Connect the dots

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can't Miss This In Cairo!

Of course you'll visit the pyramids at Giza and the Egyptian Museum will keep you constantly amazed (especially after being in Upper Egypt to see the temples and tombs) but here are some other things you should not miss while hanging out in Cairo.

The Citadel is a quiet refuge with its grand Mohammed Ali mosque, but the real treasure is the less visited Souleyman Pasha mosque and tombs. Pass the caretaker at the door some baksheesh and he'll lead you to the tombs with the simple and beautifully sculpted head stones.

A ceiling fit for Mohammed

You can't escape a trip to the Islamic district of Cairo and the Khan el-Khalili, a colorful bazaar. Make sure you look up at the beautiful jalousies and the plaster work on the buildings above. Stop at the famous El Fishawy cafe for a sheesha and coffee.

Often also overlooked are the tombs at Saqqara. We ooh-ed and aahh-ed at the relief work in the Tomb of Mereruka (very much at the top of my list of definite dos in Egypt). They are everyday scenes of cows, fish and hippos, but the reliefs are so delicate and intricate. And so much of it!

Finally, eat where the locals go and pay local prices. As we walked through downtown, we saw a packed restaurant, with the sign only in Arabic. We asked what was on the menu. Only one thing: hawawshy. Egypt's meatloaf in a pita. You get some pickled veggies and tahini on the side. Wash down with Coke or some karkade (cold, sweet hibiscus tea).

Best lunch and another cheap eat is kushari. Noodles, rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, fried onions, topped with a vinegary, tomato sauce. Abu Tarek is where the locals and tourists go. Don't forget to ask for the rice pudding for dessert.

Forget the big hotels. Stay downtown in a turn of the century building. You'll pay a lot less and get more ambience! We stayed at Cairo Downtown Hotel and Hotel Royal. Both are less than US$50, walking distance to the Egyptian Museum, the metro, and lots of shops and restaurants.

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