If you want to breathe the atmosphere of Islamic Cairo, don’t miss Bayt el Harawi at night, where you can watch free shows such as sufi dance and tannoura (whirling dervish), concerts with typical Middle Eastern instruments, etc.
For partying, there are some nice clubs such as Buddha Bar, Stiletto, Purple and countless new clubs that keep opening. Most of them are located on docked boats on the Nile, so the location alone makes the outing worth it.
Also, sitting for hours in an “ahwa”, the Egyptian name for a cafe (basically chairs on the streets) chatting, smoking shisha and playing board games is something very typical.
Where to stay in Cairo Egypt
I usually stay in apartments, as it’s overall cheaper than any budget accommodation. Word of mouth is definitely the best way to find the right sublet for you.
There are also some very cheap hostels in downtown but of course, you can’t expect much luxury.
There are very modern, luxury and beautiful hotels. Consider staying at the Four Seasons, Sofitel or the Kempinski – you won’t be disappointed.
If alcohol is important for you, check if it’s served in the hotel you choose before confirming your reservation.
Festivals and Events in Cairo?
I would say the main “event” is the Ramadan, even if it’s not a festival but a religious event.
As most of you know, this is the Holy Month when people fast until sunset, there are special praying sessions and everyone has to act well, donate to charity, spend time with their families and in general live without committing sins.
After sunset though, the city looks completely different.
The streets are lightened with colorful lights, people gather to eat together, the music is in the air. It’s definitely very interesting to witness the Ramadan, but remember that it’s not polite to eat and drink in public during those days – respect the people who are fasting.
Also, most clubs (and companies in general) stay closed during the Holy Month so if your aim is partying well that’s not the best time of the year!
On the other hand Ramadan is a great time to enjoy the city without too much traffic as many people take vacations and travel outside of Cairo.
There are many religious feasts throughout the year, but one that I think is worth mentioning is the Eid el Adha – this is the feast when people slaughter cows and sheeps in the streets.
And if you don’t like the sight of blood then you can definitely avoid it, or take advantage to have a short trip outside of Cairo.
Other than religious festivities, the major national holidays are the Sinai Liberation Day (April 25th), Labour Day (May 1st), Revolution Day (July 23rd, with reference to the 1953 Revolution), Armed Forces Day (October 6th), and of course the National January 25th Revolution Day!
Getting around Cairo
Public transportation in Cairo includes taxis, metro, buses and microbuses.
I wouldn’t recommend moving around by bus and microbus to a newcomer – it’s not easy to figure out their destination because it’s either written in Arabic or there’s nothing written on the bus itself: someone peeking from the bus door just screams the destination to the people in the street so if you don’t speak the language is quite hard.
After some time you can figure out the routes of buses and microbuses also by asking to locals so that you can finally try this adventure and explore the city in the cheapest possible way.
The metro is easy to use, there are separate cars for men and women (that is: women can ride men’s cars – at their own risk – but men can’t access the women’s ones) and it’s clean enough.
Unfortunately, the metro doesn’t reach all areas of Cairo yet, but it’s very cheap (1 EGP per ride = 12 Euro cents) and it makes you avoid traffic, so sometimes you can use a combination of metro and taxi to move quicker.
The easiest way to move around Cairo is definitely by taxi, but there are 3 kinds of taxis and you have to know the differences.
Black taxi are the oldest ones, usually without air conditioned and always without a meter. If you go for a black taxi you have to agree on a price before getting on the car, or your trip will end with a taxi driver asking for an outrageous amount of money, especially if you look like a tourist or it’s obvious that you don’t know where you’re going.
Another option is to ask nothing, act like you know exactly what you’re doing and when the ride is over give the money to the driver and walk away. Of course in this case, you have to know roughly how much the ride is worth.
An easier option is the white taxi. These are newer and nicer, and the main difference is that they have a meter so you won’t have to haggle for the price. Just be careful, sometimes the taxi drivers modify their meters to get more money or turn off the meter to ask you the money they want. Try to avoid these!
The third kind of taxi is the yellow one. This is the one you call and make a reservation for, so you never really need it unless for instance you have a flight at a certain time and want a reliable service to pick you up, be on time and take you to the airport. They also have fixed rates.
Finding WiFi in CAori
Cairo is very WiFi friendly!
You can find a network nearly everywhere. I remember when I used to work an hour away from my flat, when I took the taxi back home I could connect to the networks of factories on the way. So I could surf the net while in the traffic.
Even the simplest cafes usually have a free connection available so all you have to do is sit at a table, smoke a shisha and enjoy the wifi while sipping a typical Egyptian tea.