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Pharaonic Cairo - explore the monuments of ancient Egypt

Destination(s): Cairo

Cairo was founded by the Arabs in the Seventh Century, but the ancient Egyptians had been living in this area for thousands of years. The capital of ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom, and still hugely significant throughout the rest of the pharaonic period, was Memphis (about 20 km south of the centre of Cairo). Although Memphis is reduced to a shadow of its former glory, many pharaonic monuments still remain in or near Cairo. The most famous are, of course, the Pyramids of Giza, and the collection of the Egyptian museum. However, there are loads more to discover for the traveller who really wants to get to grips with pharaonic Cairo. This trip will lead you through the most important pharaonic monuments left in Cairo (and will also take you out of the city), as well as a couple of institutions that are famous for promoting knowledge about ancient Egypt. Note that it is assumed you will stay in one of the hotels near to the Pyramids themselves, although you could just as well stay in Downtown. Either way, you will need to hire a taxi to take you around each day (except for day 4). Your hotel will be able to help you out with this. There’s going to be lots of driving, but discovering pharaonic Cairo will be great fun! Note that Egypt is a traditional country, and so it is sensible and respectful to dress conservatively. This is not so important at the tourist sites, but is good practice nonetheless. Finally, you will be on your feet for most of each day, so comfortable footwear is a must. Always carry a bottle of water with you. read more about Pharaonic Cairo - explore the monuments of ancient Egypt

Giza Plateau

Giza Plateau

  • Sh. Al Ahram Road
  • Old town of Giza, 5 miles into the desert
  • tel:+20 (0)2 385 0259
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Situated about 25 km south west of the centre of Cairo, the Giza Plateau has been a necropolis since at least the start of the Pharaonic period. For many people, the chance to visit the Giza Plateau is a childhood dream come true, because this is where the most famous Egyptian Pyramids are situated.

The Giza Plateau is home to the Great Pyramid of Khufu (known to the Greeks as Cheops), the Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren), and the Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus), and also the Great Sphinx and the Valley Temple, and the Solar Boat Museum.

As well as these famous attractions, there are numerous secondary pyramids that were built for queens and children of the pharaohs. All are believed to have been built during the Fourth Dynasty, over four thousand years ago! However, there are also numerous mastaba tombs dotted about the Giza Plateau, some of which date back to the First Dynasty and the beginning of the Pharaonic period.

The Giza Plateau has been intensively and systematically studied since the end of the 18th Century, but new discoveries are still being made. No-one knows how many of ancient Egypt's secrets are still locked up beneath the shifting desert sands. For many visitors, however, the most surprising thing is that the Giza Plateau is no longer isolated in the middle of the desert, but is actually right next to a suburb of Giza. The past and present truly are intertwined in Cairo! read more about Giza Plateau

Memphis

Memphis

  • 24 kilometres south of Cairo
  • Memphis
  • Memphis

Legend has it that Memphis was founded by King Menes around 3100 BC, when he unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Memphis was the capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, and remained an important religious and administrative centre throughout the whole of the Pharaonic period. Memphis is a Greek name; the ancient Egyptians knew the city as Ineb Hedj ("The White Walls"), and later as Ankh Tawy ("That Which Binds the Two Lands").

No-one knows for sure how large the city was, with population estimates ranging from 6000 to 30,000. It is known to have been advanced, cosmopolitan, and teeming with palaces, temples and gardens; given the size of the associated necropolis, stretching from Dahshur to Giza, Memphis itself was probably very large.

Sadly, most of the city now lies under fields, Nile silt and nearby villages – and only a few ruins hold testament to the ancient splendour that was Memphis. Although there is not much here anymore, the incredible significance of the site might justify a visit. As well as pretty gardens and the odd statue and temple fragment, there is a huge colossus of Ramses the Second, and a large alabaster sphinx ascribed to Thutmosis III.

