Our "Positive Vibes" series is all about helping you live an uplifting lifestyle so this week we are switching gears and taking you on a virtual exploration of lesser known Cairo to indulge your wanderlust…
Certainly, the most well-known attractions and antiquities of Cairo and her surroundings are a must on any Egypt tour package. From the Great Pyramids of Giza – last of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, and the mysterious Sphinx – a mythological creature with a lion’s body and a human head, to the Step Pyramid at Giza…From the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities showcasing the treasures of King Tutankhamen's tomb, and the Citadel of Saladin with its splendid Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque, to the world's largest 13th century covered oriental bazaar Khan El-Khalili…a trip to Cairo is not complete without visiting these icons.
Yet, beyond all of these marvels, lesser-known Cairo beckons with exotic flavors, lively sounds, a mesmerizing culture, and old-world customs that come together like a kaleidoscope of colors to deliver the most cherished of memories for everyone.
Consider embarking on a unique shopping expedition. Here are a couple of superb choices…How about opting for a stroll through the lush Zamalek district in search of one-of-a-kind antiques as you enjoy the area’s chic boutiques. Perhaps you would prefer passing through one of three huge remaining gates of 11th Century Fatimid-era Cairo and heading over to Sharia Khayamiya, the street of the tent makers. Here you can see the vibrant Egyptian handcrafted textiles known as khayamiya. Made of a type of canvas, these beauties vary in sizes from as small as a throw pillow to large versions big enough to cover a wall. They are typically used to decorate the interior of tents and can make splendid mementos to display similar to a quilted wall hanging.
As mid-day rolls around, take time to indulge your taste-buds with flavorful fare from the food stalls of Cairo's Islamic quarter. Egyptian cuisine combines influences not only from its location, but also from the many empires that rose and fell over the country’s history – including the Ottomans, British, Arabs, and French. As you choose among the variety of visually and aromatically tempting offerings, fragrant flavors waft in the air and envelope your senses in the region’s exquisite herbs and spices. If you want to taste a staple of Cairo, try Egypt’s national dish koshari – a recipe consisting of rice, macaroni, and lentils, topped with fried onions and a dab of tomato sauce. For dessert, chomp into some zalabia – similar to a funnel cake, this tasty treat is simply doughy, powdered-sugar yum!
Religion is a big part of the customs surrounding the city. Head off the beaten path and delve into the virtual labyrinth of mosques situated throughout Islamic Cairo. Then step back even centuries further into history as you venture into Coptic Cairo and visit The Cave Church in Garbage City, official named The Monastery of Saint Simon, a Coptic Christian church that was built directly into the cliffside. Get a look at Jewish culture in Cairo by dropping-in on the Ben Ezra Synagogue that still serves about 50 local Jewish families. For a truly spiritual experience, as the sun starts to set on the city, we recommend taking a drive up to al-Azhar Park where you can delight in the spectacular view of Cairo and hear the afternoon call to prayer from her hundreds of mosques.
So, what about Cairo after dark? Rest assured that there is plenty to experience in this eclectic city as night falls. Whether you prefer a more bohemian hang-out loaded with locals or are looking for a sleeker and more cosmopolitan bar atmosphere or jazz club, Cairo’s nightlife offers an abundance of diverse choices for you to relish. Visit Al-Horeyya Cafe (Midan Falaki) a locally-acclaimed avant-garde bar, check out the underground electronic-music dance club Le Tabasco, (8 Amman Sq, Mohandiseen), or book an authentically inspired dinner cruise onboard a felucca boat to enjoy the Nile at night. As the nighttime fun ends, consider grabbing a kebab, kofta, or shwarma sandwich as a late-night snack at Abou Shakra (69 Sharia Qasr al-Ainy, Garden City), a favorite spot for locals established in 1947.
For a little more inspiration, you can start picturing yourself at many of Egypt’s lesser-known sights by checking out this wonderful video virtual tour series presented by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism:
- Tomb of Mena in the Theban Necropolis (In cooperation with ARCE).
- Tomb of Queen Meresankh III (G7530-7540) (In cooperation with Harvard Semitic Museum)
- Red Monastery in Sohag
- Mosque and Madrassa (School) of Sultan Barquq in Al-Muiz Street
- Ben Ezra Jewish Synagogue in Old Cairo
- Tomb of Kheti in the rock-hewn Necropolis of Beni Hasan in Minya Governorate
- The Tomb of Ramses VI
With so much to see and do in this magical country, we invite you to join in your very own journey to this mystical land on our 10-day Egypt “Land of the Pharaohs” travel program. Come experience the fascinating stories of the ancient world as you tour Cairo’s fascinating lesser-known gems and most popular attractions like the gargantuan pyramids of Giza, the grandiose Karnak and Luxor temples, the treasures of Tutankhamen’s tomb, the Valley of the Kings and so much more. Led by an expert Egyptologist guide, this unforgettable adventure features a cruise to enchanting sites along the mighty Nile river, and four nights in the cosmopolitan city of Cairo – the ideal home base of exploration and discovery!