel — known in Egypt as Ta’meya… it’s ok to say falafel, but you won’t sound local
Ta'ameya sandwich by Riham El-MoghrabyTa’meyah sandwich by Riham El-Mograby
  • Bessara: a green paste made of fava beans and herbs
  • Fried eggplants with garlic sauce
  • Molokheya: green soup poured over rice or dipped with bread
  • Fat-tah: rice with chunks of moist bread with tomato sauce, garlic & vinegar
  • Torly: mixed vegetables baked in the oven with tomato sauce – Egyptian ratatouille
  • Mahshi: vegetables such as zucchini, eggplants, green pepper, cabbage leaves, or vine leaves stuffed with rice (also ask– it may contain meat)
Typical Egyptian Breakfast by Nesreen El-MollaTypical Egyptian Breakfast by Nesreen El-Molla

Non-Vegetarian Eats

  • Fried or roasted ducks preferably to be eaten with molokheya
  • Fried rabbits preferably to be eaten with molokheya
  • Stuffed or grilled pigeons
  • Stuffed or grilled quails 
  • Fried livers, or grilled with sauce
  • Fattah with beef or lamb
  • Feteer Egyptian Pizza
Feteer by Nesreen El-MollaFeteer with eshta & ‘assal -cream & honey- by Nesreen El-Molla

Drinks

  • Tea with mint — the official caffeinated drink
  • Turkish coffee — preferably the one with cardamom and nutmeg
  • Sobia — tastes like coconut milk, but no idea how it’s made
  • Kharoub — carob
  • Karkadeh — cold hibiscus
  • Sugar cane juice
  • Sahlab — it’s Turkish; commonly consumed in winter, it’s made of Sahlab powder, milk, nuts, dried raisins & coconut sprinkles
  • Halabessa (a.k.a. Homoss El-Sham) — a winter drink and a meal in one! It’s made with a pinch of lemon, salt, pepper, chili powder, and chickpeas.
Halabessa by Nesreen El-MollaHalabessa by Nesreen El-Molla

Desserts

  • Om Ali
  • Belila
  • Sha’reya bel laban
  • Sugarcane honey with tahini
  • Rice pudding
Rice pudding with ice cream & nuts by Nesreen El-MollaRice pudding with ice cream & nuts by Nesreen El-Molla

Genuine Local Eateries

  • El-Omda or GAD. Both are big chains that have many branches all over Cairo & Egypt. They have tasty Ful (fava beans), Falafel (known in Egypt as Ta’meya), fried eggplants, french-fry-sandwiches & more)
  • Fasahet Somaya (a tiny place serving a different “plat du jour” everyday)
  • Felfela Restaurant – at Hoda Shaarawy Street in Downtown. It’s very famous & touristy, yet even locals love going there because their food quality & taste are tip-top.
  • Kebdet Elprince Don’t fret about the waiting list; last time I went they were at #11, but in half an hour they called our #48. It’s an Egyptian food paradise; don’t leave without eating molokheya, fried beef, rice with beef & grilled livers with sauce.
Food fiesta at Kebdet Elprince by Passainte Assem
  • Sobhy Kaber (their specialty is Kebabs)
  • Fatatry El-Hossein in Islamic Cairo. Just ask about it when you are at the Old Souq of Khan El-Khalili. They sell sweet and salty Egyptian pancakes known as feteer, & pizza. Order the feteer for sure; my favorite salty ones are with “sogo'” (Egyptian sausages — but don’t say ‘sausages’ or they’d think you want the western ones) or mixed cheese. They also have one vegetarian option. For the sweet I’d go for the one with honey & cream.
  • Koshary Abou Tarek
  • Naguib Mahfouz Cafe in Islamic Cairo, serving genuine local cuisine while a band performs Arabic songs from our heritage every day except for Tuesdays. The minimum charge is EGP 150.

Egyptian Food Restaurants

  • Abou El Sid -their Zamalek branch is the best
  • Andrea Mariouteyah in New Giza -their Egyptian breakfast menu that lasts till 1 PM is very tasty & authentic, though feteer should be ordered 24 hours in advance. Also try their signature grilled quails over lunch or dinner.
Koshary by Muhammad Abousteit Koshary by Muhammad Abousteit

Cafés & Patisserie

Rainbow Cake from Cake Cafe by Passainte AssemRainbow Cake from Cake Cafe by Passainte Assem

Other Cuisines

Egyptian Pita Bread named Aysh Baladi by Alex Block via UnsplashEgyptian Pita Bread named Aysh Baladi by Alex Block via Unsplash
  • Pepenero in Korba — Italian cuisine
  • The Smokery in Katameya Heights — International cuisine
  • Ovio at Galleria 40, has also another cool branch in Maadi — European cuisine

Have you got other recommendations you think we should add to this list? Please mention them in the comments below.

We hope you really liked this blog post, as much as we enjoyed putting it together. If you want to ask us any questions, or engage with other people, join our Facebook group here.

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Egyptian. Ex-Lawyer. Former Corporate Slave. Travel Blogger & Photographer. Proud Kilimanjaro Summiteer. Budget Traveler. Thrill Seeker. Foodie.
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Comments

    • Sherine Osman
    • December 26, 2017
    Reply

    Soooo proud of you! Its amazing! Maybe your just missing Andiamo.. came to my mind! ❤️

    1. Reply

      Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks Sherry, I’m humbled by your lovely comment <3 <3 <3
      I have also added Andiamo to the list, thanks for the recommendation 😉

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