One Week In Cairo? Visa needs? What to do? Stay? Read on...
One Week In Cairo? Visa needs? What to do? Stay? Read on... Reviews
Jun 09, 2007
If by chance and you enter Egypt via air, here are some helpful advice to save you some headaches. Assuming you don’t have entry visa yet, you have to purchase visa at a small booth for about $25 PRIOR to getting in the customs line! Purchase two small stamps (one blue and one orange) and place them inside your passport then get in the line for immigration/customs. Plenty of people had to go back after waiting up to an hour of frustration...uttering unmentionable things!
As for Cairo, I recommend staying at Zamalek. It's an island that splits the Nile and is centrally located, full of expats, diplomats, and a vibrant area where foreigners easily mix it up with the locals; quite the intellectual spot. The pyramids of Giza, the Coptic area, Mosques, etc. are all within 30 min. to an hour drive from Zamalek.
Place to stay: Mayfair Hotel in Zamalek which is off the main street (26th of July) on 9 Aziz Osman Street. It's clean, nice, and I paid about $20 per night for my own room and private bath. The French embassy is across the street and my favourite cafe owned by a Franco Lebanese gentleman is around the corner (left side of the hotel when facing the hotel from the street). The hotel also provides a simple free breakfast (bread, boiled eggs, juice, tea/coffee, cheese), but I often opted for espresso and breakfast at the cafe. By the way, the hotel mooches off the cafe's Wifi so if you are carrying your laptop, you'll be connected.
Along the 26th of July ave, there's my favourite bookstore/cafe/chill out "Borders/Barnes&Nobleish" store called "Diwan." Good place to rest, read, and meet friends and catch up and process your next move or unfrazzle all the chaos of street pandering that you'll be part of. THE EGYPTIANS EXPECT A MONETARY TIP AFTER HELPING YOU OUT FOR ANYTHING! Be aggressive in being polite to say no and just walk away, unless you feel compelled to tip for some needed assistance.
Call Abu El Sid (pronounced Abul Seed) restaurant for good authentic Egyptian food. It's located inside the same street Diwan is on, perpendicular to the July 26th ave. The atmosphere is excellent but the service is a bit haughty. Must reserve or there's little seating available in the evenings. The places mentioned so far are all within 5 to 10 min. walk from Mayfair. By the way, call ahead to make a reservation at the Mayfair. They do fill up quick and expect higher rate since it is summer.
See the Egyptian Museum in Midan Tahrir downtown. It's usually 5 pounds from Zamalek to get to downtown by taxi. Negotiate your taxi fair prior to getting in and if you do find a good taxi driver who speaks English, you might want his number to take you to farther places like the pyramids. It will save you a lot of headaches later on.
Go to the Giza pyramids. The easiest way is to take the taxi, but bargain beforehand. Probably 30 or 40 pounds is a good price. If he tries to take you to the horse stables near the pyramids, it's probably at trick to make you pay a lot of money. Insist on being taken to the entrance, which is about 100 meters up a hill. Taxis are usually not allowed to go all the way in so you'll have to walk a bit. VERY important! There are guys who will try to stop taxis en route to the pyramids, pretending they need a ride, and divert the taxi driver to one of the stables and sell you a ride on the camel/horse (often abused). TELL the taxi driver NOT to stop and if he does, get out and catch another taxi. There are good outfits for camel/horse rides, but just beware.
Go to Sakiat El Sawy Cultural Center at the end of 26th of July Street. It's got concerts and cultural events every night from about 7pm and on. It's also free! There's also a nice place to sit by the Nile without being hassled at the River Hall there.
Then there's the citadel, the Mohammed Ali mosque, Khan al Khalili bazaar, the Cairo opera house, the American University often has free live plays, and don’t be shy about eating where the Cairanians eat and drink. It’s usually a bargain!
Young kids love to have their photos taken with you or just them, ask the older Egyptians, especially women, permission to take their photos. I often held my camera at waist level and just clicked away for some shots I wanted to capture. Just have your camera ready as there are some fascinating things to catch on film and I’m not talking about the ruins or the sites, but the everyday interaction of the Egyptians as they go through their daily lives. Have fun and utter few Arabic phrases (Egyptian Arabic is slightly different and the Rough Guide has a pretty good phrase book you can pick up for about $10). Overall, have fun!
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