Most of the people who visit Cairo on an organized tour might think that this City is all about Giza Pyramids, Egyptian Museum, the Citadel and the Khan el Khalili market.
Ask an Egyptian if he’s ever been to the Pyramids and he will probably say he didn’t – or that it was when he was a child.
Cairo is a huge, crowded city and what you see on a tour is just a tiny bit of it; for sure you don’t get to find out how it really looks like. First of all, you never really get to walk in the streets. You never get to know how the everyday is about. Your knowledge about Egyptian people is all about guides or (annoying) hawkers.
Now, forget about it. If you have the chance of spending some more time than the usual 2 or 3 days in Cairo, things will start to look completely different. And you will either love it or hate it, no way in between!
If you can stand the heat, the traffic and the pollution, this is the right place for you. Just open up your mind and look beyond. Welcome to Cairo life!
You’ll be surprised of how quickly you’ll get used to the Pyramids – and won’t feel like going all the way to Giza for the 10th time, when your visiting friends will ask you to join them.
Instead, you’ll look for some exclusive, tourists-free places, and Cairo has so much to offer. Satisfaction guaranteed!
It’s hard to pick just 5 unknown (or not so well-known) places that everybody should see – but let’s see it from this other point of view: if you were my guests, I’d certainly take you to the following places!
- Moqattam – On the east side of Cairo stands this rocky, flat mountain. There are no tourists around and you can sit in a café right on the edge of the mountain smoking shisha and drinking tea, enjoying some fresh air above the pollution and the crowds. The views are beautiful and if the air is clear enough you’ll even spot the Pyramids on the horizon.
- Harawi Cafe – Not far from the touristy Khan el Khalili market, in the old part of Cairo also known as Islamic Cairo, you’ll find this lovely and quiet café. Again, a great place to chill out, smoke shisha and listen to some traditional Egyptian music without tourists around. Yes, this is the second café I name – but cafés in Cairo are the center or social life!
- El Sawy Culture Wheel – A cultural center on the island of Zamalek. It lays right under the 15th of May Bridge. You literally have to enter into one of the bridge’s pylons and then… you’ll find yourself in a 5000 m2 area right on the Nile river. What a surprise! A smoking-free place (very rare in Cairo!) with a calendar of great exhibits, festivals, concerts and events throughout the year.
- The Cave Church in Garbage City – yes, you have to cross Garbage City in order to get there. Not really the most beautiful area of Cairo, but definitely interesting. 50,000 people – mostly Christians – live in this area, where all the garbage from the City is delivered day by day, and live off recycling it. The Cave Church is the largest church in the Middle East and it seats 20,000. It’s not yet a main touristic landmark, but it’s definitely worth a visit – what am I saying, worth a visit? It’s absolutely stunning! – and the journey is definitely part of the experience.
- Dahshur Pyramids – quite famous, but not as much as they deserve. Classic tours don’t usually include a visit to this site, but you can easily get there by taxi or bus. In terms of atmosphere, they totally beat Giza. You’ll be in the middle of nothing, without hawkers – alhamdulillah! – and just a few tourists around. Plus, it’s cheaper than any other historical site. There are 3 pyramids here as well: the Red Pyramid, the Bent Pyramid and the Black Pyramid (there’s not much left of this though). Don’t miss it before it’s too late!
Last but not least, I have to mention 2 extra things that make Cairo such a special place: the atmosphere – music, scents, colors – and the super welcoming, friendly people! Sometimes living in Cairo can be overwhelming. Some days you’ll hate it; you’ll feel tired, stressed out and dirty. But believe me, most of the times you’ll just end up with a beautiful smile on your face!
Who’s been to the places above and how did you like them? Which ones are your favorite hidden gems in Cairo?