The present-day site is about 20 km south of Cairo, and is best visited by taxi. If you are going to go, it's a good idea to combine it with a visit to nearby Saqqara. read more about Memphis

Dr. Ragab's Pharaonic Village

Dr. Ragab's Pharaonic Village

  • 3 El Bahr El Aazam St
  • (Jacob's Island, Giza)
  • tel:+20 2 571 8675
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561
The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid

What can be said about the most iconic, and controversial, building in the world? The Pyramid of Khufu, most commonly known as the Great Pyramid of Giza, is the only one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world that is still standing.

It is believed to have been built during the reign of 4th Dynasty pharaoh Khufu (known as Cheops in Greek), and completed round about 2560 BC. Constructed from an estimated 2.3 million blocks of sandstone, and with an estimated total mass of nearly 6 million tonnes, the Pyramid of Khufu has to be seen to be believed. Awe-inspiring does not even come close to describing the Great Pyramid, and it is still not known how the ancient Egyptians built it (assuming they even did)!

Furthermore, many researchers don't believe it was a tomb after all – other explanations include astronomical observatory, centre of cult initiation, and representation of the earth's physical properties. Decide for yourself as you soak up the magic and majesty of this timeless monument.

Along with the Pyramids of Khafre (Chephren) and Menkaure (Mycerinus), and of course the Sphinx, the Pyramid of Khufu is part of the Giza Pyramids Complex. Make sure you also find the time to check out the Solar Boat Museum next to the Pyramid of Khufu.

The best way to visit the Giza Plateau is by taxi. read more about The Great Pyramid

Memphis: Alabaster Sphinx

Memphis: Alabaster Sphinx

  • Memphis
  • Near Colossus of Ramses II
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)
  • Cairo, 12561
Dr. Ragab's Papyrus Institute

Dr. Ragab's Papyrus Institute

  • El-Nil Street
  • P.O. Box 45
  • tel:+20 2 336 7212 / +20 2 348 9035 / +20 2 349 9133
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11211
Zamalek

Zamalek

  • Northern tip of Gezira island
  • Cairo

Technically, Zamalek is the northern half of the island Gazira, although most people refer to the whole island as Zamalek. The southern tip hosts the Sofitel hotel, Opera house, Planetarium and Museum of Modern Islamic Art. The middle of the island is taken up by the greenery of various private members clubs, such as the exclusive Nadi al-Gazira, and also the bizarre Fish Garden park. The northern half of the island is, by Egyptian standards, a relatively green and peaceful residential area. The area is affluent, popular with expats, and hosts a number of foreign embassies. There are lots of good quality shops in Zamalek, selling western style and designer clothes, jewellery, and some exquisite and original crafts. The main branch of Fair Trade Egypt is also on Zamalek, and well worth a visit. The staff are very knowledgeable, and have lots of information about the community groups they work with around Egypt. The Sawy Cultural Centre is also on Zamalek, at the western end of the busy 26 July street. They always have interesting art exhibitions going on, host lots of concerts, and even have a non-smoking café! Finally, Zamalek is home to tons of trendy and quirky restaurants, bars and cafes. Best of the bunch are probably La Bodega, L'Aubergine, and Sequoia; competition is fierce, and the list ever-growing. read more about Zamalek

Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)

Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)

  • Giza Pyramids Plateau
  • tel:+20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

The Pyramid of Chephren (or Khafre, in ancient Egyptian) is the second largest of the three pyramids at Giza, and is sometimes known as the Second Pyramid. It appears larger than the Pyramid of Khufu, but that is because it is built on higher ground and the peak is still intact. It is believed to have been built during the reign of 4th dynasty pharaoh Khafre, thought by most archaeologists to be Khufu's son.

Unlike the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre still has the remains of the limestone casing stones at the top – these would have protected the pyramid and given it a brilliant iridescent glow that could allegedly be seen from the mountains of Israel. The pyramid is linked by a causeway to the Great Sphinx – you can walk down this causeway, though you can't enter in to the compound of the Sphinx from here (you have to skirt around the outer wall).

