Tourism in Cairo has been on the rise in the last few years, with a total of 13.6 million tourists visiting in 2019. Cairo, the bustling and diverse capital of Egypt, is often a yearned-after tourist destination for the Muslim traveller. We spoke to Kareem, an inhabitant of Cairo, to learn about places to visit and things to do.
Hi Kareem, thanks for catching up with us. What are some places to visit in Cairo to learn more about Egyptian culture?
Kareem: Hi 🙂 Well first I’ll say that there are many cities in Egypt and there’s different culture in each. But if you want to experience it all, you’ll find this in Cairo. Cairo has the old monuments of Egypt such as the pyramids. Well, actually they’re not really in Cairo. They’re in Giza but we say they’re in Cairo, because both places are so close to each other. The Grand Egyptian Museum is being built near the pyramids and it will house a lot of our country’s ancient artefacts. It will be the biggest archaeological museum in the world. But going back to Cairo, you’ll find a lot of Egyptian culture in this city because many people from different cities come to Cairo for work. If you want to learn more about our culture, you have to engage with people in the street. As a tourist it’s very easy to engage with Egyptians because we’re very kind. Many tourists of different nationalities come here and people will help you, for example, if you’re lost and don’t know where to go. Engaging and talking to people is the best thing you can do to learn about our culture. Most Egyptians can speak English. It might not always be very good, but they do speak English particularly in the places tourists visit.
That’s useful to know that Cairo and Giza are so close. And yes, just having conversations with local people can be very eye-opening. I’m guessing you can find Halal food and drink almost everywhere.
Kareem: Of course. Actually the Christians here don’t eat pork like they do in Europe or USA, so you’ll find Halal food everywhere. Also the most common and popular dishes here are vegetarian, so you’ll find a lot of good food. But don’t start with street food on your first day in Cairo. Your stomach won’t accept it like an Egyptian’s 🙂 Also you’ll need to buy bottled water because you won’t be used to the tap water here. But it’s very cheap. We also have a lot of food in Egypt that has a Syrian influence. Many Syrians have come to live here because of the war. We also have Turkish, Lebanese and Indian, but we put our own twist on it. And of course you’ll find KFC and McDonald’s here!
So you’ve mentioned the Pyramids of Giza. Are there any old mosques that you’d recommend visiting?
Kareem: You’ll find a lot of old mosques in Cairo. Check out the Sultan Hassan Mosque in the historical district. It was built in the middle of the 14th century. Also Amr ibn al-As Mosque was built in 642 AD. It’s in Old Cairo as well, and is the oldest mosque in Egypt and Africa.
What’s the best way to get around in Cairo? Taxi, bus, walking?
Kareem: This depends on how much you’re willing to spend. You can use Uber. It’s not very expensive in Egypt. But I feel the best way to get to know the city and have memorable experiences is to do what the locals do. Using the underground or the bus is perfect. They’re both cheap and will take you anywhere in Cairo. You can use the money saved to enjoy other aspects of the city. I give this advice to everyone I know who visits Cairo.
I agree with you here. Taking local transport methods can add a lot to a tourist’s experience. Also I didn’t even know Cairo had an underground service!
Kareem: Haha, yes we have a great underground. It surrounds the city, so you can go anywhere. It has Arabic and English language for each stop, which makes it easy for tourists.
From a personal perspective, is there anything in particular that you appreciate about living in Cairo?
Kareem: I’d say the weather is something that’s nice, especially after having visited some colder places. The coldest weather we get in Cairo is around 10 degrees Celsius. No negative temperatures here. I also appreciate the prices. Things are cheap here, and that helps.
Do you have any other advice for the general Muslim tourist?
Kareem: You have to come to Cairo! I know many people who come here and already start planning to revisit for their next holiday 🙂 And once you’ve seen Cairo, we have many more cities to visit. Sinai has beautiful beaches. Alexandria has one of the largest libraries in the world that was originally built in the 3rd century BC. Luxor and Aswan in the south have old monuments. A week is not enough to cover Egypt.
Thanks for you time, Kareem. It’s been very informative 🙂