Africa Trip Itineraries
Business Travel to Cairo: Around the corner from the Cairo Sheraton
If you are in Cairo on business, chances are you are staying either Downtown (such as in the Cairo Sheraton) or on Zamalek. This Business Travel to Cairo guide is designed for the business traveller who will have minimal time to explore the sights of Cairo, but still wants to soak up a bit of culture and history, without heading too far afield. Business Travel to Cairo covers some of the sights, restaurants and watering-holes in the important districts of Downtown and Zamalek. Who knows, you may even get a chance to visit the Pyramids! The Business Travel to Cairo guide is relevant to all business travellers, whether it is your first or hundredth time in Cairo. Where applicable, we’ve pointed out changes you could make to the itinerary if you are already a Cairo Jedi. read more about Business Travel to Cairo: Around the corner from the Cairo Sheraton
- Northern tip of Gezira island
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
- Sh. Al Ahram Road
- Old town of Giza, 5 miles into the desert
- tel:+20 (0)2 385 0259
- Visit website
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
- Hussein El Me'mar Basha Street
- (Off Mahmoud Basyouni Street)
- tel:+20 (0)2 2576 8086
- Visit website
- Cairo, 11728
Cairo Opera House Performances
- El Borg Gezira
- (Next to Kasr el-Nil Bridge)
- tel:20 2 737 0601
- Visit website
Egypt has a long association with the performing arts, stretching all the way back to pharaonic times. The first Royal Opera House was built in 1869, to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. Sadly, in 1971 it was completely destroyed by a fire. The replacement, designed by a Japanese architect, was not officially opened until 1988, and was a joint venture between the Ministry of Culture in Cairo and the Japan International Co-operation agency.
The Cairo Opera house is set on the south end of Gezira Island (often known as Zamalek) and is a marvel of postmodern architecture. The exterior is suggestive of traditional Islamic design, yet the interior is a heady blend of the pharaonic and the Baroque! The Cairo Opera House is part of the National Cultural Centre, whose aim is to promote and encourage art, music and dance, and to preserve traditional Arabic music.
There are two main concert halls, as well as an open air theatre. All sorts of performances take place here, from classical music and opera to ballet, traditional music and pop concerts. It's well worth checking the schedule to see what's going on, as all the events are very reasonably priced. Note that the Museum of Modern Islamic Art is also housed in the complex. read more about Cairo Opera House Performances
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
- 8 Champollion Street
- (Off Tahrir Square)
- tel:+20 2 578 4494
- Visit website
- Cairo, 11728
- 59-60 Marioutiya Canal, Kerdasa Rd, Harem
- Shara Kerdessa, al-Haram
- tel:+20 (0)2 3383 1133
- Next to Al-Ahli Sporting Club
- Visit website
The 187 metre high Cairo Tower is arguably Cairo's second most famous landmark (no prizes for guessing number one)! It is the fourth largest tower in the world, made of granite, and styled to look like a lotus plant (the symbol of Upper Egypt).
The Cairo Tower offers fantastic views of the city, and on a clear day you can see all the way from the Pyramids in the west to the Muqattam Hills in the east. The River Nile looks particularly spectacular from this far up, and there are telescopes available to enhance your city-gazing. You ascend the tower in a lift, and there is a revolving restaurant and a café at the top.
The Cairo Tower was completed in 1961, and was caught up in the politics of the age. It was built with American money, and some say that it was actually Russian engineers that designed the tower. Locals believe that as well as a lotus plant, the tower represents the 'middle finger' directed towards the USA, for blocking Nasser's request for a World Bank loan to build the Aswan High Dam.
Whatever the truth of these claims, the Cairo Tower is an unforgettable landmark with spectacular views, and is therefore well worth a visit. It is particularly pretty at night, when lit up by a shifting display of coloured lights. Situated on Gezira Island (more commonly known as Zamalek), the tower is best reached by taxi. read more about Cairo Tower
- 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
Al-Sawy Cultural Centre
- 26 July St.
- tel:+20 (0)2 27366178
- Visit website
Al-Sawy Cultural Centre, at the west end of 26th July Street in Zamalek, is a gem. This progressive and modern cultural centre has a number of halls and exhibition areas given over to cultural activities.
Each month there are different art exhibitions, from traditional Arabic calligraphy to watercolour landscapes. They also host photography exhibitions and craft fairs, and run a number of courses. Fancy learning a bit of yoga, or how to play the tabla? Al-Sawy Cultural Centre is the place to ask, since even if they don't offer the course themselves, they'll know a place that does.
Al-Sawy Cultural centre also has live music each week, from local heavy metal to classical oud, and sometimes performers from abroad. The centre is open to non-members, and many exhibitions are free. You have to pay for the music and the courses, though prices are very low, and discounted for members.
Al-Sawy Cultural Centre also has a pleasant garden area, and a simple café with free Wi-Fi. Unusually for Cairo, the whole of the premises is non-smoking! read more about Al-Sawy Cultural Centre
- Corniche el Nil, across from the Conrad Hotel
Greek Club (The)
- 21 Mahmoud Bassyouni Street
- Midan Talat Harb
- tel:+20 (0)2 2575 0822
- Cairo, 11111
Situated just off Midan Talaat Harb in Downtown, the Greek Club is open to everyone. Non-members have to pay an entrance fee of 5 LE, and there is a cover charge of 1 LE and a minimum charge of 30 LE.
