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Africa > North Africa > Egypt > Lower Egypt > Cairo > Cairo/Downtown

Cairo/Downtown

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Midan Talaat Harb

Downtown Cairo is the commercial heart of the modern city of Cairo. In addition to hosting the Egyptian Museum, Downtown is the convenient location of many smaller hotels, retail outlets, travel agencies and restaurants. Its central location makes it a natural "jumping off point" for exploration of the city.

Understand[edit]

History[edit]

Downtown Cairo's wide boulevards and streets were laid out in the late 19th century on the orders of Ismail the Magnificent, the Paris of Baron Hausmann being the obvious model for a ruler wishing to Europeanise his capital and his country. The architecture of many buildings is clearly redolent of Paris in the 1870s, if now somewhat run down from neglect and dusty from the Cairene climate.

Orientation[edit]

Downtown Cairo is centered on 1 Midan Talaat Harb, at the intersection of Talaat Harb St (southwest-northeast) and Qasr El-Nil (west-east). The southern end of Downtown is Midan Tahrir (Tahrir Square). The east end is marked by 2 Midan Ataba, the starting point of Islamic Cairo. If you are a confident traveler and used to navigating your way around cities, then Cairo should be no different for you.

Talaat Harb St was known as Soliman Pasha St before 1964. The statue of the French General Jean Anthelme Seve, also known as Soliman Pasha Al Faransawi, stood where the statue of Talaat Harb, founder of the Banque Misr now stands. Cairienes know this street by both names.

Get in[edit]

Map of Cairo/Downtown

By train[edit]

All long-distance trains arrive at the 3 Midan Ramses station, at the north edge of downtown. Midan Ramses is notorious for swirling, raucous traffic, massive overpasses and crowds at peak hour - it is basically the central traffic hub into and out of Cairo. Just below the square in front of the train station is Martyrs (الشهداء, Al-Shohadaa) metro station, which is an interchange between lines 1 and 2. From here it is a 25-minute walk to Midan Tahrir, on the other side of downtown.

By metro[edit]

Cairo's three metro lines converge in downtown.

The Sadat metro station is at Midan Tahrir, right beside the Egyptian Museum. This is at the south end of downtown, a 10-minute easy walk to the centre of the district, via Talaat Harb Street. However, walking in that area especially at night is dangerous, as Tahrir Square has become one of the most dangerous spots in Greater Cairo, since 2011 (see Cairo/Downtown#Stay safe). Sadat metro station is closed on occasion for security reasons because of demonstrations at Midan Tahrir.

Downtown is accessed through two additional stations, Mohamed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

By bus[edit]

The Abdel Mo'nem Riyad Coach Station: a 5-minute walk from Tahrir Sq and behind the Egyptian Museum has four coach stations:

  • One is the micro-bus station.
  • Beside it is the local bus station serving the areas of Giza, Ma'adi, Helwan, Sheikh Zayid City.
  • The third serves the East of Cairo, i.e., Heliopolis, Medinet Nasr, Cairo Airport, and El Rehab.
  • The fourth station is across the road from the other three stations and this is where you can board the intercity coaches. The offices and bookings of Superjet, East Delta, West Delta, and El Gouna are here with destinations including Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, Ras Sidr, El Gouna, Alexandria, Delta Cities, Marsa Matrouh, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, El Tur, El Arish, Nuweiba, Dahab, Rafah.

By taxi[edit]

From downtown, taxis to/from Zamalek should cost around LE5, and to/from Citadel, Coptic Cairo or Islamic Cairo around LE10. Do not let the taxi driver choose you. You choose him and always look confident as if you use them regularly. Flag one down, hop in and always sit in the back of the cab. Try not to get into any discussion with the driver. Simply state your destination and look out the window. Ignore any chat if you can. Egyptians do not chat with drivers on the whole. Avoid eye contact especially in the mirror.

Do not confirm the fare before getting in. No resident of Cairo does this, you should always pay afterwards, (after) you have stepped out of the cab, with no discussion of the price (unless the taxi driver thinks you've given him an unfair price). If you are obviously a tourist with your Lonely Planet Guide, North Face backpack, and are wearing shorts then you can sometimes expect an argument even if you have offered the correct price. Either pay him more to keep the peace (odds are he needs the money more than you) or just walk away.

To avoid any confrontation regarding price, choose a cab from the new yellow, or white with black ones with meters. Then add a few pounds tip if you so choose.

A great look into the life of the average Cairo taxi driver can be found in the excellent book Taxi by Khalid El Khamissi. After reading that you may become more sympathetic to their daily struggle for business.

Careem and Uber ride-sharing apps are a great choice for getting hassle-free rides around town for reasonable prices.

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

The Egyptian Museum[edit]

Egyptian Museum facade
Statue of pharaoh Khafre ("Chephren"), approx 4,500 years old

They've got the removals men in at the 1 Egyptian Museum! Shelves are being cleared, and exhibits photographed, labelled and crated, ready for their transfer to a new Grand Egyptian Museum near the Giza Pyramids. It is scheduled to open partially in the first quarter of 2019, and fully in 2022, but you can expect these deadlines not to be met like all of the previous deadlines. The present building will continue to be used to display some of the massive collections now stored in the basement.

