Cairo offers an incredible selection of shopping, leisure, culture and nightlife. Shopping ranges from the famous Khan el-Khalili souk, (or bazaar) largely unchanged since the 14th century, to modern air-conditioned centers displaying the latest fashions. All the bounty of the East is here - particularly good buys are spices, perfumes, gold, silver, carpets, brass and copperware, leatherwork, glass, ceramics and mashrabiya. Try some of the famous street markets, like Wekala al-Balaq, for fabrics, including Egyptian cotton, the Tentmakers Bazaar for appliqué-work, Mohammed Ali Street for musical instruments and, although you probably won't want to buy, the Camel Market makes a fascinating trip.
When you need a break from city life, try a round of golf on the famous Mena House course overlooking the Pyramids, watch the horse racing at the Gezira Club or visit the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. Take a trip on the Nile in a felucca or ride on horseback from the Giza Pyramids to Sakkara.
For a day trip outside Cairo visit Haraniyya village and see the beautiful tapestries and weaving produced by local people. If you wish, you may get away from it all at the top of the Cairo Tower, a modern 187 meter-high tower with views of the city from all sides, topped by a revolving restaurant.
Cairo comes alive at night, which is the best time to shop, eat delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, or simply watch the world go by from a pavement cafe. You can dine in a floating restaurant on the Nile, sample an apple-flavored shisha waterpipe at a coffee-shop or see oriental dancers and cabarets at a luxury hotel. The splendid Opera House complex houses several galleries (including the Museum of Modern Art), restaurants and concert halls. Listening to Arabic music under the stars, in the open-air theater, is a magical experience. At El-Ghuriya, in the heart of Islamic Cairo, you can watch folk musicians and whirling dervish dancers. And don't forget the most essential after-dark experience, the Sound and Light show at the Pyramids, a dramatic fusion of light and music recounting the story of antiquity.
Most of the monuments in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt are not so difficult to identify. Most have one of several different types of markers and the more important have full descriptions. Therefore, walking through one of the historical areas of Cairo, one does not necessarily need a guide, though certainly it helps.
Modern Cairo (Central Cairo)
Modern Cairenes consider Central Cairo to consist of the area bordered by Old Cairo to the south, Islamic Cairo to the east and the Nile River to the west, but this covers a number of different districts.
Tucked away amid the modern urban area of Cairo lies one of the world's oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains. Founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century.
Cairo is Islamic, though some areas are more so than others. Actually, this area is no more Islamic than Central Cairo, but as though walking through a time machine we are transported back to Cairo's past Islamic heritage, to a world of ancient mosques and 1,500 hundred year old markets; to medieval forts and the city that was Salah ad-Din's.
One should dress appropriately if sightseeing is in order, though it is not necessary when simply shopping in the Khan. Appropriate clothing involves clothing which will be acceptable in the mosques, with little skin showing, and particularly not legs and shoulders. Wear comfortable shoes that can be easily removed .
Old (and Coptic) Cairo
Old Cairo actually predates Cairo itself to old Babylon and the Romans. Located here are
some of the oldest Christian Churches in the World, as well as one of the oldest Mosques.
Giza is where the Great Pyramid is located, but there is more to the west bank of the Nile.
Several important districts are located here, along with wonderful restaurants and great
Heliopolis is a suburb of Cairo located to the north east, though there is no break between the
cities as there was when it was first constructed in 1906. At that time the building style of the
city, known as Masr al-Gedida or New Cairo had a mix of architecture set in a garden
environment which reflected the tastes of the original promoter, Baron Empain, who built the
Tram system in Cairo. Originally there was a strictly enforced building code with considerable
neo-Arabic style used in buildings, but there are also some exotic dwellings in the area.
Originally, it attracted upper class families, and today that segment is still there, along with the