Tips to Escape the Tourist Crowds in Cairo

Muhammad Ali mosque is a major touristic site in The Citadel of Cairo
Muhammad Ali mosque is a major touristic site in The Citadel of Cairo | © Megapress / Alamy
Yosra Shohayeb

When it comes to traveling around Cairo, one of the primary complaints you hear is that areas of interest are too crowded with tourists. Your trip can turn into a nightmare if you’re constantly stuck in jams when visiting monuments, sights, museums and neighbourhoods in the Egyptian capital. Here are some tips to beat the crowds in Cairo.

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Experience the pyramids at night

While most tourists run to see the Great Pyramids and Sphinx in the morning, you can beat the crowds by visiting at night. The sound and light show is also at night, so you can save on a tour guide by listening to the Sphinx narrate Egypt’s ancient history. During the show, the pyramid complex and Sphinx light up to make for an unforgettable experience.

The Light and Sound Show at the Pyramids of Giza

Avoid Cairo during the high season

Cairo has high and low seasons. The busy periods are during Christmas, the New Year and Easter. Usually, the city witnesses heavy crowds (both locals and tourists) during these peak times because of the long holidays. However, since the city is a year-round destination, you can skip these crowded seasons and avoid the price hikes, too.

Zamalek and Agouza districts on the banks of the Nile River in Cairo

Book trips with a travel agency

Most tourists know this is a diverse city with lots of attractions, such as the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, Cairo Citadel, Islamic and Coptic Cairo and the Egyptian Museum. It can be tough to see all these attractions as a first-time visitor, especially if you are trying to make your way through the crowds. For that reason, it is better to book trips in Cairo with a travel agency. These professionals will choose the best times to visit sites and manage your stay perfectly.

Take a day trip from Cairo

The further you get from the capital, the more you can breathe fresh air. There are many great options for weekend getaways and day trips from Cairo; head to Fayoum for sand boarding and desert safaris, Alexandria for architectural wonders and Ras Sudr for kitesurfing.

Stanley beach and bridge are popular landmarks in Alexandria

Enjoy a felucca ride

One way to see some of the top neighbourhoods in Cairo is on a felucca (sailboat) ride on the Nile. Avoid Cairo’s never-ending traffic, tune out the crowds and forget all your worries as you enjoy the breeze on the longest river in the world.

A felucca cruise on the Nile near Aswan

Ascend the Cairo Tower during sunset

Rise above the city with a climb up the 187m (285ft) tall Cairo Tower. It sits in Zamalek, one of the most affluent districts in the city, and offers panoramic views of the capital. Aim to get to the top for sunset.

The Cairo Tower, along with the adjacent River Nile, at sunset

Visit the Egyptian Museum after peak hours

The Egyptian Museum is home to more than 120,000 ancient Egyptian relics. Most tours combine the Great Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum together, so try heading to the museum in the evening when the tourists have been and gone.

The interior of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Avoid Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar during the weekend

In Old Cairo, this bazaar is a favourite of both residents and tourists for its unique shopping experience and vibrant environment. But during the weekend, Khan Al-Khalili can be packed. Head here on a weekday instead and enjoy shopping for souvenirs, traditional clothing, delicious spices and more.

Khan el-Khalili Market is a must-see for visitors to Cairo

Explore Cairo’s beautiful mosques

Some of the most beautiful mosques in Egypt are in Cairo. Since most people will rush to the Muhammad Ali Mosque, which lies inside Cairo’s prominent citadel, you can avoid the crowds by exploring other (equally beautiful) mosques. However, since you shouldn’t miss the Muhammad Ali Mosque, rise very early one day to see it first thing in the morning.

The ornate interior of Al-Nasser Mohammed Mosque

See Coptic Cairo in a different light

Cairo is home to some of the best Coptic architecture on the planet, including stunning churches. One church that sits away from the crowds is the Monastery of Saint Simon in Mokattam, also known as the Cave Church. It is so-called because the church is quite literally within a mountainside cave.

Saint Samaan the Tanner Hall with its large cross, part of a huge cave discovered in 1974 in Saint Samaan The Tanner Monastery

Visit Cairo during Ramadan

As most of the Egyptian population is Muslim, the holy month of Ramadan is a sacred time. Most tourists avoid visiting during this month, thinking there won’t be much to do – but that is not true at all. Everything is open (just note that most things close two hours earlier than usual) and you will not have to deal with the usual rush. Plus, you’ll get to experience Egyptian culture up close and witness the unique Ramadan spirit.

Muslims take their breakfast during the holy fasting month of Ramadan
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