The point of this post is to provide a general orientation to downtown Cairo and the advisability of travel to Egypt. The Sinai insurgency comprises a series of actions by Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula, initiated in early 2011 as a fallout of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The actions of those Islamist elements, largely composed of tribesmen among the local Bedouins, drew a harsh response from interim Egyptian government since mid-2011 known as Operation Eagle. It is true that people lose their lives in terrorist attacks, but the reality of the threat comes nowhere close to warranting the amount of energy and resources that has already been allocated to this ghost-chase. For the number of individuals worldwide who have been killed by a terrorist attack, the majority of victims in those cases come from foreign countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Nigeria. As an experienced international traveler, I can unequivocally state that the chances of being involved in a terrorist attack in Egypt are equivalent to a myriad of random objects and activities. To put it in perspective, more people are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year, than they are targeted or harmed by any terrorist. The police in your own city pose more of a threat to your liberty than any terrorist ever would. According to 2011 data, the chances of you being attacked by a terrorist are roughly 1 in 20 million.
Travel Safely to Egypt
While I believe that travel to Egypt is perfectly safe, there are a few things you can do to improve your odds. Obviously, be aware of your surroundings, don't venture into areas far away from your tourist compatriots. In Cairo, this means staying close to the Nile waterfront or corniche of Gezira Island. The Police Officers Club is on the island, along with numerous embassies and this is perhaps the safest place in Cairo. In addition, most of the bars and desirable restaurants are on the island. The Sofitel Cairo Nile El Gezirah is a good choice, fully renovated in 2007, with several restaurants. The Novotel El Borg is another option although they don't serve alcohol and the pool is a bit small. The Nile Ritz Carlton is another excellent choice, recently renovated, adjacent to the Egyptian Museum and Tahrir Square. The Four Seasons got excellent reviews. Finally, the Grand Hyatt has the only revolving French restaurant in Cairo. If at all possible, try to stay in downtown Cairo rather than next to the pyramids in Giza. Giza has few amenities and basically closes down at night with no significant bars or restaurants.
The Cairo Tower (Borg Al-Qāhira) is a free-standing concrete tower located in Cairo, Egypt. At 187 m (614 ft), it has been the tallest structure in Egypt and North Africa about 50 years. It was the tallest structure in Africa for 10 years, until 1971 when it was surpassed by Hillbrow Tower in South Africa. One of Cairo's well-known modern monuments, sometimes considered Egypt's second most famous landmark after the Pyramids of Giza, it stands in the Zamalek district on Gezira Island in the River Nile, close to Downtown.
Zamalek (Nile Island of Gezira)
The Nile island of Gezira is home to the district of Zamalek and the majority of Cairo's artsy boutiques and restaurants. Many of the restaurants are on boats moored in the Nile as seen above. Dating from the mid 19th century, the entire area has a distinctly European feel to its architecture with wide boulevards rimmed by Jacaranda trees and splendidly ornate Belle Époque mansions (many of which are now home to various embassies). It is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Cairo, due to an abundance of restaurants, cafes and clubs. It is quite crowded at night, with minimal to no parking spaces. But if you are looking for a night out in Cairo, this is the place to go, whether you want to eat, drink, shop or take a boat down the Nile. The Qasr al-Nil Bridge, with sidewalks, is popular for strolling in the evenings. The bridge offers views of the river, as well as landmark buildings, hotels, and other structures on the island and along the Corniche Al-Nile on the west bank.
Midan El Tahrir
Midan El Tahrir is the very center of the modern city, big hotels, transport nexus and the Egyptian Museum, with downtown extending through Midan Talaat Harb up to Midan Ataba. Midan Tahrir (literally, “Liberation Square”) is famous for the massive 2011 protests that ousted president Mubarak. Massive political rallies still occur on this square, which might be a consideration when considering the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Sixth October Bridge
The 6th October Bridge is an elevated highway in central Cairo, Egypt. The 20.5 kilometres (12.7 mi) bridge and causeway crosses the Nile twice from the west bank suburbs, east through Gezira Island to Downtown Cairo, and on to connect the city to the Cairo International Airport to the east. It's name commemorates the outbreak day of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The Sixth October Bridge has been called the “spinal cord” of Cairo, with approximately half a million Cairene people using it on a daily basis. Due to its role as Cairo's central east-west automobile and truck route, the bridge and causeway is nearly always crowded with traffic, with the trip from one end to another taking up to 45 minutes. In these photos the traffic is bumper to bumper.