You can usually go inside the Pyramid of Chephren for a small fee, and follow a steep and claustrophobic passage all the way down to the burial chamber. There is not much to see, but the sensation of being inside such a huge physical mass is an incredible experience.

The best way to visit the Giza Plateau is by taxi. read more about Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)

Memphis: Sun Temples of Abu Ghurab

Memphis: Sun Temples of Abu Ghurab

  • North East of Sahure's Pyramid
  • Memphis
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)
  • Cairo, 12561
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

  • Off Hussein Square
  • (Across from El Azhar Mosque)
  • Cairo, 11211

Established in the 14th Century, and in constant use since then, Khan al-Khalili (or more simply, The Khan) is Egypt at its most intoxicating. Cairo has always been an important trade centre, and this tradition continues today in the bustling maze of alleys that forms Khan al-Khalili Bazaar.

The Khan itself is relatively small, and is largely devoted to tourists. There are souvenirs here for every taste and budget: spices, jewellery, inlaid mother-of-pearl boxes and backgammon sets, water pipes, scarves, lamps, delicate perfume bottles (and the perfume to go in them)… you can even get yourself a singing, dancing camel!

Be warned, though, the traders here are black belts at haggling – so be firm, but maintain your sense of humour and enjoy the experience for what it is: the raucous, beating heart of commerce the old-school way.

When the banter gets too much, relax in al-Fishawi Coffee Shop with a water pipe and a strong Turkish coffee. This café has been open 24 hours a day since 1773, and Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz is said to have visited every day up to his death in 2006.

At the east end of the Khan is al-Hussein Square, home to the beautiful al-Hussein Mosque. The western end is bound by Muizz li-Din Allah Street. You can head north to Bab al-Futuh, past Islamic monuments such as al-Aqmar Mosque and Beit al-Souhaymi, or south towards Bab Zwayla and the Street of the Tentmakers. Leading west from Khan al-Khalili towards Ataba is al-Muski Street, a crazy local market that is well worth exploring.

To get to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, take a taxi to al-Azhar Mosque and cross the road via the underpass. The more adventurous traveller can walk up to the bazaar from Ataba Metro station, along al-Muski.
read more about Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

Abou el Sid

Abou el Sid

  • 157, 26th of July Street, just down from Diwan book store
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2735 9640 / +20 (0)10 100 8500
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Abou el Sid, located on Zamalek, offers excellent, authentic Egyptian cuisine in very atmospheric surroundings. Décor is traditional Arabesque, heavy on the mashrabiyya wooden panelling, but the atmosphere is lively and down to earth. A word of warning though - the staff can be incredibly rude, and the service isn't always great.

Don't let this put you off though, because Abou el Sid is an excellent place to share a selection of mouth-watering mezzes, and offers a wide range of traditional Egyptian mains. Try the Rabbit with Molokheiya for a real taste of rural Egypt, their old-school fish Sayadeya, or opt for Egypt's national dish, Koshary (a mix of pasta, lentils, fried onions and tomato sauce). Abou el Sid also serves a range of alcohol, and Egyptian water pipes (shishas).

Abou el Sid gets very busy, so it's advisable to book in advance. If you can't get a table, L'Aubergine and La Bodega are near by, or you could try the Abou el Sid branches in Mohandiseen, Maadi or City Stars. read more about Abou el Sid

Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus)

Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus)

  • Giza Pyramids Plateau
  • tel:+20 2 383 8823
  • Cairo, 12561

The Pyramid of Mycerinus (or Menkaure, in ancient Egyptian) is the baby of the three Pyramids of Giza, if you can call something 108 m long and 67 m high a baby! Like the Pyramids of Khufu and Chephren, the Pyramid of Menkaure was built during the 4th dynasty, and so is well over 4000 years old! Not much is known of Menkaure, though he was believed to have been another of Khufu's sons, and successor to Khafre.

