The Egyptian capital is home to many hidden cozy bookshops, colorful markets, authentic restaurants, and compelling art.
If you are up for a cultural adventure, here’s a list of the best things to do and see in Cairo that is not necessarily the pyramids.
1. Café Riche
Located at Talaat Harb Street in Downtown Cairo, this café was built in 1908, making it one of the oldest cafés in Cairo.
It is known for having housed many intellectuals, revolutionaries, and artists who pondered over cups of coffee while discussing politics.
Café Riche's visitors included novelist Naguib Mahfouz, vernacular poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, and writer Yusuf Idris.
The café's basement was the meeting point of several members of the resistance during the 1919 revolution. They used it to print their flyers and organize protests.
Former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, allegedly planned the 1952 revolution that overthrew King Farouk’s rule at Café Riche.
This historical landmark is the perfect nostalgic spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and delicious Egyptian sweets.
2. El Sawy Culturewheel
This cultural center is located in Zamalek, right under the 15th of May Bridge.
El Sawy Culturewheel offers daily seminars, talks, and performances in every art form, from dance to music to their special puppetry shows.
Check out their website to see their ever-changing program of events and witness something truly unique.
3. Koshary at Abou Tarek
If you want to taste authentic Egyptian koshary then Abou Tarek is the place to go.
Located at Champollion Street in Downtown Cairo, Abou Tarek started with a very tiny kiosk in 1950. The place has now become the go-to spot for this decadent carb-loaded dish.
Koshary consists of rice, pasta, and lentils all mixed together, topped with tomato sauce, chickpeas, and crispy caramelized onions.
Once you arrive, you’ll see how fast the service is. Don’t worry it’s normal for the waiters to collect your tab before you receive your plate, they are super fast and have mastered their trade well.
Abou Tarek only serves koshary. So, the only thing you need to decide is what size you want it in: the 7EGP-size, 10EGP-size, or the 15EGP-size (EGP = Egyptian Pound.)
This place is also worth following on social media, they've got some amusing posts.
4. Madbuly Bookshop
Madbuly Bookstore was founded in 1967 by Mohamed Madbuly, one of Egypt’s renowned publishers. It's located in the heart of Downtown Cairo.
The bookstore started as a small newspaper kiosk owned by Madbuly's father. The bookstore and publishing house is now owned by Muhammad Ahmad Madbuly (Muhammad Jr.) and Sayyid Ahmad Madbuly, who inherited the store after their father passed away.
The bookshop has a range of literary, religious, and political texts. You can also find a collection of the controversial feminist author Nawal Saʽadawi's works, both in fiction and non-fiction.
Fact: Mohamed Madbuly was one of the rare publishers who agreed to publish Sa’adawi’s books, which led to the arrest of one of the store’s employees.
One of the many perks of Madbuly's bookshop is their on-site warehouse, which is just upstairs. Just ask to see it and there you will dive into a world of your own.
5. Wekalet El Ghouri
Wekalet El Ghouri is an arts center located in El Azhar area in Central Cairo.
It has become one of the bustling city's hot-spots for organizing cultural events, the most popular being the bi-weekly traditional El Tannoura dance.
This performance is quite similar to the known whirling dervishes; however, this version of the dance incorporates musical instruments and some singing.
Make sure to arrive an hour before the show starts as it applies a first come, first served rule. The troupe performs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at around 8:30 pm.
6. The Religious Complex
The Religious Complex, located in Old Cairo, is home to various churches and mosques in addition to a synagogue.
The Religious Complex contains historic shrines representing the three religions in Egypt: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
It includes the Coptic museum and the Hanging Church, the church of Abu Serga, Saint Barbra Church, Amr Ibn el ‘Aas Mosque, and Kasriet El Rayhan Church.
All sites are open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and the Coptic museum is open till 5:00 pm.
7. The Cave Church
Also known as the Monastery of Saint Simon, it is located in the Mokattam mountain in an area called the Garbage City (which gets its name from the recycling centers present there).
It’s not yet a main touristic landmark, but it’s definitely worth the visit.