As of Nov 2018, there is still much - indeed too much - to see here, and it remains one of the world's great museums. The lighting and labelling are poor, but the fabulous exhibits speak for themselves. The following account describes what has traditionally been displayed here, but this is changing day by day as the transfer gathers momentum.

The museum (officially, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, and often called the "Cairo Museum") is in a pink neoclassical building on the northern edge of Midan Tahrir. It's the product of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, established by the Egyptian government in 1835, to try to curb the looting of antiquities sites and artefacts. It opened in 1858 with a collection assembled by Auguste Mariette Pasha, the French archaeologist employed by Isma'il Pasha. After residing in an annex of the Bulaq palace in Giza from 1880, the museum moved in 1900 to its present location. It's a glorious ramshackle treasure-house that evokes Dylan Thomas' famous line about "The museum which should have been in a museum!"

There are seven sections within the museum that are arranged in chronological order:

  1. Tutankhamen's treasures
  2. Pre-dynasty and Old Kingdom monuments
  3. First intermediate period and Middle Kingdom monuments
  4. Monuments of the Middle Kingdom
  5. Monuments of the late period and the Greek and Roman periods
  6. Coins and papyri
  7. Sarcophagi and scarabs

The museum is open daily, 9AM–7PM. General admission is adults LE160, students LE80 (Nov 2018), which does not include the Royal Mummies room. Tickets for photography are available at LE50 per camera, but no photography is allowed in the Tutankhamen exhibition or in the Royal Mummies room. There are three separate checkpoints that have x-ray machines. There is one outside the courtyard, then there is one before the steps of the museum and a third right inside the doors.

Phone: +20 2 33777263

Highlights[edit]

Cairo Museum: Funerary mask of Tutankhamen
  • Objects from the Tomb of Tutankhamen, Upper Floor - discovered in 1922 and gradually revealed over the next few years, many of the objects from the tomb of the "boy king" were brought to the Egyptian Museum for display. A small number of objects found their way into foreign collections, whilst several, including the inner sarcophagus and the body of Tutankhamen himself, remained in the small tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The most famous objects from the tomb are the funerary mask of Tutankhamen and the inner coffin. The mask is made of solid gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, cornelian, quartz, obsidian, turquoise, and colored glass. The inner coffin is made of solid gold. It is 74 in (1,900 mm) long, 20 in (510 mm) wide, and 20 in (510 mm) high. The king is shown as Osiris holding the crook and flail, traditional symbols of kingship. Many items from the Tutankhamen collection are on tour to museums in Europe and North America, and the chariots have been moved to the new museum, which is not open as of Nov 2018. The complete collection of items found in the tomb has yet to be fully documented. It took almost ten years for the founder of the tomb, Howard Carter, to finish excavating the tomb.
  • The Royal Mummies: To see the Royal Mummies room, you can either buy a combination ticket at the ticket office at the main gate for LE300, or a separate ticket at the mummies room for LE180 (Nov 2018). No photography is allowed. There are two rooms you can enter using same ticket so make sure that you see both of them: many of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom period and later are displayed here in the Royal Mummy Hall, which is at the corner of the first floor lobby. Mummies of eleven kings and queens are kept in temperature- and pressure-controlled glass cabinets on display. Unfortunately, some mummies are not even identified by the name or the period to which they belong to and other chronological information.
  • Jewelry: there is a large collection of Egyptian jewelry on display in the museum. Egyptians were concerned with creating harmonious forms and color combinations. To a large extent, the majority of Egyptian jewelry was made with gold and semi-precious stones. Silver was used but it much less popular than gold in the creation of jewelry. The majority of the jewelry found on display in the museum were found on the mummy of Tutankhamen himself.
  • Egyptian Museum Library: created in the year 1902, the library specializes in ancient Egyptian civilization and houses some 42,500 books on the topic. However, the library is not open to the general public, with access restricted to accredited researchers and students.

Only the Gold Room and the Mummy Room are air-conditioned. A bookstore and several small gift stores are open during museum hours within the main entrance hall to the museum. Prices are often somewhat inflated. Be careful also that the proprietors do not pass on a dusty, grimy equivalent of the display copy you think you are purchasing.

Midan Tahrir[edit]

4 Midan Tahrir (Arabic: ميدان التحرير, "Liberation Square", also commonly known as Tahrir Square) is the name given to the large public square at the epicentre of modern Cairo, and (as a city district) to the streets and institutions located nearby. The Egyptian Museum, the American University in Cairo, the Arab League, and the Hilton and Intercontinental Hotels are all located here, as are several important government offices. The metro also has its main nexus under Midan Tahrir, and a great many buses and taxis make Tahrir Square a key part of their services. The square was known as Midan Ismaili until 1954, when President Nasser gave it its current name.

The relatively open vista of Tahrir Square affords the confused traveler a great opportunity to look about and gain some bearings within the bustling city center.

