Top 10 Things To Do In Cairo

A top ten list for visitors to Cairo, Egypt.

1.) The Egyptian Museum is a must see if only to view King Tut and the vast amount of treasure uncovered from his tomb. Because of the historically known rampant theft of Egyptian valuables, the Museum is enshrined with police and security guards, so take your film from your camera before entering. Everything within the museum is arranged chronologically and is behind protective glass, so taking pictures isn't really an option. Admission is 20 pounds (10 for students).

2.) Islamic-Cairo should definitely be on your list of things to do. Hardly different from hundreds of years ago, the streets twist and turn until you feel you've stumbled into some giant maze, but take your time and admire the architecture telling tales of times past. If you plan on visiting any of the mosques (and you should!) please dress appropriately and show the expected respect. Remove your shoes before entering prayer halls, and take note that most are closed to the public during actual prayer times.

3.) Khan Ali-Kalili is Cairo's biggest open air market. Virtually unchanged since the 14th century some of the people here have been in the Khan market business for generations. Located in the heart of Islamic-Cairo, tourists amble through rows and rows of exotic jewelry, spices, perfumes and souvenirs. Be sure you've honed your haggling skills and put them to good use here, no price is ever fixed! Start low and work back and forth with the vendor. Haggling is actually seen as a way of communicating and some vendors are insulted if you don't haggle because it's a way of interacting with them!

4.) From here, head north up the side of the Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein, one of the most sacred Islamic sites in Egypt, toward the old northern gates for more sites of historical note. Directly South of the market you'll find a busy market street running down to the gate of Bab Zuweila, the sole surviving gate from the old city's southern wall dating back centuries.

5.) You must not miss the Citadel in Cairo. This massive stone fortress was built by Salah ad-Din in the 12th century. It was later crowned with the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. It now offers amazing views of the city and in the distance, if the haze has lifted, even the pyramids. The Citadel continues to serve as a historical monument to Egypt's tumultuous past. Follow the walking tour through the several enclosures located within the Citadel to absorb some of the historical significance, but keep in mind the heat and take in a lot of water and rest when needed.

6.) The Pyramids, while over-touristy and sometimes crowded with foreigners, are a spot not to miss. While during the day they are impressive, the evening Sound and Light show are even more spectacular. Lit up with brightly colored spot lights and ambient music, it brings a new life and meaning to the ancient structures. For about $20, you receive admittance to the variety of areas within and outside the Pyramids.

7.) Along with the Pyramids, the Sphinx is one of the most renowned monuments in Egypt. All your friends will be jealous when you tell them you saw the Sphinx in person because of its huge magnificence. While admittedly very touristy, the Sphinx (minus beard and nose) still guards the Giza Plateau with dignity and allure.

8.) For lunch or dinner stop by Felfela which serves local traditional cuisine infused with Middle Eastern and African tastes, textures and methods of preparation. Though Felfela is a chain, it is well maintained and true to its origins. It remains popular with both tourists and locals and many have their most memorable culinary experiences at Felfela. There are dishes available for all sorts of ambition, from the most trepid to the most adventurous, dishes are served by knowledgeable waitstaff and are prepared with expertise. Vegetarian and other lifestyle diets are well accommodated for, and the menu is extensive with its options.

9.) If you're able to go during the month of November, Cairo hosts the Arab Music Festival which features some of the best Middle Eastern-influenced musical concoctions. Features at the renowned Cairo Opera House, the Arab Music Festival presents a mix of classic, traditional and orchestral fused pieces with subtle tones of Western and Jazz influence. If you're looking to find a new CD to bring home to that family member who loves eclectic beats, don't miss this featured festival.

10.) If you're seeking shelter from the bustle of the city streets, head to Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo established exclusively as a garden reserve in the midst of desert and city life. In years prior Heliopolis housed European officials who colonized and ruled Egypt, and now houses some upmarket Egyptian homes. Arrive there around dusk and watch as the sun sets to a deep pink/purple and take a stroll past Baron Empain's, the Baron's Palace which is notoriously modeled on the temples in Cambodia.

One note on the safety of Egypt: Given the current political climate foreign visitors should be cautious about appearing too conspicuous, and Americans should be prepared for anti-American sentiment. While no one expects to be put in danger on vacation, one should always be aware of one's surroundings by taking note of the people's behavior around you. Children are often sent by their parents to beg for money and make attempts at petty theft, but by being aware and cautious with your belongings your trip to Cairo should remain a pleasant experience.

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