7) The Hanging Church & Coptic Cairo
The Hanging Church got its name because it was built on top of 2nd-century Roman ruins. It is one of the oldest churches in Egypt.
The area the church is located in is called Coptic Cairo because of its Christian roots in a predominantly Muslim city. It is believed to be one of the places where the holy family stayed as they tried to escape persecution from Herod after Jesus was born.
It is believed that when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus fled Bethlehem for Egypt, they passed through this very spot. The metal plaque on the photo below reads "Here, Jesus Christ slept while he was a child."
6) Khan El Khalili Bazaar & Al Hussein Mosque
Khan El Khalili is one of the oldest markets in the Middle East, dating back to 1382. It's bustling with vendors, tourists & food -- just make sure to bring your bargaining skills!
The Al Hussein Mosque isn't far away and is considered to be one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt. It was originally built in 1154, and then later reconstructed in 1874.
There's a nice little square in front of the mosque which is a great place to enjoy a Coke or a hookah after a long day of haggling in the bazaar.
5) Studio Misr & Al Azhar Park
Now let's get to the really good stuff: Egyptian FOOD! I highly recommend you go eat at Studio Misr if you're in Cairo. The food is absolutely incredible! I recommend the Lemon Mint Juice, Hummus, Sausage, Kobeba and Fatush.
In addition to the amazing food, the view is absolutely stunning.
The restaurant faces Al Azhar Park, a 74-acre expanse of greenery and fountains that is breathtaking. The mosque silhouette you see in the background is actually #2 on this list. Don't worry, we're getting there!
4) The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
Entry Price: 200 EGP ($12.72 USD)
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is home to over 120,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts. You could spend weeks in the place and STILL not get to see every piece!
When I was there (December 2019) they were already packing up the museum, presumably to move everything over to the new Grand Egyptian Museum.
Because they were packing and cleaning, it was a little difficult to find everything I wanted to see, but I managed to get to almost everything on my list in a few hours.
The new Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open on the Giza Plateau overlooking the Pyramids at the end of 2022 It's apparently so big that “You could park a 747 inside,” according to architect Roisin Heneghan. Needless to say, I'll be paying a visit when it opens.
3) The Saladin Citadel & Alabaster Mosque
Entry Price: 180 EGP ($11.45 USD)
The Saladin Citadel in Cairo is a medieval fort built in the 12th century to protect Cairo from potential Crusader attacks. It was the seat of the Egyptian government and rulers for nearly 700 years after that. The part of the Citadel that draws the most attention today, however is the Alabaster Mosque that stands on the Citadel's summit.
Built between 1828 and 1848 by Muhammad Ali, the Alabaster Mosque is one of the most prominent monuments on Cairo's skyline to this day.
You can easily spot it in the background of the photos for #5. This place was incredible to visit and I highly recommend you add it to your list!
2) The Great Sphinx & Valley Temple
Giza Plateau Entry Price: 200 EGP ($12.72 USD)
And finally, the moment you've been waiting for... The Giza Plateau!! Because there is SO to see and explore -- and a lot of if is surprisingly free to roam -- I recommend getting a guide to accompany you (comment below if you need a recommendation!). If you want to avoid big crowds, I recommend getting there as early as possible in the morning and going on a Sunday - Thursday. The Egyptian "weekend" is on Friday & Saturday and lots of locals DO visit the Plateau on their days off.
But that's just about the Plateau itself, let's move onto the Great Sphinx...
Mainstream archeologists believe the Sphinx was originally carved from the limestone bedrock of the Giza Plateau during the Egyptian Old Kingdom, around 2558–2532 BC. The date of the Sphinx's construction is hotly debated however. With no inscriptions as to who built it or when, plenty of mysteries and theories surround its creation.
One thing everyone can agree on is the Great Sphinx is one of the largest and oldest monolithic structures in the world. I believe it is likely even older than the pyramids.
It's an amazing site to behold, even though you won't be able to get up close and personal without special permission. Don't skip the Valley Temple in front of the Sphinx either!
The walls are made of Aswan granite that was brought 500 miles down the Nile river. The huge, heavy blocks fit together so perfectly you can't slip a piece of paper between them. Some even wrap around to form corners. It's truly amazing ancient builders were able to accomplish these feats.
Anddd the moment we've all been waiting for...
1) The Pyramids of Giza
King's Chamber Entry Price: 400 EGP ($25.45 USD)
We've talked about the Plateau itself, we've talked about the Sphinx, now let's focus specifically on the main attraction: the Pyramids of Giza. Built from 2 million+ stone blocks, each weighing upwards of 4,000 pounds, the Great Pyramid at Giza was was the tallest man-made structure in the world for 3,800 years.
It's still THE most recognizable structure on Earth and the only ancient world wonder still standing.
Witnessing these massive structures was nothing short of awe inspiring. You're able to walk around and between them freely and even climb on them! Although I'm not 1000% sure you're supposed to, you definitely can. You'll likely see lots of locals and students on field trips as well.
Don't be surprised if someone asks to take a photo with you! Egyptians are very friendly to travelers and love hearing about where you're from.
My dad and I decided to buy a ticket to go inside the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. It was probably the most expensive attraction I did in Egypt (costing a whopping $25 USD) and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT!!
The Queen's Chamber was closed a the time (December 2019) but if we could have bought tickets to both, we definitely would have.
I will warn you though, the pyramid tunnels are extremely narrow. You have to crouch almost the whole way and climb up a steep and awkward Ascending Passage Way.
I would NOT recommend this activity to anyone who has severe claustrophobia or limited mobility.
I would also NOT recommend wearing a hat, because it's HOT in the King's Chamber and I ruined my hair (lol).
Entering the King's Chamber was truly a surreal experience. Visitors lined the walls inside and were either silent, whispering, meditating or praying.
The gravitas of this space was undeniable and amplified by the single granite sarcophagus resting at the end of the dimly lit, otherwise empty chamber.
One corner of the sarcophagus was clearly damaged at some point in antiquity. There are MANY theories about what this sarcophagus used to hold, from Khufu's remains to the Arc of the Covenant.
There is not a single written word or hieroglyph found inside ANY of the Pyramids of Giza. Like the Sphinx (and characteristically unlike the proud Egyptians), the builders of these monolithic sites did not identify themselves with inscriptions.
Since the builders didn't sign their work, we really don't know WHAT was in that sarcophagus when it was discovered, or if it even WAS a sarcophagus.
Mysteries abound. ;-)
I hope you enjoyed this list of 7 things to do in Cairo! Cairo is an incredible city full of life, culture, history and mystery and I hope this list helps make your visit as magical as mine was.
Thanks so much for reading and if you have any questions, leave a comment below. I'd love to support your Egyptsy adventure any way I can.
P.S. Huge shoutout to my dad for inviting me on this trip of a lifetime!
I'm so glad we got to create these memories together before everything shut down.
Oh, and fun fact: If you overtip the camel guys with 100 EGP (wayyy too high), you could end up with a pretty sick pic like this one!