Perhaps the most prominent building bordering Tahrir Square is the now somewhat jaded-looking Nile Hilton, which was Africa's first Hilton hotel, between the Square and the Nile Corniche. Immediately to the north and perpendicular to the hotel is the unmissable Egyptian Museum in reddish-pink stone. South of the Hilton Hotel stands the dingy Arab League Building. Somewhat further southeast, across the busy thoroughfare of Tahrir street, is the brutal Stalinist-looking Mogamma Building which houses 18,000 Egyptian government bureaucrats. This building is the most convenient place for tourists to renew or extend their Egyptian visas.

From here, Sharia Tahrir heads due west to cross the Nile over the Tahrir Bridge and into Gezira (the island suburb), and beyond to Giza and the Pyramids (several miles away) Next to the Mogamma Building is a small but attractive Mosque of Omar Makram, in which many state and business funerals are held. Only slightly further south can be found the Intercontinental Hotel.

Bordering Tahrir Square to the east is a sizable frontage of large office buildings and stores, topped with neon signs. The downtown campus of the American University of Cairo lies across the busy Qasr al-Ainy.

Midan Tahrir is served by the Sadat metro stop, but it is occasionally closed at times of expected demonstrations, and some entrances seem to be permanently closed. There is a bus stop near the area at Talaat Harb Square.

Probably one of the easiest ways to negotiate the busy Tahrir Square area is to use the interconnecting underground pedestrian tunnels linking the Metro station with various points in and around the square. This can save a great deal of time and prevent much negotiation of crazy traffic and the ongoing remodelling of the square.

Other sites[edit]

Midan Tahrir before the revolution
  • 2 Abdeen Palace Museum (Accessible from Midan Tahrir via Mohammad Mahmoud Street or Al-Tahrir Street, or via Naguib metro station). Collections are showcased on the lower floors in the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Royal Family Museum, and the Presidential Gifts Museum, and the Historical Documents Museum was added in 2006. The palace, designed in the 1800s by a French architect, is worth seeing including the fountain courtyard.
  • 4 Museum of Islamic Art, Bab El Khalk Square (near Abdeen Palace). Established in 1858 under authority of Khedive Tawfiq, the museum showcases pieces from mosques, homes, and palaces in Islamic Cairo. LE120, photo permit LE50.
  • The Postal Museum, Al-Ataba Square (Ataba metro station exit Ataba Sq), +20 2 2391-0011. This museum holds a plethora of historical exhibits relating to all things postal, from the history of the post system dating back to the time of the Pyramids to extensive stamp collections.
  • 5 Yacoubian Building, 34 Talaat Harb St Downtown. For readers of Alaa al Aswani's best-selling book The Yacoubian Building. You can see the Yacoubian Building on Talaat Harb St where it still stands and where the story was based, although in the book it is referred to by its old name of Soliman Pasha St.
  • 6 Prince Said Halim's Palace, Champollion Street (Off Midan Falaki). Now almost derelict and often misleadingly called the Champollion Palace, this once beautiful building is worth a look for its beautiful architecture, baroque and classical archways. Built in 1896 by designer Antonio Lasciac from imported Italian marbles and stone. This once beautiful palace and gardens are a reminder of the 'Glory days of Cairo'. The building was nationalized by President Nasser, and eventually transformed into Al Nassareya Boys School, which quickly destroyed the beautiful building. Today it is a temporary art gallery.
  • Egyptian National Railways Museum, Midan Ramses, +20 2 575-3555. Tu-Sa 8:30AM-1PM. At the eastern end of Ramses Station, this museum houses an amazing collection of steam locomotives, including that used by Empress Eugenie during her opening of the Suez Canal in 1863. LE20 (LE10 for students).
  • 7 Al Fath Mosque (El Fatah), South end of Midan Ramses. Completed in the early 1990s, this beautiful mosque is worth taking a look at.

Do[edit]

  • 1 Cinema Metro, 35 Talaat Harb. Once one of Cairo's most opulent movie palaces, the Metro has fallen on sadly disheveled, dusty, almost squalid times. LE10-20.
  • 2 Cairo Puppet Theatre, Azbakia Park (Near the Ataba metro station.), +20 2 2268-5241, e-mail: . A fantastic way to spend an afternoon with the kids. The Cairo Puppet Theatre puts on a variety of shows including myths, fairy tales and fun children's stories.
  • 3 Ramses Hilton Cinema, 1115 Corniche El Nil (Ramses Hilton Mall). Theater at the Ramses Hilton shows modern, mainstream movies. Best to get there by taxi.
  • Midan Falaki (Falaki Square) (From Midan Tahrir take Tahrir St heading to Abdeen Palace and Falaki is approx a 5-minute walk.). A public square surrounded by coffee merchants and coffee shops. During the day you can sit and enjoy one of the many blends and play a game of backgammon with the more intellectual Egyptians who frequent the cafes during the day. However, a more raucous clientèle tends to congregate later in the evening. A nice place to people watch, and buy some unusual blends of coffee.
  • Attend one of the illustrated lectures on Egyptology, art and culture at the offices of the American Research Center in Egypt, close to Tahrir Square at 2 Midan Simon Bolivar (known locally as Midan Qasr al-Dubara), Garden City, tel +20 2 794 8239, fax +20 2 795 3052, mailto:arce@internetegypt.com . Lectures are held every Wednesday evening at 6PM during the academic year, open to all visitors, admission free.

