Sitting on the Nile, Cairo is the largest city in Africa, the whole of the Middle East and indeed the biggest in the entire world. A bustling metropolis, it boasts a truly rich history which involves one of humanity’s most ancient and influential civilisations. Though the city itself boasts a wealth of attractions, it also acts as a river cruisers’ gateway to some of the most iconic and legendary landmarks on Earth. Despite its renown, Cairo isn’t included in every typical Nile cruise itinerary, with some focusing more on trips between Luxor and Aswan, but it is still a popular destination with many river cruise lines opting to begin their voyages in the city.
It will certainly come as no surprise that many river cruise visitors to Cairo make the Giza region their primary stop, with the world-famous pyramids rightly recognised as one of the absolute must-see sights for anyone. There are certainly plenty to choose from, including of course the Great Pyramid of Keops, the sole remaining landmark of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the Pyramids of Kefre, Menkaure and Dahshura. However, the landmark that everyone comes to see is the legendary Great Sphynx of Giza, which enjoys a commanding position on the Giza plateau and is the world’s largest statue at 241 feet long and 66 feet high. It’s certainly one for the bucket list but if you can, get there early to avoid the crowds.
In Cairo itself, the Egyptian Antiquities Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and antiquities, with over 120,000 items on display at any one time. Not surprisingly, much of what you’ll see was extracted from the pyramids and tombs to be found in Giza and beyond and one of the star exhibits is the celebrated Tutankhamun collection, which includes the ancient ruler’s iconic death mask. Another popular historical attraction a short ride out of the city itself is Dr Ragab’s Pharaonic Village, which houses a number of museums and exhibits dedicated to pyramids, mummification and other key elements of ancient Egyptian life and culture. To take a stroll through the past in the city itself, be sure to visit Coptic Cairo, commonly known as the Old City, which is home to the first mosque to be built in Egypt, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As.
Other than museums, there are various parks and gardens in which you can relax, such as Al-Azhar, as well as architectural attractions of the distinctly non-pyramid kind to be found in the city’s Islamic district, including the Mohamed Ali Mosque and the Mosque and Madrasa of Sultan Hassan. Despite Cairo’s reputation as a haven of ancient history, it also offers all the contemporary atmosphere of a modern city and a wealth of shopping experiences.
If you are in search of souvenirs, a visit to a traditional souk offers both a lively atmosphere and the perfect opportunity to try your hand at bartering. There’s always a rich range of items for sale including many of the country’s famous spices and perfumes. The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound, so make sure you’re well stocked for your river cruise.