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Gourmet Cairo

Destination(s): Cairo

The Gourmet Egypt trip is designed for foodies who want to sample a range of traditional Egyptian foods, as well as see some of the most important sights in Cairo.

Egyptian cuisine is varied, and is influenced by Turkish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African cuisine, as well as by ancient Egyptian recipes. It tends to be quite homely, very filling, and heavy on the veggies and pulses.

Traditional Egyptian foods include fuul (mashed, spiced fava beans), koshary (a mix of pasta, lentils, chickpeas, fried onions and tomato sauce) and molokheiya (a slimy green vegetable also known as Jew’s Mallow). Chicken and beef are more common than lamb; seafood is also popular, as is pigeon!

The Gourmet Egypt trip will give you the opportunity to try all of these foods, and more. Gourmet Egypt includes in its itinerary some classic restaurants, and also suggestions of fresh produce bazaars to visit. There is also the chance to attend a cookery class. read more about Gourmet Cairo

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

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

Townhouse Gallery

Townhouse Gallery

  • Hussein El Me'mar Basha Street
  • (Off Mahmoud Basyouni Street)
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2576 8086
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11728
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)

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

Mashrabia Gallery

Mashrabia Gallery

  • 8 Champollion Street
  • (Off Tahrir Square)
  • tel:+20 2 578 4494
  • Visit website
  • Cairo, 11728
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)

Al Hussein Mosque

Al Hussein Mosque

  • El-Hussein Square
  • tel:+20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Cairo

Al-Hussein Mosque is one of the most beautiful Cairo mosques. Situated in Midan al-Hussein, next to Khan al-Khalili, al-Hussein Mosque is named after the Prophet's grandson, who was killed by the Umayyads in Iraq in 680 AD during a battle over the succession of the Caliphate. It was this conflict that caused the schism in Islam that gave rise to the two main subdivisions of Sunni and Shia: with the Sunnis recognising the legitimacy of the Umayyad claim, and the Shi'ites maintaining that only a blood relative of Mohammed could be the Caliph. Hussein is revered as a martyr in the Shi'ite world, and although Egypt is predominantly Sunni Muslim, Hussein is still regarded as a saint here too. His head is buried inside al-Hussein Mosque. Technically, the mosque is closed to non-Muslims, though the caretakers will sometimes let you in if you appear respectful enough. Al-Hussein Mosque is elegant and restrained: a huge prayer hall with hundreds of light grey marble pillars, tasteful hanging lamps and chandeliers, and high vaulted ceilings. The mihrab is gorgeous: white, blue, grey and black marble arranged in to traditional geometric designs. The shrine to Hussein is a huge engraved silver affair surrounded by shining white marble, and offset by soft, almost otherworldly green lighting. You will often see pilgrims from all around the Muslim world at Hussein's shrine, walking slowly around it, chanting. read more about Al Hussein Mosque

Abou Tarek Koshary Restaurant

Abou Tarek Koshary Restaurant

  • 16 Champollion Street, on corner of Maarouf Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2577 5935 / +20 (0)2 2576 1911
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Abou Tarek is one of the most famous restaurants in Cairo, if not the whole of Egypt. It's not the sort of place you go to for a lingering, four course meal, because it really serves only one thing: koshary.

Koshary is the best contender for Egypt's national dish, and it's certainly the food that Egyptians living abroad miss the most. Koshary is a carbohydrate bomb: a mixture of different types of pasta, mixed with lentils, chickpeas, fried onions and a sort of tomato salsa. You then season it to taste, with a combination of chilli sauce and a surprisingly fiery lime juice and garlic concoction. It's fast food at its best: cheap, filling, and surprisingly tasty.

While you can get koshary on pretty much any street corner in Cairo, the koshary at Abou Tarek is particularly tasty. There's a high turnover of customers, so it's always freshly made, and pleasingly moist. As befits this no-frills dish, Abou Tarek restaurant is a simple affair: long metal trestle tables, with a splash of greenery about the walls.

Service is very quick, and the staff are used to tourists and are pretty welcoming. The only choice you have to make is whether you want a small or large dish of koshary, and what the best drink is to counteract the burning throat induced by a reckless dollop of chilli sauce! read more about Abou Tarek Koshary Restaurant

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

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

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

Beit Al Souhaymi

Beit Al Souhaymi

  • Darb al-Asfar Street
  • Around Bab el Futuh
  • tel:+20 2 285 4509
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Beit al-Souhaymi is part of the lovingly restored Darb al-Asfar district of Islamic Cairo, situated down an alleyway just past al-Aqmar Mosque. Beit al-Souhaymi is a typical example of the family mansions built in Cairo from the Mamluk period all the way to the 19th Century. It costs 30 LE to enter, but is well worth it. You emerge in to a pretty, tree lined open courtyard complete with singing birds, around which the rest of the house is based. In fact, the Beit al-Souhaymi complex actually merges with two other houses to the west. The whole area is a maze of stairs, passageways and hidden rooms, all of which have been restored, and many of which are wonderfully decorated. Spend some time poking around the nooks and crannies, and you will find rooms with colourful marble mosaic floors, vividly painted wooden ceilings, exquisite mashrabia lattice work (to allow the women to observe the goings on in the house without being seen), and ornate mother of pearl chests that have clearly been the inspiration behind many of the souvenirs sold in Khan al-Khalili. You could easily get lost for an hour or two exploring Beit al-Souhaymi; just make sure you finish your visit in the second, even greener, open courtyard, and take a rest before rejoining the hustle and bustle of the outside world! read more about Beit Al Souhaymi