Buy[edit]

Midan Talaat Harb

The Downtown district of Cairo features a number of Egyptian department stores. These were once fantastic emporiums, full of the world's best products - until July 1961 when every one of Egypt's great department stores were nationalized. Those days are long gone, and quality shopping has moved to upmarket malls in Heliopolis, Nasr City, Maadi and other upscale neighborhoods. Today, Downtown is the place to go for cheap fakes and local produce of variable quality and the full range of Arabic pop music (and films).

The Midan Ataba area is home to large bookseller markets, where you can find inexpensive books, as well as electronics and clothing markets. Near the main post office, there are vendors selling stationary and cards. Talaat Harb Street is the place to find shoes, with one shoe store after another.

  • 1 Madbouli, 6 Midan Talaat Harb (near Sadat Metro station), +20 2 2575-6421. Mostly Arabic bookstore with a range of political literature and other books.
  • 2 Omar Effendi, 25 Adly St, +20 2 2392-5011. A large iconic Egyptian, 150-year-old department store. Sadly, filled with Chinese and poorly made Egyptian clothing even now since its privatization and takeover by the Gulf Kuwaiti Sultan Centre Company.
  • Sednaoui Department Store, On Khazindar Square (near Al-Ataba Square-near Ataba Metro station). This once family-owned department store was nationalized in 1961 and now has the neglected feeling of an East German department store. It has 3 floors and has a grand sweeping staircase, and a glass roofed atrium worth seeing for that alone, if you like old architectural building designs. Sells very cheap fabrics on the 2nd floor where you can buy shirts, blouses, and curtain material and have made up by one of Cairo's many tailors.
  • El Shawarby St (near Sadat Metro station). The best street to bargain hunt for music, DVDs and clothes, don't be afraid to haggle, watch how the locals do it for tips.
  • 3 Shorouk Bookshop, 1 Talaat Harb Square (near Sadat Metro station), +20 2 2391-2480. Located on Midan Talaat Harb, Shorouk has two floors with a good selection of Arabic- and English-language books.
  • 4 Talaat Harb Mall (close to Yacoubian Building). Most famous for its downstairs fast food restaurants. Many cheap clothes stores are also in the vicinity of the mall which is located just above Midan Talaat Harb.
  • Attaba Bookstalls, Attaba Downtown (Take metro to Attaba station and take Attaba Sq exit.). Everyday incl Fridays. Over 100 new and second hand book stalls all displayed in little Arabesque kiosks. Every type of book and magazine available in many languages. Usually hassle free and sellers are content to let you browse in peace. Always bargain, and the price will come down the more you buy. Very old books and classics up to newly released novels and magazines. A great place to find treasures and find a few books for your trip. Visit Mahmoud at kiosks 83 and 84 for a great selection of used English books and a fair price. Many books are under LE10 each.
  • AUC Bookstore (Hill House Campus AUC Tahrir), Kasr el Aini St (few mins walk from Tahrir Sq), +20 2 7975900. Sa-Th 9AM-6PM. Great bookstore just minutes away from Cairo Museum in the AUC Hill House campus. Excellent selection of new books and all the usual Egyptian authors' works can be found there amongst the latest releases.
  • 5 Al Bostan Mall, Al Bostan St (From Tahrir Sq, take Talaat Harb St 200 mtrs and turn right into Bostan St. The mall is the large pink building facing you.). Early till late everyday, after 1PM Fridays. Large old mall mainly selling computers, second-hand PCs and laptops, and computer accessories with some clothing and footwear stores and a few airline offices. Toilets on each of the 4 floors.

Eat[edit]

Downtown is not the main haunt for the greatest of culinary treats, although quality eating does exist. It is however heaven for Egyptian snacks, sweets and fast food. All restaurants under "splurge" serve alcohol unless otherwise noted.

Budget[edit]