You get far more than you pay for, however, because the Greek Club is in some ways one gorgeous contradiction. The dining room is minimalist elegance personified: an open, almost breezy space with high, vaulted ceilings and ridged columns. The colour scheme is yellow and cream with deep red trim, which also extends to the tables dotted about the vast room. The walls are livened up with the occasional colourful painting.
At odds with the sophisticated surroundings of the Greek Club, is the informal vibe. The staff are very friendly, and the atmosphere can border on the raucous. The high ceilings do nothing to swallow the babble of voices, which even drown out the traditional Greek music playing through chunky speakers.
The menu at the Greek Club is not that comprehensive: there are some mezze, a suitably delicious Greek salad, chicken escallops, and a fair bit of seafood (the calamari is divine), but no moussaka. The food is cheap and cheerful, and for a downtown bar, the drinks prices are criminally low. As well as beer and wine, ouzo is also available. read more about Greek Club (The)
- 157 26th of July Street
- Balmoral Hotel
- tel:20 2 735 6761 / 20 2 735 0543
La Bodega is a mainstay of the Zamalek social scene. Situated at the east end of 26th July Street, La Bodega is not always immediately obvious – look out for the Balmoral sign, and head up the stairs.
The décor at La Bodega is all dark wood grandeur, with sophisticated paintings adorning the walls, and a smart copper bar. Combined with the dim lighting, this gives La Bodega an intimate and sophisticated atmosphere.
Reasonable quality Mediterranean food is served, though it's possible just to go to La Bodega to drink, and they have an extensive cocktail list. Reasonably priced set food menus are offered early in the evening. The clientèle tends to be expats and Egyptians, from around mid 20's upwards. It's an older scene than nearby L'Aubergine, and far more restrained.
It's best to book ahead if you want to eat, and put on your glad rags – the doormen will give you a good once over before letting you in, and aren't that impressed if you are large group of men only. La Bodega is well situated for some Zamalek bar hopping, and is just a few minutes walk away from Deals and Aboul Sid. read more about La Bodega
- 2005 C Cornish El Nil, Cairo Towers, North Building
- tel:+20 (0)2 2461 9910, +20 (0)12 456 6666
- Visit website
Tamarai is where the most beautiful of the beautiful people go to see and be seen, and it's not unusual to see Egyptian pop stars, actors and other celebs in there.
The setting is gorgeous, if somewhat baffling. Everything is modern, stylish and softly lit in yellows and purples and there are lounging, drinking and eating areas. But the bar has a wooden slatted roof that gives it a pagoda-like feel, there's a veiny purple streamer installation that's reminiscent of something from The Abyss, and weird industrial style piping with embedded orange lights criss-cross the ceiling.
Tamarai is the sort of place you go to have an extremely expensive meal whilst listening to upbeat mood music, and then - especially on Thursdays and Fridays - dance the rest of the night away to more energetic dance music from around midnight. Except, most people who go to Tamarai are too cool to dance, though they can tap, nod, and observe.
The food at Tamarai is, admittedly, excellent, prepared by a Michelin starred French chef. It's a varied mixture of international cuisine (with lots of seafood) including such dishes as red tuna sashimi, herring salad, pigeon pie, goats cheese skewers, lasagna, and of course steaks. Dishes such as the beef carpaccio are to die for. You pay for it though: many dishes are around the 200 LE mark, and lots of the starters are 100 LE.
Tamarai also has a great range of imported wines and spirits, and their cocktails are excellent. Drinks prices are pretty good, with cocktails running at around 70 LE and bottles of decent wine in the low hundreds. If you fancy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label, though, you'd better have over 1000 LE spare!
The service at Tamarai depends entirely on who you are. If you're a known celeb, or the staff suspect you might be someone, they'll hover around all night and do everything short of actually eating your food for you. If you're a normal person, getting the attention of the serving staff can be as difficult as distracting a yogi in deep meditation.
Money to burn and interested in how the top echelons of Egyptian society live? Head to Tamarai. Otherwise, don't bother.
read more about Tamarai
- Midan el-Falaki
- Bab el-Louk
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
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
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
Sherlock Holmes Pub
- Ramses Hilton Hotel, 1115 Corniche el-Nil St
- (Ramses Hilton Hotel)
- tel:+20 (0)2 2577 7444
Barrel Lounge and Bar at the Windsor Hotel
- 19 Alfi Street
- Windsor Hotel
- tel:20 2 591 5810
- Visit website
- Cairo, 11111
- 1 Latin American Street
- tel:+20 (0)2 2792 5261
- Visit website
Taboula is a fancy Lebanese restaurant tucked away down a leafy side street in Garden City. Although quite large, the tables are packed together, and the restaurant can feel quite stuffy. It is nicely decorated though, and feels quite classy.
Taboula specialises in Lebanese food, which means lots of tasty mezze and grills. The food can be a bit hit and miss: some of the mezze in particular are delicious, whereas others are merely average. The classics, such as hummus and tabouleh, are very good, but the mussels leave a lot to be desired. The Fattah dishes are particularly good. Alcohol and shisha pipes are both served at Taboula, and it is a pleasant enough space to enjoy a lingering meal, but the staff are not always that friendly.
There is a take-away and delivery service as well.
If you fancy a more cheap and cheerful Middle Eastern dining experience, check out nearby Abou Shakra.
read more about Taboula