The Pyramid of Mycerinus is set back from the other two pyramids, about a 15 minute walk away. It therefore receives fewer visitors than its two bigger brothers, but is well worth checking out. Many observers claim that, when viewed on its own, the Pyramid of Mycerinus exudes an almost palpable sense of power – far more than that of the other two. Because it is smaller, and so easier to comprehend, the effects of the geometry are magnified. Make sure you go to experience this example of pyramid power for yourself!

The best way to visit the Giza Plateau is by taxi. read more about Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus)

Step Pyramid of Saqqara

Step Pyramid of Saqqara

  • North Saqqara
  • (32 kilometres south of Cairo)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

This is where it all began! The Step Pyramid of Saqqara is the oldest complete cut-stone building in the world. It was designed by the high priest and architect Imhotep for the 3rd dynasty pharaoh Djoser (about 2667 – 2648 BC).

Before this pyramid, the pharaohs were buried beneath rectangular tombs known as mastabas (which means "bench" in Arabic). Imhotep (who was later deified) stacked 6 mastabas on top of each other to create the first ever pyramid, which served as inspiration for the later structures at Giza and beyond.

The Step Pyramid of Saqqara is a truly incredible achievement, and despite standing for nearly 5000 years it is still pretty much intact. It is part of a much larger site that acted as a necropolis for the ancient Egyptians for over 3000 years. The whole area is littered with other pyramids and mastaba tombs, such as the Pyramid of Unas, the Serapeum, and the Mastaba of Ti. Some of these other monuments are open – check at the ticket office when you arrive.

Despite its significance, Saqqara receives a disproportionately small number of visitors, and is a very atmospheric place to wander around and explore on your own. There is isn't much shade, so make sure to cover up and take plenty of water.

The best way to get here is by taxi, and it's possible to combine your visit with nearby Memphis. read more about Step Pyramid of Saqqara

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

  • El-Fishawi Alley
  • (Khan al-Khalili)
  • Cairo

Located in the heart of Khan al-Khalili, al-Fishawi is Egypt's most famous, and most exciting coffee shop. Al-Fishawi has been open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for hundreds of years, and used to be a favourite haunt of artists and writers such as Nobel prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz.

The so-called "cafe of mirrors" extends along the side of one of Khan al-Khalili's narrow alleyways, and has a gorgeous, carved wood (mashrabia) interior. These days, the sheer volume of people visiting al-Fishawi means rickety wooden tables and chairs spill out in to the alley itself, with the effervescent waiters fighting a constant battle to squeeze the extra bodies in somewhere. The atmosphere is chaotic, with a heady mix of tourists, locals, shop-keepers and trinket-sellers variously drinking, shouting, and pushing their way through the throng.

Al-Fishawi serves the standard range of sodas, juices and hot drinks, as well as various flavours of shisha (water pipe). It's a great place to take a break from shopping in Khan al-Khalili - though don't expect it to be relaxing! read more about Al-Fishawi Coffee Shop

Solar Boat Museum

Solar Boat Museum

  • Giza Pyramids Plateau
  • tel:+20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

The ancient Egyptians believed the dead pharaoh would join the Sun God in his solar boat to sail through the underworld. In 1954 an actual solar boat (or barque) was found in a sealed pit next to the Pyramid of Khufu. The boat was made of cedar wood and almost perfectly preserved, although disassembled in to over 1000 pieces. A team of archaeologists spent over 10 years reconstructing the boat, which is now on display in the Solar Boat Museum, next to the Great Pyramid.

The boat is a remarkable feat of engineering – about 40 m long and with a displacement of around 400 tonnes! It is not known whether the boat played a purely symbolic function, or whether it actually served as Khufu's ship of state. There is some physical evidence that suggests the boat actually sailed at sea!