  • Hardees (Sadat Metro station). On Midan Tahrir Sq. Delivery 19066. Free Wifi.
  • McDonald's (Sadat Metro station). On Midan Tahrir Sq. Delivery 19991. Free Wifi
  • K.F.C. (Sadat Metro station). On Midan Tahrir Sq. Delivery 19019. Free Wifi
  • Quick Sandwich, 2 El Fawala Street (Downtown, Opera Square). A pioneer in the Egyptian based chains offers some of the best shawerma rolls and shish-kebab sandwiches, excellent value meals and great taste- delivery is an option by calling 16013. Relatively cheap.
  • Kushari al-Tahrir, Abdel Khaleq Tharwat St.
  • GAD, 13, 26th of July St., +20 2-2576-35-83. Fast food restaurant, done Egyptian style. Usually very busy packed with locals, but very good food at a very non-tourist price. Good fuul and falafel for about LE1.5 a sandwich. Large restaurant located on 26th July St, just off Talaat Harb St, in downtown Cairo. A large schawerma 'Doner kebab sandwich' costs LE8.
  • Al Tazaj Fakieh, 30 Talaat Harb St, +20 2 19018. Kebab with a chicken twist, this Cairo chain serves up chicken in all its oriental varieties.
  • Fatari Pizza Tahrir, el-Tahrir Street (around the corner from AUC). 24 hours. Serves sweet fatirs, and varieties with cheese and meat toppings. Has a small sitting area, or is good for take away. ~LE10.
  • Koshari el-Tahrir, el-Tahrir Street (around the corner from AUC's Greek Campus, corner of Youssef el-Guindi and el-Tahrir Street). Popular koshari chain, serves koshari in various sizes though the small (1.4 kg/3 lb) is a good size portion. You can add hot sauce or a lemon sauce. For LE5.50, you can get a small koshari and a can of Coca-Cola. Eat-in or takeaway.
  • 1 Koshari Achmat (10 min south of Ramses Station). Decent and inexpensive Koshari. Koshari LE10, small salad LE3, rise with milk LE5.
  • 2 Koshary Abou Tarek. Koshary is a filling pasta, tomato sauce, dried onions, chickpeas, lenses dish, and this restaurant is quite famous beyond Cairo for it and its speedy waiters. Rice with mild seems to be quite famous in combination (after) koshary. Medium LE20, Large LE25, Special LE30, rice with milk LE5.
  • Directly opposite the gates of the American University in Cairo (AUC) in the south-eastern corner of the square are to be found all the central Cairo branches of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.

Mid-range[edit]

Groppi's cafe in Talaat Harb
  • Alfi Bey, 3 Al-Alfi Street. Egyptian cuisine is served in this small restaurant, including kofta, kabobs, stuffed pigeon, lamb, and chicken.
  • 3 The Greek Club, 28 Mahmoud Bassyouni St (Just north off Talaat Harb, enter via Mahmoud Bassiouni), +20 2 575 0822. LE5 entrance fee, open from 7PM. Mostly frequented by liberal and leftist Egyptians rather than Greeks, this is one of the best restaurants in Downtown Cairo. The Greek food offered is limited and the menu often erratic, but the dishes they do have in supply are very good and cheap. Alcohol (including imported spirits) is served and it's possible to just have a drink. Some of the best Kofte in Cairo. Closes down completely during Ramadan.
  • 4 Felfela, 15 Sharia Hoda Sharaawi, +20 2 392 2833. open daily 7:30AM-12:30AM. A Cairo institution, this restaurant represents the original flagship of the now burgeoning Felfela chain of restaurants throughout Cairo. Long wooden tables and eclectic, somewhat kitschy décor: aquariums, clocks, half-lit grottos complete with mini-waterfalls. Somehow it all works. Specializes in classic Egyptian cuisine. The vegetarian dishes are better than the meat. Try the lemonade - perfect refreshment on a hot day! Also serves beer. Credit cars not accepted.
  • 5 Groppi's, Midan Talaat Harb. Situated on the square itself is the once opulent Groppi's, formerly the most famous café, tearoom and patisserie in Egypt. Between the 1920s and early 1950s, Groppi's was the place to be seen by Cairene society. Its former glories stripped away to dusty memories, Groppi's is nonetheless still just open for business. Be sure to check out the ornate mosaics around the doorway - a relic of former times.
  • 6 La Chesa, 21 Adly St., +20 2 393 9360. Serving fondues, and other traditional Swiss dishes, pizza, salads and patisseries, this is one of the better continental restaurants in Downtown Cairo.
  • 7 After Eight (Middle Eastern brassiere), 6 Kasr El-Nil St. 8PM till late. Brassiere cum night club serving cocktails and Middle Eastern cuisine. Excellent service with life band and DJ.

The basement of the Annex to the Hilton Hotel on Tahrir Square has a large number of internationally flavoured eateries in a mall-type setting, everything from Egyptian to Thai and hamburgers. Prices are reasonable and the setting comfortable.

  • Beano's, Mohamed Mahmoud (next to AUC Greek Campus). Modern coffee chain, serves salad, sandwiches, etc.
  • Cilantro, 31 Mohamed Mahmoud St.. Modern coffee-chain that also serves sandwiches, salads, etc. Wi-Fi available, credit cards accepted.
  • Costa Coffee, Mohamed Mahmoud (next to AUC Greek Campus). Modern coffee chain that also serves desserts and some sandwiches

Splurge[edit]

