How to Spend 24 Hours in Cairo

Cairo is one of the worlds oldest and most historically fascinating cities. It possesses some of the worlds most cherished artifacts and the only true standing wonder of the world. Cairo is also a filthy cesspool with the worlds worst traffic and touts that will not leave you alone. Most people go to Cairo to see the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and then get out quickly. I completely understand this practice. So here is how to spend 24 hours in Cairo so you maximize your stay and minimize hassles.
Lee Abbamonte, Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt
I have been to Cairo 7 times and have probably spent about 14 days total in Cairo and I have tried different ways of doing it over the years. So based on my own experience and knowing what most people want to see, I can give pretty good advice on how to spend 24 hours in Cairo.
Pyramid at the pyramids
First, pick a hotel near the Pyramids and wake up early. I have stayed all over town but my favorite hotel in Cairo is the Le Meridien Pyramids. It’s an OK hotel but it serves a couple of great purposes. First, many of the rooms have fantastic Pyramid views and the pool is excellent.
View from Le Meridien Pyramids, Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
Additionally, it is very cheap and a great value. You can usually get this hotel for something in the $60-$100 range or if you have Starwood Starpoints it is a category 1 hotel so it’s only 3000-4000 points for a free night! That’s a deal!
view from bed, Le Meridien Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt
So wake up early and set up a driver for the day; which you can easily negotiate at the hotel. Trust me taxis in Cairo are horrible, filthy and not reliable cars or drivers. Then have a buffet breakfast and head over to the Pyramids. It cannot be understated how amazing the Pyramids are. If you aren’t impressed by the Pyramids-the problem is you!
Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
Now visiting the Pyramids can be one of the greatest experiences of your life if you do it right. I’m not a fan of guides but you can use a guide if you like but more importantly get a horse with a horse guide, usually a teenager, to take you around.
Horseback tour, Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
Seeing the Pyramids by horseback is the most efficient and also a very cool way to see the sites. People like to take camels for the pictures. I’ve done it before and I totally get it but camels are uncomfortable as anything and they are slow. Take the horses; which are also great for pictures, and get a guide who isn’t pushy but knows where to take you for the optimal photo opportunities and views.
Horseback at pyramids, Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
The entire tour of the Pyramids can be negotiated pricewise and you can easily do it for 50-100 Egyptian Pounds ($7-$13) per person depending on your negotiation skills. Aside from the Pyramids, the tour should also take you to the Sphinx; which is one of my favorite sites in the world when viewed with the Pyramids behind it.
Sphinx, Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
Little known fact about the Sphinx is that it’s face; which looks like it was shot up-actually was by Napoleon and his men when he was in Egypt. They used it as target practice as Napoleon didn’t care for it too much. Ya Napoleon was kind of an asshole!
Sphinx, Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
After the Pyramids, your driver should take you into Cairo to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. This is, in my opinion, the greatest museum in the world. If you like history or really if you’re a human being, it should be interesting to you as the Egyptians essentially started history. No other people can compete and the museum captures a lot of it and does it in a welcoming way.
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo, Egypt
The museum is like an old warehouse and very open. It is impressive from the outside but even more impressive inside. Of course, it also possesses most of the King Tut artifacts recovered by Howard Carter in the 1922 excavation of his tomb in Luxor at the Valley of the Kings. This is considered to be the greatest archaeological discovery in history. It doesn’t disappoint.
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, King Tut mask, Cairo, Egypt
The mask that covers the mummy of King Tut is perhaps the most famous artifact in the world and it really is so cool. Staring at it is a treat and you can’t look away. Its beauty still exists all these thousands of years later. If you see nothing else in the museum, see this room.
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
After the museum, grab a quick lunch in Cairo. Ask your driver to recommend somewhere good and local but on the way back to the hotel. This is because traffic will almost certainly be a nightmare of epic proportions and it will take you at least an hour or more to get back.
Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt
Take some time to chill at the pool, grab a beer at the hotel or just relax for a nap. It should be about 2-3pm at this point and you’re going to be hot and tired so rest up before the night.
Light and sound show, Cairo, Egypt
At 7pm, make sure you get a ride over to the Sphinx entrance to the Pyramids. You can walk it but it’s confusing and the roads are really disgusting. Not to mention all the touts that will bug you to buy who knows what or check out their papyrus shops.
Light and sound show, Cairo, Egypt, pyramids
Buy a ticket for the Sound and Light Show, I promise you will not regret it. They offer VIP tickets for the first 3 rows. It’s not worth it-trust me. Just buy the regular seats and you’ll see fine. The show starts at 7 and goes for nearly an hour and basically tells the history of Egypt and has an amazing laser light show. The guy narrating is essentially the voice of God and makes it really cool and dramatic.
Light and sound show, Cairo, Egypt
After the light show, head to dinner at Felfela. This is a Cairo dining institution that I have been to 3 times in the past. Many foreign dignitaries eat here and it’s known for great Egyptian local food. The original is located in downtown Cairo in a not so great area. However, I just discovered that there is one now open right next to the Le Meridien Pyramids. It makes your life so much easier and you don’t have to brave traffic again into town. Staying by the Pyramids saves you time, money, hassles and really allows you to do what you really want to do in Cairo with minimal hassles.
felfela, cairo, egypt
Cairo, much like Athens, Greece, is known for a few things then most people say to get out and head to other attractions in the country. I can’t disagree but this is how to spend 24 hours in Cairo! Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Very nice post with good tips.
    I would like to add that if it’s a Friday, you will find less traffic in the morning as it’s time for the prayer (great for us travelers!) and this allows you to see more of the city. When I lived in Cairo I once had a guest coming for a day, it was Friday and I was able to take her to the Citadel, Khan el Khalili, Downtown and the Pyramids in one day. We did skip the museum but she preferred to be outdoors.
    Anyway, I am missing Cairo as I read your post… 🙂

