Fora's Guide to Cairo: the History, Shopping & Food Not to Miss

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Fora Author Henley Vazquez


Henley Vazquez

    Fora co-founder Henley Vazquez in front of the Great Pyramids

    Cairo is a standout destination with fantastic hotels and lots to offer. There are the Pyramids and the museums and the ancient treasures — all of which is a must — but the city is so much more than that: it’s lively, dynamic, electric. 

    Think of Cairo the way you do Marrakech or Istanbul: it’s not a destination only for ancient sites and artifacts (although you'll want to see those, too!). This is a destination you'll want to go back to. There are art galleries and fun places to have cocktails and cute cafés — the works. So go for the history, but stay for everything else the city has to offer.

    Below, we provide our take on the ancient city, highlighting three things you shouldn't miss while there: the history (of course), the shopping and, last but not least, the food.

    Ready to travel? Connect with Fora to plan and book your dream Egypt getaway today.

    1. Antiquities, museums & epic history

    Saqqara, Egypt

    Let’s get this out of the way: the Great Pyramids of Giza are absolutely worth the hype. Giza, on the Nile's west bank, is technically its own city, but it's a 30-minute drive (without traffic) from Cairo. Go on a Friday, part of the Egyptian weekend. Translation? Fewer crowds and better pictures. 

    We recommend going in the morning, and starting your day at 9 Pyramids Lounge for a chill breakfast with the best views of the Pyramids. The restaurant is also ideal for those with mobility issues: eating here will still get you up close and personal with the ancient wonders, without having to navigate the sandy terrain. (Pro tip: you can skip going inside the Pyramids, unless long claustrophobic tunnels are your thing.)

    Then hop in a car and take the short ride to the Great Sphinx, the giant sculpture of a pharaoh's head on a lion's body. The Sphinx is in the same complex as the Pyramids, but it's still not within walking distance. 

    On another day (the Pyramids and the Sphinx are enough sites to see for one day), visit the world-class Egyptian Museum, a treasure trove of ancient artifacts, including King Tut’s famous funerary mask. The museum deserves at least a few solid hours to explore. Trust us, now is not the time to rush.

    Saqqara, a town about 25 miles southeast of Cairo, is another great option. (There are pyramids here, too, albeit less grand than those in Giza.) Don’t miss its famous carpet school. Here, you'll see a vast selection of hand-woven carpets. (They make a great souvenir, just saying.) Even better, you can support the local carpet artisans directly. Some of the artisans actually bring their kids to work, outside of school hours, to teach them the trade so they can preserve the heritage.

    2. Markets, shopping & galleries galore

    You’ll definitely want to visit one of Cairo’s buzzing open-air markets. Visit at night, and bring a guide or else you’ll get totally lost. (Trust us.) Here, it's about finding the right place to buy some souvenir-type gems, like Egyptian cotton scarves, to bring back home.

    For gorgeous fine jewelry, head to Azza Fahmy and Okhtein (which also sells luxury handbags). Rasha Pasha is the best for artisanal, one-of-a-kind, you-will-wear-this-forever clothing. For a sustainable fit made from organic Egyptian materials, you can’t go wrong with Mix & Match. We also love Madu for meticulously sourced and crafted homewares. And for an artisanal-boutique-meets-art-gallery, make a beeline for Asfour El Nil.

    And the art! Cairo’s art gallery scene is having a moment, and we’re here for it. The city’s Zamalek neighborhood is the place to be. ZAG (Zamalek Art Gallery), the Ubuntu Art Gallery and the Picasso Art Gallery are just a few of the excellent modern and contemporary art hot spots you’ll find here. 

    3. Food & more food

    Cairo’s vibrant and varied gastronomic scene is excellent, and there’s something for everyone. A mix of influences and access to the best-of-the-best ingredients make the city’s food delectable. 

    Khufu’s, located within the Giza plaza, is ideal for fine dining with an even finer view: the Great Pyramids. We love Pier 88 for elevated Italian right on the Nile (the Egyptians take the whole “dinner with a view” thing to the next level). Speaking of views: get in your rooftop moment with dinner and drinks at Crimson Bar & Grill. And if you’re craving hearty traditional Egyptian fare, book a table at Naguib Mahfouz Café

    For trendy (in a good way) Egyptian street food that will blow your mind, Zooba is a must. (There’s a Zooba in NYC, and locals love it.) End on a sweet note at Mandarine Koueider, which serves up some of Cairo’s best desserts. Get the ice cream. Trust.

    Ready to travel? Connect with Fora to plan and book your dream Egypt getaway today.

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