  • 8 Café Riche, 17 Talaat Harb St (near Sadat metro station), +20 2 392-9793, +20 1224011256. 07AM-midnight. Another place of forlorn glory. Very popular with tourists, but the reasons for fame are questionable, it's rather expensive for what you get and service is slow and unsatisfying, even for Cairo. However, this might just be cause of all the tourists visiting here. So, come here if you fit in, and skip it if you just in for the thrill and pictures.
  • [formerly dead link] Peking, 14 Saray el Azbakia St (off Emad El Din St). Branch of the Cairo Peking restaurant chain. All their branches offer relatively predictable, but very good Chinese food.
  • Da Mario Italian restaurant (Nile Hilton Hotel) (Sadat metro station on Midan Tahrir). Authentic Italian cuisine and good service.
  • Maharajah restaurant (Ramsis Hilton), 1115 Corniche El-Nil St, +20 2 577-7444. Daily 1PM-11:59PM. Exotic Indian dining experience.
  • Windows on the World restaurant (Ramsis Hilton Hotel), 1115 Corniche El Nil St. Daily 5PM-2AM. International cuisine with cocktails and evening entertainment served in the 36th floor restaurant with stunning panoramic views over the Nile and to the pyramids beyond
  • Bird Cage, Semiramis InterContinental Cairo, Corniche El Nil, +20 2 7957171. Daily 1PM–4PM, 7PM–late.. Reportedly the best Thai food in Cairo.

Drink[edit]

Coffee houses[edit]

Downtown is a primary walk for coffee houses and almost every side-street has one. However, some areas and street have clusters of small places which makes for a very lively atmosphere.

  • Bursa. This cluster of coffee shops in carless streets are accessed from Qasr-El-Nil/Sherif. It is a very popular place among young democracy activists and members of oppositional movements and lively until late night.
  • Tawfiqiyya Souq (North of 26th July in Downtown). This is another street with lots of coffee shops and lots of atmosphere.
  • Ta'kiba Coffee shop is a short walk away from Midan Falaki by the wrongly named Champollion Palace, on Champollion Street, and round the corner from the Townhouse Gallery and Theater. The gallery has a clean toilet for public use.

Bars[edit]

  • Houria, Bab-Al-Louq. This place doubles as coffee shop and bar, making it unique in Cairo. Some of the cheapest beer you can get in Cairo and given that this is also one of the least sleazy of the cheap downtown bars, there's no reason not to rave about the place. Reopened in May 2010 and as busy as always. LE11 for a bottle of Stella; amazingly good service, but the waiters are equally insistent on a spot of baksheesh.
  • Odeon, 6 Abdel Hamid Said St (Odeon Palace Hotel, off Tala'at Harb St), +20 2 767-971. 24 hours. This roof-top open-air hotel bar is also a restaurant, but most visitors prefer just to drink or have shisha. Beer (Stella or Saqqara) is LE15. Very popular among backpackers and foreign students. Open during Ramadan. Nice place to sit and have a drink, but poor service.
  • Sherlock Holmes pub (Ramsis Hilton Hotel), 1115 Corniche El Nil (Behind and five minutes walk from Egyptian museum). Atmospheric British-style pub with warm cosy atmosphere. Local and imported alcohol, moderate prices.
  • Windsor Hotel, 19 Alfi Bei Street (a few blocks east of Midan Ramses). The bar at the Windsor Hotel is where the flotsam and jetsam of the expat world hang out. A place where Somerset Maugham meets Mr. Mulliner, it is the perfect place to meet odd characters!
  • 1 El Horreya Cafe and Bar (كافيه وبار الحرية), El Mazloum St, 2, +20 2 23920397. While noisy and crowded, this classic baladi bar (the Cairene take on a dive bar) is one of very few left in the city centre.

Sleep[edit]

Downtown Cairo is full of cheap but often dirty hostels and hotels. There are upscale options as well.

Budget[edit]

  • 1 [dead link] Arabian Nights Hostel, 10 Al Aded St., +20 2 2924 0924, e-mail: . A very fun hotel located next to Khan el Khalily and near the Citadel. Staff are very friendly and helpful. There is a great view from the roof, with an Arabian style tent set up. They are now having a free Sufi dancing show on their roof every Sunday. Comfortable clean rooms, good help with trip ideas and Cairo tips. Free wifi, air conditioning, breakfast and as many hot drinks as you want. Rooms start from LE80.
  • 2 Cairo Moon Hotel, 28 Adly Street (Downtown), +20 23905119, e-mail: . A beautifully designed hotel with lots of open space and a gorgeous terrace where you can have breakfast overlooking Cairo. The rooms are large with high ceilings and lots of light. They offer free breakfast, wireless internet and hot drinks throughout the day. Dorms are LE60 and rooms start from LE100.
  • 3 Cecilia Hostel. Generally pretty grungy. Things are not particularly clean, but the staff is generally nice. Free wifi, but slow.
  • 4 Dahab Hostel (Dahab Hotel), 26 Mahmoud Bassioui, +20 2 579-9104. This low-key, basic hostel is popular with the "no frills" travelers who want a basic room redolent of a Dahab beach experience in the big city and not much else. The Dahab is basically a collection of rooms on a rooftop in the Downtown area. WiFi is Free! Beds starting at €3.
  • 5 Museum House Hostel, 2 Champollion Road, +20 1091088968, e-mail: . Comfortable air-conditioned accommodation for long or short term stay for work or study. Free WiFi, and laundry and kitchen facilities, are provided. Many rooms have balconies with partial view of the Nile.
  • 6 Ramses Palace Hostel, 80 El Gomhoria Street (just 3 min southwest of the Ramses Station), +20 1023737790. Highly recommended, but the private rooms are probably better than the dorm. Nevertheless, good value for money. Small and nice but not overly comfortable lobby. The advantage is the good location near the Ramses Station and bus companies going to Hurghada and Sharm. Dorm from LE89 (incl. breakfast).

