Cairo Guide - Tripomatic

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Essential Information
Events During The Year
Things to do
DOs and DO NOTs
Cairo is the largest city in Africa and one of
the most densely populated ones on the continent. It certainly shows, but don’t be put off
by the omnipresent chaos, noise, pollution and
busy atmosphere of the streets. The city is
full of history. You will soon be taken away
by the majestic medieval sights, Giza pyramids
and fascinating collections of the Egyptian Museum.
Islam now makes up a significant portion of
culture shaping life in the city. The rhythm
of urban life is marked by muezzin calls to
prayer, and during Ramadan, the entire city
calms down and street life seems somewhat
more peaceful.
When in Cairo, don’t just tick off the main sights
– take your time and explore the city on foot
by wandering the narrow streets, haggling for
good prices on the lively markets overflowing
with goods and trying out the local food. This
is the only way to get to know Cairo.
Emergency Contacts
Emergency number (medical emergencies):
Police emergency number: 122
Tourist police: 126
Traffic police: 128
Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP/guinay) = 100 piastres (pt/qirsh)
4* hotel (average price/night) – £E 500
Car-hire (medium-sized car/day) – £E 480
The best places to exchange money in Egypt are
the forex offices. The rates at banks are slightly
higher and a commission fee is charged. Avoid
exchanging money with the street moneychangers.
Tipping makes up an important part of service
workers’ wages. It is almost always expected for
this reason. Save your small bills for this purpose. It is important to note, though, that it is not
a way to exploit tourists – the Egyptians tip among
themselves as well. The expected amounts vary:
£E 1 toilets, £E 10 bellhops (for all luggage), 5-10%
restaurants, 10% taxi drivers.
Always check that the notes you get are not heavily damaged. Also, carefully check the notes you
are given back not to mistake EGP with piastres –
a popular way to rip tourists off.
There’s a severe shortage of small change. Make
sure you use large bills at supermarkets and keep
as much change as possible – you will need it for
Tax Refunds
Time Zone
The VAT is 10% on all goods except for tourist services. You might claim the refund if you spend
USD 50 or more in the shops associated with any
VAT refund company. You will need to fill out several forms and present them together with the
goods at your departure at the airport customs
EET (UTC/GMT +2 hours), no daylight saving
Egypt is a fairly inexpensive destination.
Meal, inexpensive restaurant – £E 48
Meal for 2, mid-range restaurant, three-courses
– £E 183
Combo Meal at McDonalds – £E 30.90
Bottle of water at supermarket – £E 1.69
Domestic beer (0.5 liter, draught) – £E 15.30
Souvenir t-shirt – £E 150
Gasoline (1 liter) – £E 1.94
Hostels (average price/night) – £E 45
The standard electricity supply in Egypt is 220/240V/1.0A
50Hz. The plugs are of Europlug, Schuko (round
pin attachment plug) type commonly used throughout Europe.
Egyptian version of Arabic is mostly in use but
people in the tourist and retail industry should
be able to communicate in English or French. The
effort to pick up basic Arabic phrases to get by
is not necessary but it will be appreciated by the
Mobile Phones
Fixed dates:
January 7 – Coptic Christmas Day (not official,
observed only by the Christians)
January 25 – Egyptian Revolution Day
April 25 – Sinai Liberation Day
May 1 – Labour Day
July 23 – Revolution Day
October 6 – Armed Forces Day
Flexible holidays according to the Coptic or Islamic calendar:
Sham El Nessim (Spring festival)
Islamic New Year
Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
Eid al-Fitr (last three days of Ramadan)
Eid al-Adha (four days)
Opening Hours
The whole country is fairly well covered with the
standard European mobile network (GSM/GPRS/3G).
Check your cell phone for compatibility if coming
from non-GSM standard country.
The usual business hours of banks and offices are
from 8 AM to 3 PM in summer, 7 PM in winter,
Monday to Thursday. The majority of offices close
on Fridays and holidays.