The Solar Boat Museum houses a number of artefacts found in the pit, as well as the reconstructed boat itself. It also has an interesting photo exhibition detailing the immense amount of work that went into the salvage operation. The best way to visit the Giza Plateau is by taxi. read more about Solar Boat Museum

Saqqara: Pyramid of Unas

Saqqara: Pyramid of Unas

  • Saqqara
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

The Pyramid of Unas, in the Saqqara necropolis, was built by the last pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty, Unas. Although he ruled Egypt for around 30 years, it is the smallest of the Old Kingdom pyramids: it is believed that Egypt was already in a period of economic decline at this time. Situated near the spectacular Step Pyramid of Zoser, the Pyramid of Unas is easily overlooked, since it is nothing more than a vaguely pyramid shaped pile of rubble. It was once part of a larger, walled funerary complex, complete with subsidiary cult pyramid and temple, and was attached via a causeway to the valley temple. Sadly, none of this really remains. Which is ironic, since the ancient Egyptian name for the complex was "Beautiful are the places of Unas"! Appearances can be deceiving, however, and the Pyramid of Unas is actually a very significant archaeological find. It contains the oldest known examples of the Pyramid texts. These were a series of religious and magic spells that were carved into the passageways and chambers of all Royal pyramids, from the time of Unas onwards. These spells and invocations seem to form the basis of much of the ancient Egyptian belief system, and gradually evolved into the more complete and elaborate symbolism of the various Books of the Dead that were used to adorn the New Kingdom tombs. Sadly, it is not possible to enter the Pyramid of Unas to see these beautiful carvings for yourself, since it is closed as part of a long term restoration project. read more about Saqqara: Pyramid of Unas

Egyptian pancake house

Egyptian pancake house

  • Midan Hussein
  • tel:2024505871
  • Cairo

The Egyptian Pancake House is situated in on the edge Khan al-Khalili bazaar, and is a good place to eat in the area.

Egyptian pancakes (sometimes referred to as pizzas or pies) are actually known as feteers, and are sort of like a pizza topping stuffed inside a crepe. They are a perfect quick and tasty filler.

The Egyptian Pancake House offers various savoury and sweet feteers, and the best thing to do is to take a selection, and share. They aren't the best in Cairo, but they are authentic, and compared to a lot of the overpriced rubbish served up in the bazaar area, if you do need to eat, this is a good bet.

The spicy sausage feteer is particularly good, as is the honey, nuts and cream. Watch how the chef makes the pastry, slapping it on the counter and swinging it around his head to stretch the dough.

At the Egyptian Pancake House, you eat your feteers sitting at plastic tables and chairs balanced on the busy pavement, with a stream of vendors and the occasional tour bus parading past. This organised chaos, so typical of Cairo, is a big part of the fun! read more about Egyptian pancake house

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

  • Giza Pyramids Plateau
  • tel:+20 2 383 8823
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

Like the Pyramid of Khufu, the Sphinx (often known as the Great Sphinx) is simultaneously one of the best known and yet most controversial monuments in the world.

With the body of a lion seamlessly blending in to a human head, the Sphinx is carved from a single piece of in-situ rock 73 m long and 20 m high. It is sublimely beautiful, and has struck wonder into the hearts of visitors through the ages. It is believed to be a solar symbol, possibly representing the unity of matter and consciousness, the physical and spiritual realms.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the Sphinx was constructed by Chephren (builder of the Second Pyramid), and it is true that the Valley Temple next to the Sphinx is linked to the Pyramid of Chephren. However, an alternative view – backed by geological evidence – suggests the Sphinx is much older than the normal 4th Dynasty date ascribed it, perhaps having been built as early as 10,000 BC. Adding to the mystery, a number of esoteric groups believe that the mythical "Hall of Records" is located beneath the Sphinx, containing the secret knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.