without GPS tag[edit]

  • Australian Hostel, 23 Abd El khaleq Sarwat, +20 2 23958892. Nice clean rooms, Friendly staff and AlTahrir Kosheri is just around the corner. Centrally located but hard to find. Just past the KFC and Radioshack, on the third floor. Dorms from LE50.
  • Berlin Hotel, 2 El Shawarby St - 4th Floor (Opposite to the Central Bank of Egypt), +20 2 23957502, e-mail: . Check-in: 7AM, check-out: noon. Budget style hotel on the lower end of the scale. Lift broken, no bathroom in room. Central Cairo, WiFi is available free of charge
  • Brothers Hostel/Hotel, 34 Talaat Harb St, 4th Floor, +20 2 2579 6946, e-mail: . Extremely friendly atmosphere, very comfortable beds, clean, the staff is always willing to help, including booking affordable trips, bus tickets and explaining/giving recommendations about their city. This hotel-hostel is in the famous Yacoubian Building. Dorms from LE50, central location, 24-hour reception and security, free wifi and internet access, air conditioning, airport transfers and breakfast included.
  • Canadian Hostel, #5 Talat Harb Street, +2 022 3925794, e-mail: . Located in the centre of downtown Cairo, across the street from the metro and a 5-minute walk to the Egyptian Museum. Friendly atmosphere, great service and hospitality. Breakfast is included (Egyptian & Continental). Almost all rooms have air conditioning, including the dorm room.
  • Concorde Hotel, 146 Tahrir Street. A simple hotel with all the basics, located near Bab El-Shariaa Metro.
  • Egyptian Night Hotel, 13 Merit Basha St., +20 2 2576 0604, e-mail: . This is a cozy new hostel located directly across from the Egyptian Museum, with views of the Nile. The inside is colorful, with very friendly staff. Many of the rooms come with balconies. Free WiFi. They offer a good continental breakfast with drip coffee. Dorm rooms LE125. Private rooms starting from LE285..
  • Lialy Inn, 8 Talaat Harb Sq., Second Floor, +20 2 5752802, e-mail: . One of the best hostels in Cairo, clean rooms with breakfast, cheap, friendly staff and a great location. They have free WiFi and a free airport pick-up service if you going to stay for two nights or more or if you are in a group of two of more people. The new owner is a really cool and laid back guy. Also all artists are welcome to come and practice their art.
  • Luna Hostel, 27 Talaat Harb St., +20 2 2396-1020. Check-in: 12PM, check-out: 11:59AM. One of the best hostels in Cairo, Hostel/Hotel Luna offers both quiet and noisy rooms (depending on the orientation towards Sharia Talaat Harb, incredibly noisy street below), for prices that soared lately, but the cleanliness of rooms is beyond comparison.
  • New Minerva Hotel.
  • New Palace Hotel, 17, Soliman El Halaby st, From Emad El Din st, +20 2 25751283, +20 2 25751322. Friendly staff, breakfast included, internet and printer access, free WiFi, rooms with bathroom and AC. 24h/day rooftop restaurant with a peaceful atmosphere, billard table and satellite TV. Dorms from $6.50, private rooms from $9.
  • Nubian Hostel, 4 Elwy St., e-mail: . Comfortable and clean hostel in downtown. On a side street so it's relatively quiet. The staff are friendly and relaxed. Free WiFi. Private rooms start from LE70..
  • Rotana Palace Hostel, 37 Talaat Harb St.. Don't confuse it with luxury Rotana Hotel. Still, clean rooms, Satellite TV, free WiFi, modern rooms, breakfast included single ensuite LE120.
  • Sultan Hotel, Tawfiqqya Souq (near Nasser metro station, north of Sharia 26th of July). Homely family atmosphere, satellite TV, kitchen. Popular with Japanese. In the same building are also the Safary Hotel and the Venice Hosokawaya Hotel. Dorms from LE20.
  • Traveler's House Hotel, 43 Sherief Street (Downtown), +20 23964362, e-mail: . A new hotel in Cairo. Situated in downtown near the Orabi Metro station. Nice clean rooms with high ceilings and large windows. A large common room with a balcony is perfect for hanging out at the end of the day. Free breakfast, wireless internet and hot drinks throughout the day. dorm room is LE45 and rooms start at LE75.
  • Venice Hosokawaya, 4 Souk El-Tawfikia Street, 4th floor, +20 2 27735307. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. Venice Hosokawaya Hotel was established in January 2008, after a complete renovation and staff replacement of the old Venice Hotel. Popular with Japanese and the owner is Japanese national, staff can speak English, Japanese, Arabic. Clean and comfortable. Free breakfast, free wireless internet, free kitchen. Dorm room is LE35, Private room from LE95.

