Cairo (El Qahira) is just about the biggest city I have ever seen. It is Huge. Enormous. Istanbul is huge, but this one beats all. To get an idea of it's size, have a look over the city from the advantage point near the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. Which, by the way is well worth seeing, with its beautiful interior. Okay, you'll have to take your shoes off, but so what. Cairo has a population of over 7 million. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian and traveller described Egypt as "The gift of the Nile". Travellers have visited Egypt with its pyramids, the Sphinx, Luxor etc. for centuries. And there have been quite a few different rulers after the Pharaoh's! There were the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks and the British. This resulted in an amalgam of all these cultures. Cairo is everything. Mud houses and pyramids are flanked by huge glass, stone and steel buildings. The people dress themselves in long flowing robes and converse with others dressed in Levi's and Reebocks. The city is thronged with people, cars, donkey drawn carts, hooting horns, ghetto blasters and Muezzins summoning the faithful to prayer, using loudspeakers instead of their own voice. It is noisy and full of everything you can imagine. But you must not miss it!
- Voltage: 220 V, 50 Hz.
- Calling Holland: 0031 -
Language: Mostly Arabic, but English and French are widely spoken, especially by the "upper class".
Religion: Mainly Islam, but tolerant on dress and tourists. Christianity is widely spread, especially the Coptic Christian Church.
- Time compared to GMT: Summer +3. Winter +2.
Entry requirements and health: A valid passport and visa are needed. People coming in by air can obtain a 30 day visa at the airport. This is renewable. Otherwise, if you arrive overland, get your visa in advance from your local consulate or embassy of Egypt.
Health: do not swim in the Nile. There is a definite hazard of contracting a disease caused by the Bilharzia parasite, even when walking barefoot along the banks of the Nile. Also drinking of untreated water has the same risk. Bilharzia exposure can cause extensive tissue damage, kidney failure and blindness. Make sure you eat in respectable restaurants. River cruise boats and tourist restaurants are considered safe, but uncooked leafy vegetables should be avoided at all times. In the rural area of the Nile, the El Faiyum area, most Oases and the southern part of (upper) Egypt there may be a small risk of contracting Malaria. Travellers visiting the main tourist areas, including cruises, are NOT at risk! Please check with your local health center. By the way, there is another health risk: terrorism. At the moment it might be better to stay away for a while, although things are getting safer, now that the authorities have taken security measures. In 1997 there was an attack by Egyptian extremists at Luxor, killing 58 tourists and there have been other attacks in the recent past. Please exercise extreme caution when travelling through Egypt, anywhere! If you come in from countries within Africa, South America or the Middle Americas, or you arrive from another infected area, you MUST have an International Certificate of Vaccination, with prove that you have been vaccinated recently for Yellow Fever. If you don't have it, you will be detained at the airport until you resume your journey. You will not be permitted into the country. So, be wise and get such a certificate in all cases, before you travel to Egypt. That way you will never have any problems!
Activities and tips: Cairo was founded on the site of Babylon, near the ruins of ancient Memphis. William Lithgow (1614) said of Cairo: "This little world, the great Cairo...the most admirable and the greatest city seen upon the earth.... the Microcosmos of the greater world". Never were truer words uttered.
See the pyramids of Gizeh and the Sphinx (the pyramid of Cheops was built 2650 years BC !), very near to the southwest edge of the town. Cairo has a unique atmosphere both exciting and relaxed. And, if the terrorists let off, it is the safest city on earth with friendly people. Egyptian hospitality is well known and makes you want to come back again and again. Don't miss the Egyptian Museum, with its mummies, sarcophagi and off course the treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun. I had only the chance to walk around part of it during half a day. And was astounded. It was not half enough to see everything! One should take at least a few days to absorb all the history and beauty exposed there. Whatever you do, do not miss it!
Shopping is a must. Visit the famous Khan el-Kalili souk, the street market at Wekalet al-Balah and see the Camel market (don't buy the camels, though!). If you like that sort of thing, go to the Sound and Light show at the Pyramids. It is worth it. The best restaurants: Semiramis Grill (on the 2nd floor of the Semiramis Inter-Continental hotel. It has fabulous views of the Nile. Or The Chateau. You must wear a jacket! For local food: Papillon, Felfela, Arabesque, or the Christos Vue des Pyramids. For vegetarians I recommend Aubergine. There are many more, Asian and European, Egyptian, etc. etc.
Info from Lonely Planet
Info from traveldocs
Copyright © 1998-2011 Luuk Francken
Created: April 14, 1998 Updated: december 23 2010