Cairo's anarchy-inducing rush hour might be one aspect of the city still unsafe for travelers. (stock photo)
Cairo, Egypt, is a riveting blend of ancient and modern. I was apprehensive traveling here, though, because of reports of lingering unrest in Cairo after the country’s recent revolution. Yet I found the Egyptian people very friendly and did not feel threatened or unsafe at any time – especially for a female traveling solo.
Now's a great time to go: tourism is down, and there are no long lines at the major tourist venues. Prices have dropped as well.
Be sure to visit both the Islamic and Coptic (Christian) sides of city. The Islamic side of the city includes the Citadel, and nearby is the “necropolis” where the living reside with the dead in a city-like cemetery. Islamic Cairo is best done on foot, as many of the mosques are within walking distance of each other. The Citadel, Al-Rifa'i Mosque and Mosque of Hassan are all in one area.
A different atmosphere prevails in the Coptic area of Cairo, where churches, cemeteries, museums and synagogues are squeezed in a clean, quiet district. Instead of mosques, churches are everywhere, and you’ll find Roman architecture rather than Egyptian. The Coptic area seems to be calm with an environment of serenity compared to the rest of the city; even the people in the souvenir shops were less threatening, I thought.
No visit to Cairo is complete without seeing the Egyptian Museum located near Tahrir Square, where you’ll view the Tutankhamun treasures, statues of the Old Kingdom and Nefertiti, and mummies of Hatchepsut and Amenhotep.
The ride into Cairo gives you a good sense of the city's congestion, pollution, confusion and noise – counterbalanced by its vibrant, unceasing 24/7 activity.
The Airport Shuttle Bus is a less-expensive way to get in from the airport. There are also black-and-white taxis and plain white taxis. The white taxis are a better choice, as they have meters and air conditioning and you don’t have to bargain over the fare.
In general, the best way to get around Cairo is by taxi. It only costs a few Egyptian pounds for a short journey. There are certain times of the day that should be avoided, however: between 7:30-9:00 a.m. and 3:00-5:00 p.m.