Whatever the truth of these claims, the allure of this moving monument will continue. The best way to visit the Giza Plateau is by taxi. read more about The Sphinx

Saqqara: Serapeum

Saqqara: Serapeum

Situated near to the Mastaba of Ti in Saqqara, the Serapeum is one of Saqqara's strangest monuments. The temple was discovered by archaeologist Auguste Mariette in 1850. Twenty-four granite sarcophagi in which sacred bulls had been buried were discovered there, though unfortunately they had been plundered. These sacred Apis bulls were believed to be incarnations of Ptah, the cult god of Memphis. The sacred bulls were kept in the temple to Ptah at Memphis, their every need tended to by an army of attendants. They even had their own harem of cows, and when they died, they were mummified and buried in the Serapeum with full pomp and circumstance. Incredibly, the sarcophagi were carved from single blocks of granite weighing up to 80 tons! Unfortunately, the Serapeum is currently closed to visitors. read more about Saqqara: Serapeum

Gayer-Anderson Museum

Gayer-Anderson Museum

  • 4 Maydan Ibn Tulun
  • Ibn Tulun Street
  • tel:+20 2 364 7822
  • Cairo

The Gayer-Anderson museum is formed from two houses of the 15th and 16th centuries joined by a bridge. The houses use the outer wall of Ibn Tulun Mosque for support, and were nearly knocked down in 1928. Luckily, they were so well preserved that they were spared, and in 1935 a British Major called John Gayer-Anderson was given permission to move in. He oversaw restoration of the houses, and filled them with his own personal, eclectic collection of art and furnishings from the Near East. The Gayer-Anderson Museum is jam-packed with Islamic history of all kinds, and even includes an interesting section inspired by ancient Egypt. Like the adjacent Ibn Tulun Mosque, the Gayer-Andersen Museum was used as a location in Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me; and it is said to be protected by the spirit of a Muslim sheikh who will blind would-be robbers! As with most sites in Cairo, it's easiest to get here by taxi. read more about Gayer-Anderson Museum

Felfela

Felfela

  • Talaat Harb Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2392 2833
  • Cairo, 11111

Beloved of tourists and locals alike, Felfela is a Cairo fast food institution. On the right as you head up Talaat Harb street towards the midan, Felfela is a simple, brightly coloured and brightly lit restaurant that offers a whole range of Egyptian street food classics.

You can get koshary (with or without meat), chicken or beef shawerma, different types of taamiya and felafel sandwiches, all sorts of fuul... simply name your staple!

Although it's a bit more expensive than the proper dive restaurants offering this food, Felfela is still cheap, and reassuringly hygienic.

The way it works is easy: you order and pay at the cash desk, and the staff will give you a ticket. (Felfela has menus in English, and the staff speak English too.) You take your ticket to the appropriate part of the restaurant (the staff will tell you where to go if you aren't sure), and swap it for some food!

You can either eat amongst the other customers, standing up at the waist-height counters, or take your food to go. Either way, it's delicious!

Felfela is set right amongst the action of Downtown Cairo. Afterwards, why not head to the nearby Stella Bar, Horeya, or Odeon Palace Bar, and grab yourself a local beer to wash your food down!

There is also a proper sit down version of the restaurant just around the corner on Hoda Sharaawy Street. read more about Felfela

Saqqara: Mastaba of Ti

Saqqara: Mastaba of Ti

  • North East of Serapeum, Saqqara
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

