Discover Everything You Didn’t Know About Cairo on a Long Weekend Break
Three days in the Egyptian capital is plenty of time to get a taste of its history and its eclectic present — discover old and new cultural sites, peruse artisanal shops and settle into the many outdoor spaces perfect for a peaceful respite.
Plus, you will find a medley of flavors, from street food to contemporary cuisines, tucked along busy side streets and on scenic rooftops. Thanks to Cairo's temperate climate, it's never a bad time to visit the city's many attractions.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Friday: Immerse Yourself in Downtown Energy
Experience the buzz of the downtown Cairo's energy. (Photo: Marriott International)
A breakfast at Lokali will kick-start your trip in the heart of the Maadi neighborhood, and your taste buds will appreciate the fresh, local ingredients and creative menu. Go for the hummus shakshouka for a twist on a classic Middle Eastern dish.
Once you're settled up at breakfast, get a nature fix in Wadi Degla's pristine desert protectorate; this outdoor respite lies just minutes from Maadi's center by taxi. Enjoy walking and trekking, or go rock climbing with a group.
You can start digging into guided experiences in the area on the Marriott Bonvey Tours & Activities website, which pairs your crew with a professional to accompany you on your adventure. If you're visiting on your own, plan to be there for a minimum of four hours, armed with snacks, a hat and comfortable clothes.
Once you've worked up an appetite climbing, strolling or simply watching others take on the boulders, head back to Maadi to grab a quick street snack from Batates & Zalabya near the Maadi Mall. Order the zalabya, delicious balls of fried dough topped with the sauce of your choosing.
Spend the latter half of the day exploring downtown Cairo, keeping an eye out for its architectural gems: Said Halim Pasha Palace, the Al-Demerdachiyya Building, and the Baehler Passage are all can't-miss spots. Plan for a hot meal at Fasahet Somaya between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.; that's the only time Somaya, the cook and owner, serves her always-scrumptious and ever-evolving local dish of the day.
If you prefer a meal on the go, the much-loved Abu Tarek promises some of the best koshary, a mix of rice, macaroni and lentils that is a staple of Egyptian street food.
Cairo after dark calls for a stop at a “baladi bar” such as Shahrazad Club. With its flamboyant interior, this old-fashioned cabaret still charms with nightly belly dance performances to live classic Egyptian music that you can pair with a bottle of Sakara, the local lager.
For something more upscale, look no further than the Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo's Ritz Bar or the rooftop lounge NOX for the added Nile views and Friday night DJ performance.
Saturday: Zip Through History
Start the day with a delicious breakfast. (Photo: Marriott International)
A quintessential Egyptian breakfast is a must. Arabiata or Zooba in North Cairo both offer deliciously seasoned fuul (brown beans) and falafel patties alongside Egyptian pita bread. Try the local favorite of eggs with pastrami for a bolder flavor.
From here, hop in a car for a 30-minute drive to the Uptown Cairo neighborhood. You'll get your fix of adrenaline at Mario High Ropes for some zip lining, rock climbing and rope climbing. Just make sure to reserve beforehand. Follow that with a visit to the nearby Samaan Al-Kharraz Monastery, carved into the mountain and offering a spiritual haven with exceptional acoustics.
Now it's time for some sightseeing. Start with a visit to Muhammad Ali Mosque at the Citadel of Salah El-Din, and don't miss out on the expansive view from the top. Next, hop in a car for a quick 15-minute drive over to the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus Church, which the Holy Family is said to have visited on their journey through Egypt. Follow this with a stop at any of the churches in the Religious Complex area, as well as the nearby Amr Ibn El-Aas Mosque, the oldest in Egypt.
If you still have the energy, plan a visit to the impressive National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC). Visit the Mummies Hall and walk through exhibits highlighting Egypt's rich heritage. Next, stop by the art and cultural center Darb 1718, near NMEC, where you can purchase some handmade pottery — which makes for stunning souvenirs.
Wind down at The Tap Maadi for evening drinks or a late bite. The bar and grill spot frequently hosts live music, so you could catch some of the local bands playing into the night.
Sunday: Enjoy Rooftop Views and Jazz
Toast to the day with a rooftop happy hour. (Photo: Marriott International)
Kick off the day in Zamalek, a cosmopolitan island neighborhood that's home to cultural sites like the Cairo Opera House and the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art. Follow a breakfast on the Garden Promenade at the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino with a stroll on the property through the remains of the Royal Gardens, which were originally designed for the lavish Gezirah Palace.
Take a 10-minute walk from the hotel farther into the heart of Zamalek for a dose of artisan shops tucked alongside hip cafés and restaurants, and admire the Art Deco buildings and towering trees that fill this upscale residential neighborhood. Find your way to Zamalek's famed Brasil Street.
Tour the district's art galleries, stopping at Safarkhan, Picasso East and Zamalek Art Gallery, all a few blocks apart and offering different flavors of contemporary Egyptian art.
A sweet treat is in order from Mandarine Koueider, a go-to landmark for desserts. Order the yogurt and berries ice cream for a classic creamy texture or the tangerine for something fruity and fresh. Sweets like basbousa (a semolina cake), balah el-sham (a churro-like fried treat) and baklava can be ordered to-go to keep your energy up later in the day.
For boutique shopping, explore Zamalek's silver shops, or drop into Altay and Mamlouk for small home accessories, then cross the street for Nevin Altmann's beautifully embroidered products made sustainably by local craftspeople.
By sunset, indulge in a fine meal overlooking the Nile at Crimson Bar & Grill, tucking into an impressively international menu (it spans falafel and roast beef to filet mignon and grilled squid) with unforgettable views of the river.
Afterward, pay a visit to the famed passages of the Khan El-Khalili bazaar and souk. Here you can shop for a plethora of souvenirs, including leather goods, fabrics, spices and silverware, or simply enjoy the charm of a historic walk as it merges onto the busy El-Moez Street, which runs between the medieval city gates.
When hunger strikes, step into the lush setting at Naguib Mahfouz Café for dinner. If you prefer something more casual, Kababgy El Azhar Farahat offers excellent grilled options and is best known for its hamam mahshy (grilled stuffed squab).
If you're not quite ready to call it a night, head over to the Cairo Jazz Club in nearby Agouza, an established hot spot for local and global bands performing regularly.
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