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

Andrea

Andrea

  • 59-60 Marioutiya Canal, Kerdasa Rd, Harem
  • Shara Kerdessa, al-Haram
  • tel:+20 (0)2 3383 1133
  • Cairo
Hakim Mosque (Al)

Hakim Mosque (Al)

  • Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Al-Hakim Mosque was built in the 11th Century by al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, one of Egypt's most insane, and sadistic rulers. He persecuted Christians, Jews, merchants and women, banned or destroyed everything that annoyed him (including all the city's dogs), and would stand on the heads of his enemies whilst one of his slaves sodomised them. He even had a group of women boiled alive in public. It's ironic, therefore, that the mosque which bears his name is so beautiful! Joining the northern walls, al-Hakim Mosque looks quite plain and solid from the outside, with square towers and an odd style of minaret. There is some delicate Arabic stone filigree work on the arches outside. Inside, however, is a huge open courtyard of blinding white/cream marble, with a deep red marble fountain with white veins running through it. It's simple, but actually quite moving. The main prayer hall still has some original wooden beams, but much of the rest of al-Hakim Mosque was restored in 1980 by a group of Shi'ite Muslims from Brunei. The main mihrab is of pale marble, with beautiful gold trim and calligraphy. You used to be able to climb on to the city walls from al-Hakim Mosque, but that has been officially banned. That does not mean, however, that you can't ask the caretakers: for a little baksheesh, they may find that they can discover the necessary keys after all. read more about Hakim Mosque (Al)

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

Zizo's

Zizo's

  • 1 Midan Bab al Futuh
  • tel:2025926530
  • Cairo

Zizo's, situated opposite one of the north gates (Bab al Futuh) of Islamic Cairo, is one of the city's best kept secrets.

Founded by colourful owner Abdel-Aziz Mustafa Hamzah (aka Zizo) in the 60's, Zizo's specialises in spicy sogoq (beef sausage) sandwiches, Alexandria style. The sandwiches are incredibly tasty, and dirt cheap, though be warned that they have quite a kick. Zizo's is also renowned for the quality of its offal, and the brains are particularly well regarded. For dessert, grab a halawa bil eshta sandwich (halawa is a sweet made of sesame paste and sugar, and eshta is cream) for the ultimate sugar rush!

Zizo himself still runs this tiny, spit and sawdust-type restaurant, as well as making the amazing pickles that accompany his food. He's a very friendly character, that loves to welcome and chat with his guests.

Zizo's is very near Khan el Khalili, so is the perfect place to refuel after a spot of shopping, perhaps before heading to the nearby cities of the dead. read more about Zizo's

Farahat

Farahat

  • 126 Al-Azhar Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 2592 6595
  • Cairo

Farahat is an unassuming, spit and sawdust Egyptian grill tucked away in an alley near Khan al-Khalili. Whilst their kofta and kebab are good, the real reason to visit Farahat is for the pigeon.

Pigeons have been eaten in Egypt since Pharaonic times, and are still specially raised in coups across the country. The pigeons at Farahat are gorgeous: fat and juicy, flavoursome, and stuffed with cracked wheat. There's really no other way to eat them than to rip the bird apart and suck the flesh off the bones - but don't worry, everyone else is doing the same thing!

The food at Farahat comes served with rice, bread, and salads such as tahina, baba ghanoush, and mixed salad. You also get an oily soup served in a glass to begin with. Although there's a nominal charge for the salads, Farahat is pretty good value, with a pigeon costing 25 LE.

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant gets very busy, and since it's effectively just a few plastic chairs and table stuffed into an alley, you often have to wait to be seated. It's well worth it!

Farahat is a great place to take a break from exploring the markets and monuments of Islamic Cairo. Al-Azhar Mosque and the Wikalet al-Ghouri (home to the Sufi dancing show) are just across the street, and it's easy from here to head south towards Bab Zwayla, or north towards Bab al-Futuh. read more about Farahat

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

Al-Azhar Mosque

Al-Azhar Mosque

  • Al-Azhar Street
  • Opposite El-Hussein Square
  • tel:+20 (0)2 59 3893
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Al Azhar Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Egypt, if not the whole world. It was established in 972 AD, the first Fatimid monument built in Cairo. Its name means "the most blooming", after one of the prophet Mohammed's daughters.

Al Azhar Mosque has been renovated and extended over the years, and it reflects a number of architectural styles. The large main courtyard is a particular highlight: 275 by 112 feet, made of glistening white marble, and home to hundreds of ancient columns. The five minarets are particularly elegant, and can be seen from much of Cairo. It is possible to climb some of the towers, though they are often locked and you should remember to give the porter a little something for his trouble.