Northwest of Zoser's funerary complex in Saqqara, near to the Serapeum and amongst a field of 3rd dynasty tombs, lies the Mastaba of Ti. Ti was an important court dignitary during the early 5th Dynasty, whose wife was of noble blood, and whose children were therefore recognised as being of royal descent. His main function was as one of the pharaoh's chief hairdressers, though he was also responsible for maintaining farming land and stock. The Mastaba of Ti was discovered in 1865 by Auguste Mariette, and has provided a wealth of information about life in the Old Kingdom. This large tomb consists of a main room with a shaft leading down to the burial chamber, and a passageway leading to two other rooms. Much of the Mastaba of Ti is covered with remarkably preserved, colourful reliefs of scenes from daily life, such as hunting and fishing, boat building and tannery. The reliefs have been used to infer much information about Old Kingdom times, though it's likely their true significance is allegorical, and related to ancient Egyptian belief systems and symbolism. It is possible to go down the shaft in the Mastaba of Ti to view the burial chamber: the shaft is cramped and you will need to bend over double, but it is very short. The burial chamber contains Ti's plain sarcophagus, though there is nothing else to see. Note that although you do not have to pay extra to visit the Mastaba of Ti, the caretakers will expect a little baksheesh for taking you down the shaft to the burial chamber. read more about Saqqara: Mastaba of Ti

Giza Pyramids: Sound and Light Show

Giza Pyramids: Sound and Light Show

  • Giza Pyramids Plateau
  • tel:+20 (0)2 386 3469 / +20 (0)2 385 2880 / +20 (0)2 285 4509 (Egyptian Tou
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561
Mastaba of Ptah-Hotep and Akhti-Hotep

Mastaba of Ptah-Hotep and Akhti-Hotep

  • Between Step Pyramid and Serapeum
  • Saqqara
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)
  • Cairo, 12561

The double mastaba tomb of Ptah-Hotep and Akhti-Hotep is just off the left of the road that leads up towards the refreshment area and the Mastaba of Ti in Saqqara. Ptah-Hotep was a priest of Maat, the Goddess of Justice, during the reign of Pharaoh Djedkare (predecessor of Unas, builder of the pyramid containing the earliest known Pyramid texts). Akhti-Hotep was his son, a vizier and supervisor of pyramid cities and priests. The Mastaba of Ptah-Hotep and Akhti-Hotep has a separate burial chamber and chapel for each of the deceased, and is considered to be one of the finest mastabas in Saqqara. The hunting and farming scenes in Ptah-Hotep's part of the tomb are particularly well preserved, still retaining lots of detail and much of their original colour. The mastaba of Ptah-Hotep and Akhti-Hotep is also interesting because not all of the reliefs have been finished, but are in various stages of completion. You can see different stages of the process whereby initial sketches were corrected in red by a master artist, before areas were chiselled away, cut with detail, and finally painted to produce the finished product. read more about Mastaba of Ptah-Hotep and Akhti-Hotep

Estoril

Estoril

  • 12 Talaat Harb Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 25743102
  • Cairo, 11111

Estoril is a cosy restaurant/bar tucked down an alley in Downtown. It's a small place, and although the smart tables are close together, it still feels quite intimate. The lighting is soft, and the atmosphere muted. There is no music, so soft conversation provides the aural backdrop.

Estoril is decorated in a restrained, classy fashion: modern Arabic paintings adorn the walls, and there are a few mashrabia screens dotted about. The end of the room is dominated by a heavy wooden bar, complete with mashrabia panelling, and an ornate, gilded mirror.

The staff are usually very welcoming, and the service is generally good: attentive and efficient, without being fussy. The menu at Estoril consists of classic Arabic dishes, many of which have been given a French twist. Start your meal with a selection of hot and cold mezze, and move on to a main of chicken, beef or veal. The chicken with molokheiya is pretty good. There's also a good selection of seafood, and – unusually for Egypt – a decent choice of quality veggie dishes. Finish with fresh fruit salad, or a traditional sweet mihallabiya.

Don't feel rushed to leave after your meal – grab a stool next to the beautiful bar, and linger over a drink or two.

