one of magnificent new kingdom statues at the egyptian museum

5 things to do in cairo that aren’t the pyramids

cairoCairo is big. The largest city in the middle east. 10 – 20 million people depending on who you ask. Yet most tourists only stay here 2 days. 3 days tops. Huge mistake. Cairo is like an onion. Once you get past the pyramids and the garbage there are layers and layers of places to go, treasures to explore and things to learn. Here are 5.

Walking tour of the City of the Dead

beautiful tombs in a family mausoleumThe first tombs and mausoleums were built outside the city in what was then desert by the early Muslim conquerors around 650 AD. Subsequent rulers and Egyptian elite kept adding their dead creating what today is a dense 4-mile-long necropolis. A lot of money and effort has been put into commemorating ancestors in a lavish long-lasting way. However, what started as a place to bury the dead is now inhabited by the living… some are care takers, some want to be near their ancestors, others are looking for a cheap place to live. Often referred to as a slum, The City of the Dead is also an easy, weird historic place to walk in a city that isn’t known for strolling. “Walk like an Egyptian” offers fabulous informed guided tours.

Go shopping at  the First Mall

azza fahmy necklaceI cannot believe I am recommending a mall but three of my favorite shops are here. They are all Egyptian, all headed by women, and all selling beautiful things. Azza Fahmy sells modern, distinctive, one of a kind craftsman-made jewelry. Each piece tells a story. Her inspiration is based in history, but the jewelry is completely modern.  tanis owner lamia hassaneinTanis sells fabulous hand printed customizable fabric. They tap into Egypt’s rich textile history as well as more modern sources for the wide variety of designs on cottons, silks and linen. The Tanis team can turn any of their incredible textiles into curtains, pillows, table cloths and napkins in just a  few days… bring your measurements. Heba Linens sells the most exquisite Egyptian cotton embroidered bedding that every bride in the Gulf hopes to receive as part of her wedding loot.

Listen to music at Naguib Mahfouz Café

a mummy case from the wonderfully old-fashioned egyptian museumAn oasis from the hustle, noise and salesmen of Khan el Khalili Bazaar, this café restaurant has a hustle all its own. Decorated in nineteenth century Arab style this local hot spot is dedicated to the Nobel Prize winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. His books document the social and political history of ordinary people. There is a more formal dining area where you can get proper meals of traditional food. But I recommend sitting in the front area where the musicians play and more casual snacks and great juices are served. the local crowd is welcoming. The night I was there everyone sang along, clapped, smoked shisha, asked us where were from, then smiled and made space for us at their tables. We had a blast. They do not serve any alcohol. Didn’t miss it at all.

The Museum of Egyptian Antiques

osiris protecting the pharaohOk, this one is not at all off the beaten track. Like the pyramids, everyone comes here… to see King Tut’s treasure.  Except its moving.  To the new Grand Egyptian Museum. Rumor has it all his stuff will be there by early 2019. Visit this old gem anyway. It was built in 1902. State of the art at the time, it now feels wonderfully old fashioned. You can visit mummies, see ancient tools and marvel at giant statues. Not all signs have been updated to reflect new scholastic research. Makes you laugh, feel smart and realize how much there is still to learn.

See the sculpture garden at the Adam Henein Museum

adam herein's life boatAdam Henein is amongst Egypt’s most prominent modern sculptors. In 2014 he gifted this museum to the country. The museum houses a stunning collection of his work, including paintings, in an architecturally wonderful contemporary space. He himself lives in a small, shockingly modest room en route to the lovely outdoor sculpture garden. The center piece is his “life boat”, a collection of sculptures on a sculpted traditional Nile boat that symbolize important events from his life. Look through the tiny peep hole to discover the small treasure which is a memorial to his deceased wife.   If you get the chance, attend one of the cultural events he hosts to promote local musicians and performers. Only a few minutes away is the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre. The pair make a wonderful half day excursion.

www.wissawassef.comthrough the peep hole in Adam Henein's life boat


  1. Julie,

    This is terrific. I Learned stuff about Cairo! Wonderful.

    Big hugs and looking forward to seeing you soon.


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Hi Julie, Just back from my trip up the Nile to Aswan. I loved every minute of it!….travel by boat was fantastic: we walked along the Nile, visiting villages, temples,..and cafes!…and, whenever possible, we had a good long swim! It was amazing how unspoilt and clean the Nile is, how friendly the people and how delicious the food. I will be back! Big hug

    From: julie a broad <> Reply-To: julie a broad <> Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 4:53 AM To: Sabine Wood <> Subject: [New post] 5 things to do in cairo that aren’t the pyramids

    julieannavogel posted: “Cairo is big. The largest city in the middle east. 10 – 20 million people depending on who you ask. Yet most tourists only stay here 2 days. 3 days tops. Huge mistake. Cairo is like an onion. Once you get past the pyramids and the garbage there are layers”

  3. dear Julie, thank you so much for this post 🙂 I am going to Egypt next February and I´m a city person, so I was wondering about interesting things to do in Cairo and your suggestions are just great 🙂 do you have any for Alexandria? best regards from sunny Lisbon, PedroL

      1. yup, the local library is like a local icon 🙂 anyway, thanks for sharing your tips on Cairo, I just saved your post to prepare my trip there 🙂 PedroL

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