Cairo Opera House
The Cairo Opera House (Dār el-Opera el-Masreyya), part of Cairo's National Cultural Center, is the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital. Home to most of Egypt's finest musical groups, it is located on the southern portion of Gezira Island in the Nile River, in the Zamalek district west of and near downtown Cairo. The opera house was inaugurated on 10 October 1988. The funds for the complex were a gift from the nation of Japan to Egypt as a result of President Hosni Mubarak's visit to Japan in April 1983. Construction began in May 1985 and lasted for three years.
Saladin Citadel of Cairo
The Saladin Citadel of Cairo is a medieval Islamic fortification in Cairo, Egypt. The location, on Mokattam hill near the center of Cairo, was once famous for its fresh breeze and grand views of the city. It is now a preserved historic site, with mosques and museums. The Citadel was fortified by the Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din (Saladin) between 1176 and 1183 CE, to protect it from the Crusaders. Only a few years after defeating the Fatimid Caliphate, Saladin set out to build a wall that would surround both Cairo and Fustat. Saladin is recorded as saying, “With a wall I will make the two [cities of Cairo and Fustat] into a unique whole, so that one army may defend them both; and I believe it is good to encircle them with a single wall from the bank of the Nile to the bank of the Nile.” The Citadel would be the centerpiece of the wall. Built on a promontory beneath the Muqattam Hills, a setting that made it difficult to attack, the efficacy of the Citadel's location is further demonstrated by the fact that it remained the heart of Egyptian government until the 19th century. The citadel stopped being the seat of government when Egypt's ruler, Khedive Ismail, moved to his newly built Abdin Palace in the Ismailiya neighborhood in the 1860s. While the Citadel was completed in 1183–1184, the wall Saladin had envisioned was still under construction in 1238, long after his death.
Cairo Ring Roac (Road)
The Ring Road had the main purpose of stopping the urbanization of arable lands by creating a barrier around the Greater Cairo region. It was unsuccessful, with the urbanization tripling in amount and the remaining arable land inside the perimeter being to all effects condemned to urbanization. The ring road connects to the Cairo Alexandria highway, near the pyramids at Giza. Second and third ring roads have been proposed for Cairo. Almost the entire road from Cairo to the pyramids is lined with half finished buildings. In Egypt, there is a paradox in the housing market: there is an extreme shortage of lower-income housing, yet according to 2006 CAPMAS figures, 25% of housing units in Cairo, 32% in Giza and 35% in Alexandria were vacant. This percentage has increased since 25 January 2011 due to rampant and uncontrolled construction throughout Egyptian cities. There is no provision for taking out a loan to build a house and mortgages are only just beginning to be used here, so someone who wants to construct a home must gather the money, pay the builder and hope that there is enough. If you run out of money, you stop building and wait until there is money again.
The economy of Giza, from the Nile to the Great Pyramid is dependent on tourism. Elrameya Square lies between the Mecure Cairo Le Sphinx and Le Méridian Pyramids Hotels. Both have views of the pyramids and both hotels are similar to Hotel Six or Holiday Inn in the USA. There is absolutely nothing to do in Giza at night, in fact with the dearth of tourists the restaurants in the hotels are often closed. If possible you should stay in downtown Cairo near or on Gezira Island (Zamalek District) rather than stay near the pyramids. Because at night there is nothing to do and nowhere to go, the residents of Giza near the pyramids gather on the barely grass covered spaces of Elrameya Square in the middle of the Al Remayai highway.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the post, please leave a comment.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: https://step.state.gov/step/
Odds of Terrorism Attack: https://pressfortruth.ca/top-stories/what-are-your-chances-being-killed-terrorist-attack/
Terrorist Attack Odds: https://www.techjuice.pk/a-data-scientist-explains-odds-of-dying-in-a-terrorist-attack/
Four Seasons at Nile Plaza Cairo: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g294201-d308077-Reviews-Four_Seasons_Hotel_Cairo_at_Nile_Plaza-Cairo_Cairo_Governorate.html
Revolving Restaurant Grand Hyatt: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294201-d799893-Reviews-The_Revolving_Restaurant-Cairo_Cairo_Governorate.html
Unfinished Buildings in Giza: http://www.thecommononline.org/dispatches/unfinished-buildings
Egypt New Building Tax Law: http://www.tadamun.info/2015/03/31/analysis-amendment-law-196-2008-property-tax/?lang=en#.V-ibHtxHaK0