Cairo, the mere mention of the word conjures up a few famous idyllic landmarks that are on a person’s must-do travel bucket list. The Pyramids at Giza and Tahrir square are symbolic with all that the Egyptian psyche offers all through history and with a rich culture and narration embodied, Cairo makes an ideal destination for a mixture of art, history, culture and life.
I applied for my Egypt visa at the embassy with a week to go before my trip and received it within three working days. I was excited to go on this Budget Holiday as a solo traveller and bagged a cheap air ticket on Air Arabia through Musafir.com.
Landing in the middle of the day at the Cairo international airport, the procedures from
immigration to baggage collection were smooth and on time. I had anticipated a little chaos at the airport, but luckily I landed at an opportune time.
Four things to do in Cairo off the beaten track on your solo travel
A ride on the Felucca
I took a scenic ride on the renowned felucca, a chilly night in Cairo with breathtaking views of the city on the river Nile. Blaring music ensued, and occasionally the music would stop, and the felucca boatman would break into a classic Egyptian folk song. The felucca decked up with razzmatazz, and eye-popping neon lights facilitate the perfect experience of witnessing this enchanting spectacle of Nile. Ensure to have your bargaining hats on!
Nicknamed the Garbage City, a small town on the edge of Cairo, located at the base of the Muqattam hills makes the biggest slum area in the city and is home to Zabbaleen (traditional trash collectors). Picture this, men and children driving their donkey-drawn carts across the various neighbourhoods of Cairo, collecting trash and bringing it back to Muqattam. Every household of the Coptic Christian community of Cairo, burn and recycle all the accumulated scrap.
I reached the base of the Mansiyat Naser community to experience this unique
neighbourhood that the world talks about. At first glances, just troves and troves of garbage piled up along the sides of narrow streets and daily life continue as usual. I started walking up the hill to visit the St.Marcus church atop Mansiyat Nasar, which has been carved out of a hill and built inside a natural cave. It was a humbling experience to see people living in utter chaos and diriment.
The church itself is beautiful and breathtaking. I saw several tourists at the top of the hill interacting with the Zabaleen and taking in the magnificent panoramic views of the city. A must-do if you're into experience something off beat on your solo trip.
On my second night in Cairo, I walked downtown across crowded streets with eye-catching old buildings and beautiful architecture pointing towards the influence of British colonial times.
I reached Tahrir square where the famous Revolution of 2011 took place. I came across this brightly lit large hole in the wall café where the different strata of society converge and spend their evenings in intellectual conversations about various aspect of Cairo.
I got the first-hand experience of how a Cairo resident spends his evenings in quiet, friendly cantor. Freedom café has some local cuisines to serve along with a list of beverages and local brews. It’s not your five-star experiences you crave on your typical holiday, but the offbeat thrills that give you the authentic Cairo experience.
If you are touring solo and sprawl to experience local food, brews and nightlife, Zamalek is the go-to district. From wondrous café’s and bars to fine dining options and enchanting nightclubs, Zamalek has something to offer every taste. I dined at the Abou El Sid restaurant with local friends in Cairo. The Mediterranean cuisine served was scrumptious and exhilarating. I highly recommend this restaurant for your next visit to Cairo. Egypt has a lot to offer, and I felt my four nights were not enough. I truly enjoyed the culture, warmth and hospitality of the Egyptian people on my holiday.
By Siddharth Sudhakar