09:00 A sense of chaos hits you as soon as your arrive in Egypt’s capital – cars weave in and out of each other as they hurtle down highways with unmaked lanes, buildings are unfinished, the smog is inescapable. But you soon get used to the fascinating volume of the city, and we guarantee you’ll be sucked in by its mesmerising historical sites. Egypt’s capital, is made up of two parts on either side of the river – Cairo and Giza, but the latter is usually referred to as Cairo, too. GIza is the home of the Pyramids and the Sphynx, which you’ll see in their surreal splendour, rising up from red-brick houses and modern hotel buildings on the edge of the city. Don’t be suckered in by the night-time light show – it’s tacky and the garish lasers make the ancient monuments look small and fake – but get there early in the morning before it gets too hot. The tombs are empty but their narrow passages are still worth a look inside. Admission is £6.20 and it costs an extra £10.30 to go inside.
12:00 Take a pit stop at one of the nearby cafes – between parked-up camels and cars on the roads around the Great Pyramids. Sit back for five with some Egyptian tea (best drank with spoonfuls of brown sugar), lunch and shisha.
13:30 Now head downtown to the huge Egyptian Mueseum (egypt.travel). Next to the now burnt-out husk of the former National Democratic Party HQ, it’s a surprise the museum didn’t burn down, being so close to the blazing building for days during the revolution. Luckily, its treasures are still held in all their glory inside – Tutankhamun’s gold mask, statues of Egyptian pharaohs and gods, and mummified people, crocodiles and pets. There’s enough to see in there to take up the entire afternoon. Entry is £6.20.
19:00 You’re a stone’s throw from the infamous Tahrir Square. So, providing things are settled when you’re visiting, explore the area, which is home to grand hotels, the original downtown campus of the American University in Cairo, the Omar Makram Mosque, and a statue devoted to the nationalist hero who resisted Napoleon I’s invasion of Egypt.
20:00 Sample some traditional Egyptian koshari – a lentil, chickpea, pasta, rice and spicy tomato dish. It’s cheap, hearty and the tastiest can be found at Egyptian fast food chain Koshari al-Tahrir. There’s a branch just off Tahrir Square.
23:00 Crash out at Oasis Hotel (oasis.com.eg), but not before grabbing a beer in the Thirsty Camel Bar, onsite. Alcohol’s pretty hard to come by outside hotels, so you might be ready for a nightcap. The hotel is comfy, air conditioned and a double room costs from £112.
9:00 After a quick morning dip in the hotel’s outdoor pool followed by a buffet breakfast, get to Khan al Khalili Market before it gets too busy. The beautiful and hectic souk, in the Islamic district of Cairo, has been there since the 14th century. Haggle yourself genie lamps, candles, spices, scarves, jewellery and shisha pipes, and aim to pay half of the first price you’re given.
11:00 When you’re all bargained out, head out of town to the Step Pyramid, devoted to the pharaoh Zoser. Built before the more famous Pyramids, it’s the earliest stone monument in the world. Before this, temples were built from perishable materials and royal tombs were dug underground and topped with mud-brick buildings. Around the step Pyramid sprawls a funerary complex, and visitors enter through a corridor of columns modeled on bundled palm and papyrus stems.
14:00 Head back into Cairo for some grub. Abou Shakra is a favourite with locals and serves a mean kebab and kofta plate. On Fridays, an Imam holes up in the restaurant and reads from the Quran.
15:00 Next up, it’s the Cairo Citadel, the medieval Islamic fortification on Mokattam Hill near the city’s centre. Built in the twelfth century to protect Cairo from the Crusaders, the steadfast walled cluster is home to the impressive Mosque of Nasir, which was added in two centuries later as a place for sultans to perform their Friday prayers.
19:00 After an afternoon of wandering the citadel, check out some colourful Sufi dancing by the Al-Tannoura Egyptian Heritage Dance Troupe at the Wikala of Al-Ghouri in the Al Azhar district, downtown. Performances start at 7pm during the winter and 8pm in the summer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and admission is free.
21:00 End your weekend by treating yourself to a long, late Lebanese dinner at Dar El Amar Terrace (cairodining.com). The cold and hot mezze, from £10, is legendary, but the best bit about this place is that you’ll be floating on the Nile while you eat.
On The Go run tours through Egypt. The nine-day King Tutankhamun tour includes two nights in Cairo from £349pp including accommodation, a guide, transport en Egypt and some meals.
onthegotours.com For more information visit egypt.travel