As people who keep up to date with travel, we’re sure that you’ve heard all kinds of things about Egypt over the last few years. Sometimes when things seem a bit turbulent in a certain destination, it’s very difficult to figure out if it’s all true, or all hype. Cairo is a prime example of such a city, so we thought we’d have a chat to our Cairo local, Sameh, and set the story straight on travel in Cairo.
1. What’s your favourite activity to do in Cairo?
Definitely has to be camel riding at the Pyramids of Giza – it’s an unbeatable experience! Also, sailing on a felucca down the Nile in Aswan City is not a bad idea either…
2. Where should a visitor go in Cairo if they want to experience the local culture? Is there a particular neighbourhood that stands out, or a specific place?
No doubt Old Cairo and Khan el-Khalili bazaar are the real authentic areas of Egypt. You get to see old churches and mosques, and then you can rest in one of the oldest coffee shops in Egypt in the bazaar.
3. What is your favourite food from Cairo? Or Egypt?
Koshary, which is a traditional Egyptian dish made from pasta, rice, beans, chickpea, and noodles, all covered with tomato sauce and vinegar. Yum!
4. What is your favourite part of Cairo to show off to new visitors?
There are many places to visit and see, but I like downtown area and The Egyptian Museum, a great place to go in the morning. In the evening, I like to walk through Islamic Cairo and enjoy the views of different mosques, which date back to the 12th – 15th centuries.
5. What is it like for you and your guides to live and work in Cairo at the minute?
Cairo is a capital of Egypt so it is always crowded, but we’re used to it. There is a lot of energy in the city, and we like it that way. It is crowded and busy but there is always something to do. Cairo is the other city that never sleeps!
As for work, tourists have started to come back to Egypt, but not in a huge numbers. Right now there is a big opportunity for tourists to come and visit when the sights are not very crowded. I personally went to the Pyramids last week and I was the only one there! It was an amazing feeling to have the Pyramids all to myself.
6. Would you consider Cairo a safe place for travellers in the current situation?
It is always safe to come to Cairo. Our groups really enjoy their time in Egypt, especially these days when there aren’t many tourists around. Fridays are the only days that there might be demonstrations and protests, and on these days we avoid certain areas by taking different routes in and out of the city. With a local to help you, it’s easy enough to avoid the parts of Cairo at the right times.
7. How have you seen tourism in Cairo change over the last few years?
2010 was a great year for the tourism industry, but the Arab Spring hugely affected the industry and caused many tourists to change their plans and avoid coming to Egypt since then. Having said that, we hope that tourists will start to come back in the next few months – we’re ready and geared up for it, that’s for sure!
8. What safety tips would you give people travelling to Cairo?
My Cairo safety advice would include:
1. Be careful when you cross the street – the traffic can be crazy!
2. Carry a photocopy of your passport and leave your original one in a hotel safety deposit box.
3. Make sure you have your hotel’s phone number and address whenever you’re out and about.
4. If you want go anywhere by taxi, make sure you use the new white taxis.
5. Use local money to buy goods or souvenirs from the market.
6. Do not take pictures of the locals unless you ask them.
7. Do not take pictures of the police check points.
8. Do not give money to children in the street.
9. Do not drink alcohol in the street.
Convinced yet? Check out our day tours in Cairo to see what kinds of adventures with locals you could have in this magical city.