The shops are open throughout the week, usually
from 9 AM to 2 PM and 4 PM to 8 PM, though some
close on Fridays or Sundays.
In the tourist cities, Internet is easy accessed in
Internet cafés (5-10 £E/hour) and free Wi-Fi hot
spots are becoming quite common in hotels, cafeterias and restaurants.
Keep in mind that the opening times can be
disrupted or shortened during Ramadan, ninth
month of the Islamic calendar and a period of
austere fasting. Some of the shops may remain
open well into the night, though. The museums
and monuments open every day.
Internet Resources
Cairo Tourist Board (
Egyptian Tourist Authority (www.touregypt.
Public Transportation
Subway – two lines, two cars of each train are
reserved for women. Cheap and convenient
way to travel around the city. Fast but not very
Trams – run only in some parts of the city. The
vehicles are rather historical; it is a nice experience to ride them.
Buses – the bus system covers the entire city.
Cheap but usually very crowded and chaotic
(especially the mini-buses). Get on the bus at
the main stations or hail them on the street.
You need to tell the driver your destination.
Don’t be afraid of getting lost, the driver or
passengers are willing to help you.
Limit speed in towns/on highways: 50/100
Blood alcohol limit – .00 bac (zero tolerance)
Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory and the use
of cell phones when driving is forbidden.
Driving in Cairo is definitely not recommended.
The traffic situation is very chaotic, traffic rules ignored and the streets regularly congested. Signposting is equally bad. It is not common to use
lights even at night and extra caution is recommended. It is also difficult to find a proper place
to park as there is a scarcity of official parking lots.
The city center is quite vast and the sights relatively remote. Despite this, walking is strongly recommended for exploring the metropolis from a
different angle.
White taxis: equipped with meters, can be
hailed from the street, most comfortable and
with the smallest chance of getting ripped off.
Yellow taxis (City Cabs): need to be reserved
by phone and are equipped with meters.
Black-and-white taxis: older, vehicles don’t
use meters and the ride can be adventurous.
Always agree on the price beforehand and
have enough change. There can be some additional surcharges for luggage, the number
of passengers or late-night traveling.
Ful Medames – slow-cooked beans eaten with
Egyptian bread.
Ta'miya – Egyptian variant of falafel
Koshary – lentils, rice and chickpeas in tomato
Molokhiyya soup – made of the lettuce-like
Egyptian vegetable
Kufta – ground lamb meatballs roasted like kebab
Due to the dubious hygienic situation, it is not uncommon to suffer from parasite or bacterial infections. There are very few ways to avoid it – but
don’t drink tap water, avoid ice and dairy, regularly disinfect your hands with sanitizer and check
that your food is fully cooked. Follow your common sense and eat in places that look reasonably
During Ramadan, Muslims are allowed to eat
only after the sun sets. The shops and restaurants may be closed. It is reasonable to respect
the local culture and avoid eating and drinking in
public during that period.
Legal Age
The legal drinking age is 18 for beer and 21 for
wine and spirits.
Regional Transportation
Trains – mostly operated by Egyptian National Railways, the routes connect the main
cities. The tourist traveling by trains may encounter restrictions due to security reasons.
Buses – extensive long-distance network operated by state-owned provider and complementary private companies. Check the company you travel with in advance – the small and
non-licensed ones may have careless drivers
and may not be serviced.
Free Things To Do
Cairo International Book Fair (www.cairobookfair.
Cairo Biennale (
Cairo International Fashion Show (defiledegypte.
Egyptian National Film Festival
Belly Dancing Festival
Cairo International Song Festival
The Experimental Theatre Festival
Arab Music Festival
Cairo International Film Festival
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar – wander around the
colorful stalls and enjoy the busy atmosphere
Al-Azhar Mosque
Qarafa – two cemeteries, a showcase of Mamluk architecture
Wikala al-Ghouri – Sufi dancing show. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8.30 PM
Townhouse Gallery – contemporary Egyptian
Souvenirs – carpets, backgammon sets, Egyptian
cotton clothes, cartouche jewelry, papyrus, perfume, ‘Turkish’ delight
Prepare to bargain for everything.
