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Dating back 5,000 years, Cairo has – at various times – been called Memphis, Babylon-in-Egypt, Heliopolis, El-Fustat and, most recently, Al-Qahira (The Conqueror). With a population of 18 million sprawling on either side of the Nile, it is Africa’s largest city, where past and present meet in a glorious diversity of cultures.
Imbued with ancient mystique, Cairo encompasses some of the most celebrated monuments in the world, including the pyramids, the Citadel, early Christian monasteries and churches, and the mosques of the Mamluk and Ottoman sultans. Modern Cairo is an architectural fusion of old and new, where skyscrapers and ancient monuments stand side by side. Although the city’s immensity and diversity are little short of staggering, the pulse of modern action-packed Cairo is balanced by the serene flow of the Nile.
- Discover ancient Egyptian history, and experience their life by visiting the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Antiquities museum, followed by lunch on a Nile cruise. After that you can go to Khan El Khalili bazaar, where you can find hundreds of shops that sell jewelry and hand made products.
- Complete your day with a visit to Old Cairo and the Citadel, where you can see Churches and mosques, from the Roman, Fatimid, Mamlouk and Othman eras.
- Cairo Book Fair – a must for all bookworms. Considered the largest event of its kind in the Middle East, this fair is held at the Nasr City International Fair Grounds, usually in late January. Millions of books covering every conceivable topic are featured and many are sold at substantial discounts. Most books are in Arabic, but there are also pavilions featuring English, French and Italian titles, as well as computer software. The fair also features lectures by prominent Arab writers and thinkers.
- Twice a year, on February 22 and October 22, thousands gather to watch as the sun passes over the face of the Ramsis II statue at the Pharaonic temples of Abu Simbel.
- In March, Verdi's spectacular opera Aida is presented in front of the 3,500 year old Temple of Luxor, in the pharaohs' ancient capital city of Thebes.
- Coptic Easter – a fast-breaking celebration, and the most important Coptic event of the year. The exact date of Coptic Easter varies according to the Coptic solar calendar, but always falls sometime between late March and the end of April. Mass is held on the eve to mark the end of 40 days of fasting, during which Copts follow a vegan diet. Copts spend their Easter going to church, visiting relatives and having a picnic. One of the most popular places for picnics is Urman Gardens.
- Moulid of El-Hussein – religious festival of colour and music. This is one of the most popular and colourful festivals of the year, gathering pace over a week and culminating in a leyla kebira (big night) on the last Wednesday of the Islamic month of Rabi el-Tani (between May and June). Pilgrims from all over the country come to El-Hussein Mosque to honour the Prophet's grandson, who was killed in Iraq in AD 680. Tents are erected around the mosque for poets, entertainers and zikr (religious dances). Sufis attending the festivities parade through the streets, each sect with its own banners and musical instruments.
- On a warm September night, under the glittering stars and against the spectacular backdrop of the illuminated pyramids of Giza, watch Verdi's opera Aida performed by a cast of hundreds.
- Twice a year, on October 22 and February 22, thousands gather to watch as the sun passes over the face of the Ramsis II statue at the Pharaonic temples of Abu Simbel.
- Ismailia Festival – the festival of all the folkloric dancing groups from around the world. It starts during the first week of November and concludes at the end of the month.
- Christmas Concert I by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra – the sounds of Christmas in Cairo. One of two Christmas concerts planned in the month of December, this performance traditionally includes orchestral favourites with guest artists featured. A jacket and tie are required, and children must be at least seven years of age.
Whether you need to know local public holidays or highlights through the seasons, we hope you will find the facts gathered below useful tools for your travel planning. Please feel free to contact us if we can assist you further.
GMT +2 hours
Eastern Europe Time
Arabic is the official language of Egypt. However, the dialect spoken on the streets of Cairo is barely recognizable as standard Arabic. English and French are widely spoken.
Local voltage is 220 to 240 volts AC. Adapters available; please request through the Concierge.
Monday to Saturday 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Saturday to Thursday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm