CAIRO — Central Cairo

Many visitors to Cairo begin their sightseeing in the extremely busy and noisy centre where you will find what seems to be an oasis of calm — Liberation Square (Midan Tahir) which is a good place to stop and get your bearings. The unmissable Egyptian Museum in reddish-pink stone, the American University in Cairo, the Arab League and the Intercontinental Hotel are all located within this district, as are several important government offices (including those for the renewal of visas, etc.) The once famous Nile Hilton hotel was a recognisable landmark here but will soon close to make way for a brand new hotel in 2011 to be known as the Nile Ritz-Carlton. Midan Tahir is a transport hub with the Cairo Metro also having its main station underneath here and it is an important stop for a great many buses and taxis.

The sights found here are:
Midan Tahir
Egyptian Museum
Abdeen Palace
Downtown
Midan Ataba
Midan Ramses
Island of Gezira
Island of Rhoda

Midan Tahir

Midan Tahir
Also known as Liberation Square, this is one of the most popular traffic hubs of Cairo because all the most important traffic routes of the city meet here. The best shopping centres and restaurants are found in the streets around here. At the centre of this area you will find ‘Mugamma’ which is an office tower for the Ministry of Public Traffic. The building across the street from this is the American University, housed in a small 19th century former palace. To the west of here is the Corniche el-Nil which is the road running along the Nile on one side and large buildings and impressive hotels on the other.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum is housed in a stunning historical building at the north end of Midan Tahir. The collections found in this museum are the largest and most significant of its type anywhere. The sheer size and the number of displays makes this museum rather a daunting place to visit but well worth the effort. The best way to navigate the museum is in a clockwise direction starting from the ground floor and moving through history as you visit the various rooms. If you have the time it is probably best to have two visits so that you can take it all in and make sure you do your homework before you get here and decide on which exhibits you really want to see and make sure you know where they are located. The highlight of any visit would have to be the Tutankhamen exhibit which takes up a large proportion of the upper floor. The Museum also has a photography section and a large library. The sections of the museum are arranged in chronological order and these are:

  • The first section houses treasures of Tutankhamon
  • The second section houses the pre-dynasty and the Old Kingdom monuments
  • The third section houses the first intermediate period and the Middle Kingdom monuments
  • The forth section houses the monuments of the Modern Kingdom
  • The fifth section houses the monuments of the late period and the Greek and Roman periods
  • The sixth section houses coins and papyrus
  • The seventh section houses sarcophagi and scrabs

A hall for the royal mummies was opened at the museum, housing eleven kings and queens.
To find out information about times and prices visit the website at http://www.egyptianmuseum.gov.eg.

Traveller's Tip

The Tutankhamen exhibition is possibly the most visited area in the museum so it is worth spending some time in the room containing the death mask and the coffins preferably later in the day when the crowds are less.

Abdeen Palace
The impressive Abdeen Palace at Midan al-Gomhuryya (Square of the Republic) was built as a royal residence until 1952 when with the abolition of the monarchy it became a presidential palace. The President now lives in the Uruba Palace in Heliopolis and only uses the Aberdeen Palace for official occassions. It now houses a museum complex on the lower floors including the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Royal Family Museum, the Presidential Gifts Museum and the Historical Documents Museum.

Downtown

Downtown
This is the commercial heart of Cairo and is full of shops and many small businesses. The two main streets found here are Sharia Talaat Harb and Sharia Qasr el-Nil which meet at Midan Talaat Harb. Sharia Qasr el-Nil was once the main shopping centre of Cairo but that is no longer true. There are some beautiful buildings still to be found in this area including the Italian Insurance building and the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Traveller's Tip

A really pleasant place to visit in this part of Cairo is Midan Falaki which is a public square surrounded by coffee merchants and coffee shops. During the day you can sit and enjoy a coffee and people watch. Then you can buy some unusual blends of coffee in one of the nearby shops.

Midan Ataba
This is found at the east end of Downtown and is the starting point of Islamic Cairo. Just to the north is Ezbekiyya Gardens which are no longer open to the public. On the southwest corner of Midan Ataba is the general post office with its Postal Museum located on the 2nd floor. The collection here tells you the story of Egypt’s postal history. To the east Sharia Muski leads into the Khan el-Khalili. On the northern side of the square there are many booksellers.

Midan Ramses
On the north side of this square is Cairo’s main railway station which was built in the 19th century. This is a really busy place for both pedestrians and traffic. At the east end of the station is the Egyptian National Railway Museum which houses a wonderful collection of old locomotives.
For information about the museum visit the website at http://www.egyptrail.gov.eg/docs/museum/museum.html

Gezira

Island of Gezira
If you cross the bridge near Midan Tahir you will come to the island of Gezira which includes the wealthy residential and consulate quarter of Zamalek in the northern end and lots of parks and sport facilities in the southern end. You will also find some of the high end hotels here. The sights to be found on Gezira include the Cairo Tower with its viewing platform and restaurants, south of this tower is the cultural centre with the New Opera House and further south near the Tahir Bridge is the Mukhtar Museum devoted to the works of Egyptian sculptor, Mahmoud Mukhtar.

Island of Rhoda
Further up the Nile River is the island of Rhoda. In the northern part of the island is the Manial Palace which houses various collections including a hunting museum. On the southern tip of the island is the Nilometer which was a water level indicator built around 715 but is not used today. Also at this end of the island you will find the Monastirli Palace part of which is used as a concert venue as well as the Umm Kolthum Museum full of the personal effects of famous Arab singer, Umm Kolthum.