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Cairo see + do

Cairo is one of the world's most layered cities, dubbed "Umm Al Dunya," or "Mother of the World," by locals. Its sites and cultural heritage reflect more than five millennia of human occupation, from the earliest pyramids and the world's first stone monuments to a thousand years of Islamic architecture, the colonial downtown, and new suburbs emerging on the desert's edge. Package tours cover the obvious pharaonic and Islamic sites in a mere two days, but Cairo is a city to savor through long walks in historic neighborhoods, visits to a surprising variety of museums, and timeless vistas of desert and river. A prearranged guide can be useful, but many Cairenes speak some English and are happy to give directions; you'll appreciate the culture by taking local taxis and striking out on your own. At heavily touristed areas such as the Egyptian Museum, and Khan El-Khalili, self-appointed guides will offer their services, along with souvenirs you may not want to buy. A friendly but persistent "no, thanks" deflects the touts.

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Whirling Dervishes, Cairo

Sufi dervishes whirl to live music Wednesday nights in an arched room at the mausoleum of Al-Ghuri in the historic Islamic district. The 7 pm show is free, but...more

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Sakkara, Sakkara

Sakkara was the main necropolis for Memphis, the capital of a united Upper and Lower Egypt. A 15-minute drive south from the Giza Plateau, past villages and...more

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The Pyramids, Giza

There are actually more than 100 pyramids scattered along the west bank of the Nile across from Cairo—ancient Egyptian burials were always made on the...more

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Palace Walk, Cairo

Sadly, the tenth-century palaces of the Fatimids (Shiites from Tunisia who gave Cairo its name, Al-Qahira, meaning "the victorious") no longer exist. However,...more

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Oum Kalthoum Museum, Cairo

This lovingly curated shrine to the Egyptian diva sits on the southern tip of Roda Island next to the famous Nilometer, where for centuries priests and taxmen...more

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Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Reopened at the end of 2007 following a five-year, $15 million restoration, the museum houses one of the world's greatest collections of Islamic objects. The...more

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Makan, Cairo

Housed in a refurbished 19th-century printing plant, Makan is the home of the Egyptian Center for Culture & Art (ECCA), an organization founded in 2002 to...more

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Ibn Tulun Mosque and Gayer-Anderson Museum, Cairo

The Ahmad Ibn Tulun Mosque (dedicated to Egypt's ninth-century ruler, born to a Turkish slave of Mongol origins) is one of the largest mosques in the world and...more

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Grand Mosques and Islamic Cairo, Cairo

Following the invasion of the first Arab army in 641 and the relocation of the capital from the Greco-Roman port of Alexandria to the site of present-day Cairo,...more

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El Sawy Culturewheel, Cairo

Located under the 15th of October Bridge in Zamalek, El Sawy has emerged as Cairo's most eclectic cultural space. Nightly 8 pm performances, accessible to...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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