Mid-range[edit]

  • [dead link] Arabesque Hotel, 11 Ramses St., +20 2 2579 9681, e-mail: . Located right next to the Egyptian Museum and Nile, it's a great place to start exploring the city. The rooms are comfortable and the staff are friendly though somewhat unprofessional. The common room offers fantastic floor to ceiling windows for wonderful views of the city. You may be able to haggle for better prices. Private bathroom/shared bathroom: single US$23/16.75, twin US$26/21, triple US$29/26. Breakfast included, eighth night is free.
  • Hotel Osiris, 49 Nubar St. Hotel Osiris is a small, 17-room hotel located on the top floor of a building near Bab el-Louk Square, and is a five minute walk from Midan Tahrir. The hotel provides clean rooms, some with private bathrooms. US$20-40.
  • Paris Hostel, 15 Talat Harb St. Walid and his staff are great. US$50.

Splurge[edit]

  • 8 Conrad Cairo, 1191 Corniche El Nil, +20-2-5808000. A 24-story hotel located along the Nile.
  • 9 The Nile Ritz-Carlton, 1113 Corniche El Nile, +20 2 25778899. Located on the western edge of Midan Tahrir, close to the Egyptian Museum, and built on the site of the former barracks of the British garrison of Empire days. This branch of the Hilton chain was the first major international hotel to be built in Cairo after the war. Very convenient for transport connections, for the Egyptian Museum and for Downtown.
  • 11 Talisman Hotel de Charme, 39 Taalat Harb St., 5th floor (tucked away in a small alley), +20 2 393 94 31, e-mail: . Located on the 5th floor of an older building, the outside of the hotel may not be impressive, but this 25-room hotel provides clean, nicely decorated rooms, private marble bathrooms, air conditioning, free internet, and breakfast. The staff is friendly and helpful, providing high-end service. US$61.
  • 12 The Ramses Hilton, 115 Corniche el-Nil, +20 2 574-4000, fax: +20 2 575-7152. Housed in a large, modern, purpose-built tower, the Ramses Hilton has great views from its upper floors, but lacks any real character. Still, the standards are what you would expect from the Hilton chain - as are the prices! Contains a business center, fitness center, outdoor pool, various restaurants and bars.
  • 13 Windsor Hotel, 19 Alfi Bei Street (a few blocks east of Midan Ramses). A popular hotel, but some would say overpriced for what you get.
  • Happyton Hotel, 10 Ali al-Kassar, +20 2 592-8600.

Connect[edit]

There are a handful of internet cafes around Midan Talaat Harb.

Free wi-fi is available at Pottery Cafe. Free wi-fi (Orange) is also available at modern coffee shops such as Cilantro and Costa Coffee, where you obtain access by getting a 2-hour "promotional" card from the waiter. McDonalds restaurants also offer free wi-fi.

Stay safe[edit]

Be extra careful crossing the roads in and around Tahrir Square. Egyptian motorists drive fast and seldom obey red lights.

Tahrir Square has become one of the most dangerous spots in Greater Cairo, as many political demonstrations have been held there, since 2011. The danger arises not only from the unfortunate escalation of demonstrations into violence, but also because thugs exploit the situation when security forces evacuate the area which makes it easier for them to steal, rob under the threat of injury and even rape. These incidents are usually made by a group of people riding motorcycles.

Be careful at Midan Tahrir and Midan Ataba, as these seem to be epicentres for the touts and pretentious helpful locals. They will pretend to innocently ask you where you where you are from and then point you in the wrong direction in direct you towards a friend's business. Only at the pyramids does this happen more often. Ataba is always crowded and has a very high incidence of pickpocketing, in a scenario such as getting in the metro station from there.

Cope[edit]

Be warned, all hotels/hostels as well as individuals who work the street in downtown will try to sell you vastly overpriced tours around Egypt. They can be very forceful at times, as the competition for tourists is strong and they want to take money from you before the next one gets to you. Do not let yourself be bullied into taking one of these, until you have spoken to fellow travelers who can give you a more neutral opinion. In fact there are very few places in Egypt where it would be necessary to organize tours from the capital, and fewer where it would be financially advantageous.

Downtown has many small tourist-oriented tour kiosks. The problem that visitors face is these tours often are inflated in price and always include at least 2 stops to "uncle's" perfume, papyrus, or handicraft shops. This takes away many hours from the tour and time at monuments in the hope that at least a few from the coach will buy something.

The better option would be negotiate a taxi for the day. Stop a few taxis and ask what the price would be for a whole day of sightseeing at the places you want to visit. If the price is mutual, a taxi driver will be happy to escort you around town and wait hours in the shade outside for you if he is sure of a good fare at the end of the day instead of driving around Cairo looking for fares.


This district travel guide to Downtown is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.