When to fly
Most visitors travel to Cairo from mid-October to May, which is known as the high season. Temperatures at this time of year generally stay between 23 and 24 degrees Celsius, with night-time temperatures about 10 degrees. However, when packing your suitcase, bear in mind temperatures can soar to above 32 degrees and have been known to drop to lower than 9 degrees at some times during this period. During the peak season a number of festivals are hosted within Cairo. One such example is the Cairo International Jazz Festival, which usually takes place during March and includes jazz orchestras from United States, Spain, Lebanon, France and Germany, to name a few. Alongside the event, a number of activities are available for visitors to attend, including workshops, kids’ programs, master classes and film screenings.
The summer months (June-August) are low season. The combination of high temperatures - up to 35 degrees - and smog can be unpleasant for visitors. During Ramadan, the month of fasting, which is one of the most important parts of the Islamic calendar, many museums and tourist sites close early, many restaurants only open after sundown and the streets will be deserted. This should be taken into consideration when booking your flights to Cairo, as you may not be able to make the most out of your trip if attractions you’d like to visit are closed. Ramadan takes place approximately mid-September to mid-October, however, it varies from year to year, so check the exact date before you reserve flight tickets.
September is a pleasant time to visit. The weather starts to cool down slightly, with the temperature on average about 26 degrees Celsius and there are also fewer crowds.
Dubbed “Umm El Dinya” (Mother of the World) by Egyptians and Arabs, Cairo is one of the most brash and chaotic cities in the world. Yet each year, millions of tourists book flights to Cairo to discover one of the world’s great ancient civilisations.
The hustle and bustle of modern Cairo’s busy streets teeming with hordes of people and honking cars is perfectly juxtaposed by the serene felucca boats sailing along the Nile and horses galloping amid the gargantuan pyramids. And while most tourists who book a flight to Cairo do so to visit the Great Pyramid of Giza – the last surviving wonder of the ancient world – there’s a lot more to see and do in this exhilarating metropolis.
Six-hundred-year-old Khan al-Khalili is one of the first stops on any tourist’s must-see list. This labyrinthine bazaar offers bargain hunters the chance to haggle for hours while magpies can pick up everything from silver and precious stones to waterpipes and spices. After all that shopping recharge your batteries at the famous Feshawi’s coffeehouse and enjoy some strong Turkish coffee or an icy karkadey (hibiscus juice).
One of the top destinations in Cairo is Giza in the west, home to the legendary pyramids and the Sphinx. The Pyramid of Khufu is the only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and this 4,500-year-old mausoleum is not to be missed. The whole Giza necropolis is full of amazing archaeological sites such as the Tomb of Seshemnufer IV and the Valley Temple of Khafre. Interspersed among all the ancient sights are modern museums such as the Solar Barque Museum which house many smaller attractions. For added fun, you can take a camel ride around the area.
Along the River Nile and driving around the busy streets, you’ll see how varied the different parts of Cairo are. In Islamic Cairo, the historic centre, you’ll find the famous Mohamed Ali Mosque within the Citadel, a stunning example of Islamic architecture with peerless views of the whole city: it’s a definite must when you get cheap flights to Cairo. To the south is Old Cairo which contains Coptic Cairo; here you’ll find many old Christian churches grouped together. North from here, Midan El Tahrir is the epicentre of contemporary civic and cultural life and the streets of Downtown are reminiscent of 19th-century Paris.
Cairo insider information
- Make sure you wear appropriate clothing in the city. Shoulders should always be covered, and the longer the sleeves the better. Shorts or skirts should always be knee-length. Loose, long-sleeved shirts with trousers are the best garments for both men and women, and will mean you receive less unwanted attention.
- Cairo is busy, noisy and full of bustle. It’s exhilarating, but it can be tiring. If you feel you need to get away from it all for a while there are a number of options for some (relative) solitude. Visit Zamalek, a district on the Gezira island, head to the courtyard of a local mosque, or just take a felucca ride along the Nile – a traditional wooden boat specific to the area which can hold about ten passengers only. If all else fails, head to an upmarket hotel and relax by the pool for a few hours.
- The “city of the dead” is the name given to two cemeteries in Cairo. However, the cemeteries are still very much cities of the living. Many homeless and poor people have taken residence in the tombs and schools and trade continue in the walled cities. Mausoleums become houses and there is even a post office within the tombs.
- An easy day trip from the city is the Birqash Camel Market – the largest in the country. Arrive early and choose a spot to watch the show unfold.
- When visiting the Pyramids at Giza, don’t be alarmed by the extremely aggressive camel touts. It can seem almost impossible to refuse a camel ride (so many tourists do it that the touts may well assume everyone wants to) but simply say “no” firmly and then continue walking. Always maintain good humour.