Nearly 15 million tourists flock to Cairo every year to cross off what can be found on most travelers’ and history junkies’ bucket list; to come face to face with the magnificent Egyptian Pyramids built over 4,500 years ago. While many people are allured to Cairo by its ancient history, Egypt’s capital city of over 20 million inhabitants contains infinite treasures beyond the Pyramids of Giza. It is a fascinating fusion of the ancient and the modern; churches and Roman ruins alongside skyscrapers and medieval monuments. Discover early Christian history, browse the world’s largest collection of pharaonic antiquities, and sip on Egyptian-style coffee in the bustling Khan El-Khalili souk (market). A trip to Cairo will leave you with hands full of souvenirs, bellies happy with falafel and shawarma, and hearts warm with lasting memories.
How to Visit Cairo
Traveling independently from Israel to Cairo is certainly doable. The only border crossing that processes the passage of tourists between Israel and Cairo is the Taba Border outside of Eilat. It is not possible to arrange the visa required to enter Egypt at the border, so you will need to go to the Egyptian Embassy ahead of time – either in Tel Aviv (54 Rehov Basel, Tel Aviv) or in your own country prior to your departure.
Taking a tour to Cairo from Israel
Due to the sheer number of people, visiting Cairo can be an overwhelming experience. By the far, the simplest and most cost-effective way to venture into Cairo from Israel is with a tour. A trustworthy and knowledgeable guide will escort you through all the highlights and explain the historical significance of the sites you will visit. Being a region of such vast and fascinating history, and with an often challenging culture, having a guide is indispensable. All travel and transfers are handled for you, along with the visa required to enter into Egypt, giving you peace of mind to enjoy your adventure. If you’re pressed for time, can go on a day tour to Cairo, driving overnight to Cairo from the Israel border and returning the following evening. If you have a few days, you can go on a two day, three day, or four day tour. These longer tours will give you time to explore Cairo and the surrounding area, including sites like St Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, and Luxor. You can also customize your own private tour. Tours leave daily from Eilat, with transfers available from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem if you do not wish to arrange your way to Eilat on your own.
Getting to Cairo by bus or road
Once across the border into Cairo, transport is available by taxi. In Egypt, it is the norm to haggle over the price, though many foreign visitors find this challenging and awkward. It is best to at least attempt negotiating the fare as tourists are a soft target for local taxis and often end up paying inflated rates. The local bus service is not accessible to tourists at the border because it passes through areas of Northern Sinai that tourists are prohibited from entering. This is another reason that taking a tour is highly recommended.
flying to Cairo
There are regular flights to Cairo from Tel Aviv operated by Egypt Air’s Air Sinai, the price of which is around $500 per person return, depending on the season.
What to Do in Cairo
See The Nile River
The disputed longest river in the world, the Nile flows alongside Egypt’s sprawling capital of Cairo, dotted with elegant townhouses and embassies from all over the world. From the shoreline, the views are spectacular and peaceful. The Nile Valley is home to the iconic Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, the famous Sphinx and the stunning temples of Luxor and Karnak.
Visit the Egyptian Museum
With over 120,000 artifacts, the museum houses an unbelievable exhibit depicting ancient Egypt’s glorious reign. Even if you aren’t fond of museums, the Egyptian Museum is a must-see stop during your trip to Cairo. Mummies, sarcophagi, pottery, jewelry and of course King Tutankhamen’s treasures, will amaze you. To explore the museum is to embark on an adventure through time and no trip to Cairo is complete without it. Hire a guide for an in-depth experience. The museum can be found in Downtown Cairo in Tahrir Square.
Marvel at the Pyramids of Giza
Of course, a trip to Cairo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Great Sphinx and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramids at Giza. Built as massive tombs to the pharaohs, the pyramids stand today as an awe-inspiring tribute to the might, organization, and achievements of ancient Egypt. The complex is comprised of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Sphinx. The Pyramids are undeniably the gem of Egypt and, for good reason, one of the greatest attractions in the whole world. The sheer size of the Pyramids will leave you spellbound. You might even have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. The Giza Pyramid Complex is located about 18 kilometers from downtown Cairo. Visitors may enter the pyramids but beware of the steep and tight spaces. Today, the chambers in the pyramids are empty but still utterly thrilling to explore and experience the magnitude.
Enjoy the View from the Cairo Tower
At 187 meters high, the tower offers amazing panoramic views of Cairo. Enjoy the refreshing breeze on its towering terrace and take in the view of the Nile. The tower also has a revolving restaurant. The tower is one of Cairo’s best-known modern monuments and is sometimes considered Egypt’s second most famous landmark after the Pyramids of Giza. It stands in the Gezira district on Gezira Island in the River Nile, close to downtown Cairo. Late morning or afternoon offers the clearest views of the city.
Explore the Khan El-Khalili Market
Khan el-Khalili is a massive souk (market) in the historic center of Islamic Cairo and is one of the city’s main attractions for locals and tourists alike. Known for its sumptuous jewelry, the marketplace has trinkets of every color and price. Get lost in the bazaar’s tiny alleys while you take in the medieval Islamic buildings on Muizz Street and the fusion of sights and smells. You can find everything from antiques to gold artifacts and household items. Originally built as a mausoleum, the structure has undergone many changes and was eventually remodeled in the 16th century by Sultan al-Ghuri. Inspired by the Ottoman style, it closely resembles a Turkish bazaar. Make sure to come hungry as you’ll want to try local Egyptian food at one of the many cafes dotting the market’s side streets. Try the national dish of Egypt, Koshari, a blend of rice, pasta, lentils, and chickpeas topped with caramelized onions and a delicious garlic, chili, and vinegar sauce. Wash it all down with a cup of fresh sugarcane juice.