  2. Dude, where’s my invitation!

  3. Our hotel when we went was $1 or $2. $60 is very expensive. I could get a whole month in my hotel.

  4. Travel style??? I thought we were traveling in style. You are a diva now!

  5. I agree with these tips! I think when visiting Cairo, the must-see should be the Pyramids and riding on camel/horse nearby. Really useful article for those planning going to Cairo 🙂

  6. This is awesome Lee! I cannot wait to go to Cairo. The light show at night looks amazing!

  7. Nicholas Staber says:

    For being such an expert traveler you should know that Napoleon did not shoot any cannons at the Sphinx. It was documented by many sources that the Sphinx had long incurred the damage before any Frenchman had stepped foot in Egypt. Learn your history.

  8. Hi,

    I would like to ask, if you need to pay some tour to get close to pyramids and to sphinx or your driver will give you a ride there. We would love to do the same with horses, is it easy to find somebody with horses our there?

    thank you

  9. I know this is pretty old but i just saw your website randomly looking at a pic on google. I am glad that you enjoyed the country and the sites, but i am Egyptian born there and moved to the US and have been living here since i was 6 but have gone back many times, and hearing the way you describe some things is king of upsetting. obviously egypt is known for glamour, it is a poor country but that doesn’t mean the entire country is. Yes the streets are dirty in most parts, the traffic is horrendous, and people do try to get money from tourists, but that happens everywhere. you also shouldn’t really or try not to negotiate things like the prices for the tours etc because those people are extremely poor so to you it might seem like a lot but to them it might be all they have for the month esp since tourism is so low. they are just trying to make a living like everyone else. Im not saying give them whatever they want but try not to get things for dirt cheap. and the people who beg and try to get more money is exactly for the same reason. but you didn’t mention any of the good. there are very clean areas of cairo,not all the streets are dirty and many other places, gorgeous houses just like here in america. in lets say Calabasas. the people are the friendliest you’ll meet and nice in general, everyone talks to you like they know you, not like your a stranger. I just wanted to point these things out for anyone visiting there. hopefully next time you

  10. I don’t usually post comments, but I wanted to agree with the comment above.

    We’ve been in Cairo three days for work (two women, twenties/thirties) and we’ve been treated with nothing but respect and friendliness. People (including women) have come up to us in the street to say welcome to the country and generally we haven’t felt ripped off or conned at all. Of course the touts will hassle you, but they have to make a living and you can choose to say no and walk away calmly. It’s not particularly worse than the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or the medinas in Tunisia and Morocco.

    I think it would be such a shame if people took your advice and missed out on the incredible architecture and history the rest of the city has to show off- the mosques, Khan el-Khalil, the Nile cruises, all the tiny boutiques and art shops in Zamalek, the Anderson. Cairo is so much more than the pyramids, and the country needs tourists who will spend money (not just on a fancy hotel and a tour)- especially with local cafes and traders.

  11. Well done dude! Keep doing this great job!

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