Al Azhar Mosque is also arguably the most significant in the whole of the Sunni Muslim world: it is home to the second oldest University in the world, established in 975 AD, which specialises in all forms of Islamic studies. The scholars of the university are very well respected, and are often called upon to issue fatwas, or religious rulings.

Al Azhar Mosque is situated in the heart of Islamic Cairo, opposite Midan al-Hussein and Khan al-Khalili bazaar. It is best visited by taxi, though you could also walk up from Ataba Metro station. read more about Al-Azhar Mosque

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

Cedars Restaurant

Cedars Restaurant

  • 42 Gezirat el Arab
  • tel:+20 (0)2 3345 0088 / +20 (0)2 3347 2537 / +20 (0)2 3344 5108 / +20 (0)
  • Cairo

Cedars restaurant in Mohandiseen offers up good quality Lebanese food in relaxed surroundings. It's very popular with locals, and always busy, though you can sometimes find a quiet(ish) corner.

Cedars has a great range of mezzes - the artichoke hearts, hummus with meat, sogoq (spicy Arabian sausages), and vine leaves are particularly good. Mains include a typical range of grills and sandwiches, and lots of offal. Their halloumi sandwich is wonderful, as is the fattah.

Cedars doesn't serve alcohol, though they have a wide range of delicious seasonal juices - the watermelon is particularly good if you catch it.

Cedars is famous for its shisha pipes (the Egyptian water pipe), and with loads of waiting staff, the service is excellent. They also have a patio you can dine on. read more about Cedars Restaurant

Bab Zwayla

Bab Zwayla

  • Sharia al-Muizz el-Din Allah Street
  • tel:+20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Cairo

Bab Zwayla is the only surviving southern gate of the medieval Fatimid city of al-Qahira. Built in the 10th Century, Bab Zwayla is as beautiful as it is imposing: a solid arch framed by chunky round turrets, with graceful minarets piercing the sky. It looks more like the entrance to a castle than to a city! The city wall to the west of the gate is still intact, and you can clearly see the zigzagging battlements with their finely carved decorations. During the Mamluk period, the area in front of Bab Zwayla was used for public gatherings, and dancers and snake charmers performed here. It was especially popular for the macabre entertainment of executions. For a small fee you can enter the western Bab Zwayla gate tower, and climb on to the roof and the city walls. You can even climb most of the way up one of the minarets, and get spectacular views out over Islamic Cairo and the Citadel. Just south of Bab Zwayla, is the Street of the Tentmakers. read more about Bab Zwayla

Horeya

Horeya

  • Midan el-Falaki
  • Bab el-Louk
  • Cairo

Horeya is without a doubt one of the coolest bars in Downtown Cairo. It is not, however, somewhere you come for a quiet drink in nice surroundings! It's essentially an old coffee shop that also serves Stella beer. It has high ceilings, vomit yellow walls and pillars, and a dirty grey stone floor that is littered with fag butts and bean casings the same colour as the walls.

Horeya is crammed full of Stella-sponsored tables and rickety wooden chairs, and patrolled by a handful of serving staff who almost aggressively thrust bottle after bottle of Stella at you. These bottle stay on the table, and are used to calculate your tab when you finally stagger out.

The best thing about Horeya is the clientele: you literally rub shoulders with Egyptians from all walks of life, expats, the occasional tourist, and lots of earnest students from the American University in Cairo practising their Arabic. Even if there were music, you wouldn't be able to hear it over the chaotic hubbub of conversation. Talking to random punters is compulsory!

The most bizarre part of Horeya is that in the corner, separated from the beer drinkers by an imaginary force-field, are groups of old men drinking Turkish coffee and playing chess. It's entirely typical of Horeya that they even manage to do this boisterously! read more about Horeya

Street of the Tentmakers

Street of the Tentmakers

  • Souq Al-Khiamiyya
  • Bab Zwayla
  • Cairo

The Street of the Tentmakers is a beautiful covered market that extends a hundred yards or so south of Bab Zwayla. Souq al-Khiamiyya, as the Street of the Tentmakers is also known, is the only covered market left in Cairo, and dates back to the 17th Century.

Walking down the narrow alleyway feels like stepping back into medieval Cairo, with each simple stall hewn in to solid stone walls, and fronted by a wooden shutter. The tentmakers here have plied their trade for hundreds of years, hand-crafting the colourful appliqué wall-hangings that were traditionally used to decorate Arabic tents. With the demise of the nomadic lifestyle, this noble craft is also dying out, but the Street of the Tentmakers is one of the few places in the Arab world where it still survives.

There aren't so many actual tents on sale now, but this is the best place in Cairo to buy wall hangings, cushion covers, bedspreads and the like. As well as more traditional geometric patterns, you can also find pharaonic designs and other pictures. Almost everything here is bold, brightly coloured, and made by hand.

Best of all, although you are only about a twenty minute walk from the bustle of Khan al-Khalili, prices in the Street of the Tentmakers are much lower. As a final bonus, the craftsmen in the bazaar are really friendly, and more than happy to sit and chat about their work. read more about Street of the Tentmakers