DO expect to bargain when shopping in Egypt.
DO watch out for the cars – the traffic is erratic
and there are many accidents.
DO tip even the toilet attendants.
DO go to the Egyptian Museum – it is a must
Women, DO NOT wear sleeveless tops or short
DO NOT forget that the Egyptian week starts
on Sunday and Friday is a prayer day with
shops, banks and offices closed.
DO NOT forget to bring a flashlight with you; it
will come in handy in pyramids and temples.
DO NOT drink the tap water.
genuine papyrus goods at discount price that
will be many times higher than on the streets.
The taxi drivers, hotel staff and guides usually
get provisions for luring tourists there.
Lone female travelers: Egyptian men are used
to making compliments even if you’re accompanied. If alone, you might encounter serious
harassment. The best way to avoid this is to retain reasonable distance and not to be overly
Don’t let yourself be put off by the presence
of armed forces at the pyramids and other
tourist spots – the risk of terrorist attack is
statistically very small. The police are there to
ensure that tourists are safe – tourism is very
important for Egyptian national income. Also,
safety concerns regarding the political situation tend to be a little exaggerated by Western
media. Avoid joining any kind of demonstration or march even if peaceful – the situation
can change rapidly. The main happening site
in Cairo is Tahrir Square and its surroundings.
The tap water is safe to drink, but it is advised
not to do so – it may cause bacterial infection.
Drink the bottled water but always check that
the seal is not broken – some sellers refill the
bottles and sell them as new.
Even if it may not seem so, Egypt is a fairly safe
country. Nevertheless, there are a few things you
should take into account.
Pick-pocketing: very common problem especially in big cities and tourist destinations. Always take care of your belongings and never
put your wallet into easily-reachable pockets
or backpacks.
Scams: you may be approached by people
speaking generally good English who offer to
show you around, engage in a friendly chat
or give you some “useful” information such
as that the museum is closed (usually not
true). They are probably just trying to lure you
someplace to spend your money at or will later
require money for the “guide service” they provided. The best way to avoid this situation is to
politely decline even if it gets annoying. Always
take into account that the sellers and “guides”
try to squeeze out of you as much money as
they can – use your common sense and always check the banknotes you are given back.
Also, watch out for scam papyrus museums at
which you will likely be talked into purchasing
Egyptian Museum
/ Al-Mathaf al-Masri
Museum displaying tremendous collections of ancient Egyptian antiquities
including mummies. Definitely a must see.
GPS: N30.04669, E31.23365
+20 25782448
Opening hours:
Daily: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Ramadan: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m daily.
General Admission: EGP 60 (EGP 30, students)
Royal Mummies Room: EGP 100 (EGP 50, students)
Centennial Gallery: EGP 10 (EGP 5, students)
Admission fees for Egyptians are lower.
Great Sphinx of Giza
/ Abū al Hūl
This stupendous 45 m long sandstone statue seems to watch over the
pyramids of Giza. The origin of the monument is entangled with mystery.
GPS: N29.97515, E31.13767
Opening hours:
1 May – Ramadan: daily: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
1 Ramadan – 30 Apr: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
General Admission to the Giza Plateau: EGP 50
Students: EGP 25
Khan el-Khalili Market
/ Souk Khan el-Khalili
This busy market is the real heart of the city and a major attraction for both
tourists and Egyptians. Buy everything from clothes to coffee.
Gohar Al Kaed, El-gamaleya, Qism El-gamaleya, Cairo, Egypt
GPS: N30.04711, E31.26210
Opening hours:
Opening hours of sellers vary.
Pyramid of Khafre
/ Herm khefr'e
Seemingly higher than Khufu pyramid, easily recognisable by its limestone
cap. The burial chambers are open to public.