Note that Estoril can be rather hit and miss. Sometimes the food and service is great; other times it's mediocre at best. And some nights, especially at weekends, the bar can be rather boisterous, whereas other nights it's all but dead. It's worth turning up to see what's going on, because there are lots of other places nearby like The Greek Club and Le Grillon.
read more about Estoril

Saqqara: Mastaba of Mereruka

Saqqara: Mastaba of Mereruka

  • Step Pyramid of Djoser
  • Saqqara
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561

Just to the north-west of the Pyramid of Teti in Saqqara is the Mastaba of Mereruka. Mereruka was the pharaoh Teti's highest court official, during the 6th Dynasty. Covering an area of over 1000 sq m, and with 32 separate chambers, the Mastaba of Mereruka is the largest known tomb belonging to a court official in the Old Kingdom. There are pillared hallways, offering rooms, and the burial rooms themselves. Mereruka's wife, who was a priestess of Hathor (and daughter of Teti), was also buried in the Mastaba of Mereruka, as was his eldest son. The Mastaba of Mereruka contains the usual range of daily life scenes, especially of hunting and farming, and some of the reliefs are very well preserved. The main, columned offering hall in the Mastaba of Mereruka contains a life-sized statue of the vizier emerging from a false door to receive the offerings left for him. read more about Saqqara: Mastaba of Mereruka

Saqqara: Mastaba of Kagemni

Saqqara: Mastaba of Kagemni

  • Beside Step Pyramid
  • Saqqara
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509 (Tourist information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 12561
Saqqara: Mastaba of Ankh-Mahor

Saqqara: Mastaba of Ankh-Mahor

Dahshur

Dahshur

  • Dahshur
  • tel:33850259
  • Cairo

The Dahshur funerary complex contains the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid, believed to have been built by the pharaoh Snefru, father of Khufu (builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza).

The Red Pyramid is the third largest pyramid in Egypt, after the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Chephren at the Giza Plateau. It is very well preserved, and is known as the Red Pyramid because of the reddish hue of the exposed granite blocks. It is believed to be the first true pyramid in the world: with smooth, sloping sides, in contrast to the stepped pyramid at Saqqara.

It is possible to enter the pyramid, which is an amazing experience. Although there isn't much to see, the sensation of being inside such a massive structure is incredible.

The Bent Pyramid is about 1 km south of the Red Pyramid, and the police will not usually let you visit it. You can, however, take some good photos that show why the pyramid is called the Bent Pyramid: half way up the angle of the slope changes, possibly because the architect was worried the pyramid might collapse.

Dahshur receives far fewer visitors than the Pyramids of Giza, and you will often have this special site all to yourself. It's best to visit the Dahshur pyramids by taxi, and you can combine your trip with a visit to nearby Saqqara and Memphis. read more about Dahshur

Camel Ride by the Pyramids

Camel Ride by the Pyramids

  • FB stables
  • Gamal Abdul Nasser St
  • tel:20 (0)16 5070288
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Many people who visit the Pyramids choose to do a camel ride around the enclosure there. A better idea is to do a camel ride into the desert behind the Pyramids. You get fantastic views of the Pyramids, and can imagine you are part of an old trade caravan, travelling across the desert to sell your wares in far off, exotic locations.

There is nothing quite like a camel ride in the desert: you will really start to appreciate the power and beauty of these haughtily majestic creatures, as you sway from side to side on the camel's back, lulled both by the hypnotic motion and the monotonous beauty of the desert.

Many stables near the Sphinx can offer camel rides. FB Stables are highly recommended: they are used to dealing with tourists, are friendly and responsible, and their camels are in good shape. You can organise any sort of trip with them, from a one hour jaunt around the desert, to a multi-day safari.

One of the best times to do a camel ride is for sunset: as well as a magnificent view of the Pyramids, you will hear the beautifully mournful evening Call to Prayer from hundreds of mosques at the same time. Pure magic! read more about Camel Ride by the Pyramids

Moghul Room at the Mena House Oberoi

Moghul Room at the Mena House Oberoi

  • Mena House Oberoi
  • Pyramids' Road
  • tel:20 2 33 77 3222
  • Visit website
  • Cairo