A breakdown that helps you decide which district of Cairo would fit your best needs.
There are undoubtedly endless amounts of things to do and places to go to in this historical city. Yet, whether you start or end with visiting these five districts of Cairo, there is no question you need to go to as many as you can.
1. Old Cairo
Old Cairo is composed of the leftovers of cities that were capitals prior to Cairo, such as Fustat and al-Askar. This area also includes Coptic Cairo, which is known as the area that the Holy Family sought refuge in. It is also home to the Hanging Church of Virgin Mary, the oldest church in the country and the site of reported Marian apparitions. In 1979, UNESCO identified Old Cairo as a World Heritage site, also known as a region with legal protection.
One of the more well-to-do, suburban areas of Cairo, this district has become increasingly popular with people working internationally, as well as Egyptian natives, as it houses many embassies, international schools, and cultural institutions. Cultural life in Maadi has targeted serving the big expatriate and affluent, bilingual Egyptian populations. Tracing its modern history all the way back to 1904, the town groundwork was done in 1905 by officer Captain Alexander J. Adams from Canada. Adams’ insight led to many of the infrastructures, such as villas, still seen all over Maadi today. With a population of 97,000 people, it is the least densely populated district in Greater Cairo.
Along with Maadi, Zamalek is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Greater Cairo, with many expatriates living there as well. Zamalek is also known as one of the more culturally active districts in Cairo, with unique art galleries and museums, including the Museum of Islamic Ceramics. It is also home to one of Cairo’s major music and performing arts venues, the famous Egyptian Opera House.
4. Downtown Cairo
Downtown Cairo has been the major urban center of Cairo since it was built in the 1800s. Designed by French architects, Khedive Ismail (the viceroy of Egypt under Turkish rule at the time) wanted to make the Egyptian Kingdom capital more prosperous than Paris; European style urban planning was of great importance to him. It is also home to the famed Tahrir Square, the site for many political demonstrations in Cairo, including that of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution which led to President Hosni Mubarak’s departure from office.
5. El Gouna
Although El Gouna is outside of Cairo, you should definitely consider visiting during your trip. It is a major tourist resort around four hours south of Cairo, with many hotels, foreign restaurants, bars, and clubs. The buildings were designed by many significant Western Architects to bear a resemblance to the Traditional Rural Egyptian Architecture like those found in the Egyptian Countryside.