GPS: N29.97597, E31.13308
Opening hours:
1 May – Ramadan: daily: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
1 Ramadan – 30 Apr: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
General Admission to the Giza Plateau: EGP 50
Students: EGP 25
Tickets to the pyramid are sold separately.
General Admission to the Pyramid: EGP 25
Students: EGP 15
Citadel of Cairo
/ Qalaat Salā ad-Dīn
Even if only for its astonishing views, this majestic fortress is well worth
visiting. Also houses several museums and mosques.
Step pyramid of Djoser
/ Kbhw-ntrw
This extraordinary stepped pyramid is a centrepiece of Saqqara necropolis
and draws as much tourists as the pyramids of Giza.
GPS: N29.87066, E31.21661
Opening hours:
1 May – Ramadan: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
1 Ramadan – 30 Apr: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
General admission: EGP 50
Students: EGP 25
Pyramid of Menkaure
/ Herm menkawer'e
The smallest pyramid in Giza. There are traces of dismantling attempts on
the north side that the pyramid easily endured.
GPS: N30.02948, E31.26117
Opening hours:
Daily: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Restricted access to the mosques on Fridays.
Regular: EGP 40
Student: EGP 20
/ Metnezh Al-Azhar
This modern park situated in the heart of Cairo is a relaxing place and also
a perfect viewing spot as it is located on a small hill.
GPS: N30.03970, E31.26345
Opening hours:
The park is open 24 hours a day.
Admission to the park is free.
Some attractions require extra fees.
GPS: N29.97248, E31.12950
Opening hours:
The pyramid is currently closed to public.
Opening times of the Giza Plateau:
1 May – Ramadan: daily: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
1 Ramadan – 30 Apr: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
General Admission to the Giza Plateau: EGP 50
Students: EGP 25
Al-Hakim Mosque
Al-Azhar Park
/ Masjid Al-Hakim
One of the oldest mosques that hasn't been used as one for the majority of
time. Note its propylon-like minarets.
GPS: N30.05399, E31.26435
Entrance to the mosque is free.
Memphis and its Necropolis
/ Memfes
Remains of what once was a capital of the Old Kingdom and a chief cult city
of Ptah. A must see. Great Temple of Ptah is the main highlight.
GPS: N29.84939, E31.25143
Opening hours:
Daily: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
General admission: EGP 30
Students: EGP 15
Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Ţūlūn
/ Mesjed Ahmad Ibn Ţūlūn
This mosque from 8AD that is preserved in its original form is a must see.
Also noteworthy for its unique spiral minaret.
Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
/ Alesletan hesn mesjed
An eye-candy for the lovers of Islamic architecture as it features many unusual elements – large wooden dome or twin minarets.
GPS: N30.03197, E31.25584
Baron Empain Palace
/ Qasr el Baron
This showy concrete palace was inspired by Angkor Wat and Hindu temples. It is worth stopping by as any reminiscent structure is nowhere else
to be seen.
Al Dahdora, Tolon, El-sayeda Zainab, Cairo, Egypt
GPS: N30.02940, E31.24888
/ Alemthef aleqbeta
This museum holds an extensive collection of Egyptian Christian artefacts
with rich variety of objects on display.
Khan al-Maghraby
Mari Gerges, Misr El Kadima, Cairo, Egypt
GPS: N30.00594, E31.23069
Abdeen Palace Museum
/ Qesr 'eabedyen
Probably the only presidential residence that works as a museum at the
same time. Its collection are related to the state affairs.
El-mansour Mohammed 18, Abo El Fada, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
GPS: N30.06325, E31.21821
+20 2 7353349
Mosque, Rahbet Abdein, Abdeen, Cairo, Egypt
GPS: N30.04167, E31.24834
+20 2 391 0042
Passage Inside Military Area, El-montaza, Hliopolice, Cairo, Egypt
GPS: N30.08619, E31.33066
This gallery featuring a young Egyptian artist is an interesting stop breaching the link of traditional art and archaeological museums.
Coptic Museum

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