How to see Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo on your own

Lucky and I flew to Cairo on 22 Oct from Jakarta using Garuda/Etihad transiting in Abu Dhabi. Departing Jakarta 17.55, transit in Abu Dhabi 3hr40min and land Cairo 04.35. We were so excited as we never travel together in a long holiday so we got to airport very early and had times to eat and even tried the massage chair near the waiting area. Both flights were on time and we landed in Cairo early morning as per schedule.

Immigration and baggage handling were super quick, the perk of landing early in the morning. As we walked to arrival hall we were soon approached by people offering Taxi. But we needed to buy SIM card and exchanged money first. There were 3 SIM card booths offering similar price. I bought Orange which currently had promotion

There were 3 ATMs machines, only 2 were working. Lucky could withdraw money using her BCA saving card. My CIMB didn’t work and I could not transfer money to my BCA card because I just replaced my SIM card with Orange. There was one exchange booth at the end of the hall where the Atms are located. I exchanged some Euros there so I had some money until I could sort out my BCA card.

We planned to use Cairo Shuttle Bus Service https://www.cairoshuttlebus.com/ to take us to our Hotel. According to TA they had a desk in the arrival hall. There was a transport counter in arrival hall but it wasn’t clear which one was the Cairo Shuttle Bus so I had to ask. The fee quoted was 10% higher than in website but we took it anyway and somewhat trust that it was indeed Cairo Shuttle Bus. If you plan to take Cairo Shuttle Bus please reserve 48 hours before and print the paper so they follow the quoted fee. Our Van was comfortable and driver spoke some English. Make sure that you have your Hotel address written down because our driver almost got it wrong. We ended up giving him direction from our google map.

Our Van from Cairo Shuttle Bus

Cairo was cloudy that morning and some area were flooded as it rained the day before.

We arrived sound and safe in our Hotel Four Season Nile Plaza and reunited with our other friend (Dian) who was already in Cairo for her meetings. Dian still had meetings until Thursday and would only join us on Friday.

We planned to explore Cairo ourselves using LondonCab https://www.londoncabegypt.com/ It worked just like Uber, but you need to have local SIM card as drivers would need to be able to call you. it took around 20-30 minutes for London Cab to arrive so you need to time carefully. One advantage of using London Cab was they were very easy to distinguish because they looked just like the Cab in London, unlike Uber or Careem which require you to be able to read Arabic numbers to identify the car. The driver spoke english, very polite and the car was comfortable and could fit 4 people plus luggage. You could actually book them to pick you up at airport as well.

Our London Cab in Cairo

Our first stop was Coptic Cairo area which housed St George shrine, coptic museum, hanging church and monastery in one large area. There were police in every tourist spots in Egypt and they were writing down our nationality and where we stay.ed The police presence actually made us feel safe wherever we went.

Stretched for one mile, Coptic Cairo is the oldest place of settlement and religious worship in the region, combining Islamic, Christian and Jewish histories. Taking in the warren of narrow streets, you will find yourself at a cultural and religious crossroads

We spent few hours in the area before calling London Cab to pick us up and go to Citadel. There were no Taxi queue in front of Coptic Cairo area so you need to arrange your transportation or use online Taxi.

Sprawling over a limestone spur on the city’s eastern edge, the Citadel, started by Saladin in 1176 as a fortification against the Crusaders, was home to Egypt’s rulers for 700 years. Their legacy is a collection of three very different mosques, several palaces and a couple of terraces with a view over Cairo

We were starving by the time we finished Citadel so we were off to Bazaar Khan Khalili. There was a nice restaurant inside which has good review

Our first lunch in Egypt. We had Koshari and some grilled meat which tasted so good

Entering Khan Khalili Bazaar was like stepping into Medieval Islamic Cairo. It felt like an oriental fantasy trip into the land of spices, luxury fabrics and perfume. The area displays several monuments and mosques from the Islamic period, but its gem is undoubtedly the Bazaar itself. Established in the 14th century, it is one the world’s first markets, as well as a maze of winding and narrow alleys.

Our next destination was Al Azhar Park. Which was only 2km away but walking seemed difficult because the pedestrian was not so well built. We couldn’t find a nice area to wait for London Cab so we just hailed a white taxi. White Taxis in Cairo were not metered so you had to agree on the price first. A short drive took us to Al Azhar park.

Al Azhar Park was like an oasis in Cairo. It was a nice green park where you can sit down and watched the sun slowly sets with Citadel as a backdrop.

We could feel jet-lag kicked in as we took London cab back to Hotel. We didn’t even bother with dinner and already in deep sleep by 7pm