Are two days enough to see everything Cairo has to offer? Well yes and no. 48 hours are enough to visit most of the wonders of the city and cross off our list of the most important. But obviously we will have to leave some things behind. If this is your case and you are planning a 48-hour trip to the capital of Egypt you are in the right place.
It is very common to have that time to see Cairo because, for example, if you go on a cruise on the Nile, it is usually the length of stay in the city in this type of routes. To make the most of those 48 hours I have prepared an itinerary designed to optimize the time and get to know the monuments and must-see places in Cairo.
Day 1: Tour of ancient Egypt: The pyramids, the sphinx, the Egyptian museum
The first 24 hours in the capital of Egypt have a clear objective. Knowing the part related to ancient Egypt. Fundamentally the most touristic and well known points and those responsible for attracting millions of tourists.
These are the famous pyramids of Giza, its sphinx, the Egyptian museum and the site of Memphis and Saqqara. The paradise for every lover of ancient Egypt.
Pyramids of Giza
The first stop of this itinerary could not be other than the famous pyramids of Giza, the most important monuments of Cairo. These are located in a complex on the outskirts of the city about 15 kilometers from the center of the capital.
It is not a problem at all because there are a thousand ways and transports to get to this point from Cairo, especially if you do it with an organized tour of the pyramids.
With the general entrance to the site we can see the three pyramids corresponding to the pharaohs Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos.
You can visit the burial chambers inside the pyramids, but the entrance fee is separate. That of Cheops is the most famous and relevant and enter their guts costs about 3 euros per person at the exchange rate more or less.
However, the queues are longer and having limited time my recommendation is that if you want to enter one, you opt for the one of Mycerinos. Less busy but equally interesting.
If we want to see and walk around the outside of the pyramids calmly and see the whole complex it will take us at least 3 hours. The pyramids are not the only interesting point of the complex, the following we see below.
Although located in the same complex as the pyramids, the sphinx deserves a separate mention. It is one of the most famous sculptures of the ancient world, if not the most famous, and is believed to represent the pharaoh Chephren.
From the area of the pyramids can be reached without problems passing through the temple of the valley of Kefren.
can be admired from its base and besides being amazed by its imposing presence, you will notice the wear and tear it has suffered over hundreds of years.
In addition to the absence of its nose, which is exhibited in London, it is common to see scaffolding in the surrounding area used for restoration and maintenance of a spectacular monument, but which is in serious danger.
The sphinx is the last point of the complex that covers the visit. Of course, there are not too many shadows so go well prepared with hats, sunscreen and water to combat the heat.
Saqqara and Memphis
At 40 minutes from the pyramids of Giza are Memphis and Saqqara. Two points also essential to know the ancient Egyptian civilization. In fact, Memphis was the ancient capital of the empire.
To go from Giza to this point it is best to hire a joint tour to visit the pyramids and Saqqara and Memphis. But there is also the option of taking a cab that, negotiating the price, we can leave very economical.
Memphis was once a city full of palaces and monuments and today is a town of low houses but houses a museum with some of the strongholds of the city in its golden age.
In its open-air museum highlights a 10-meter figure of Ramses II in addition to sphinxes, mummification tables and obelisks.
After seeing Memphis it is time to cross the Nile and in about 20 minutes to reach Saqqara.
This is a kind of replica of the city of Memphis but was built trying to simulate what the city of Memphis would be like in the other world according to Egyptian mythology. Its importance and historical and tourist value lies in some of its buildings.
For example in Saqqara is the oldest building in the world. The funerary complex of the pharaoh Zoser dating from 2650 BC. Surprising to see how it is preserved despite having been standing for more than 4000 years. The other essential point is the step pyramid that was the tomb of Pharaoh Zoser and one of the first pyramids built.
If we have risen early to see the pyramids of Giza we will be in Memphis and Saqqara before noon and since there are several restaurants in the area can be used for lunch.
If we spend a couple of hours to visit this point and another to make a stop for lunch gives us plenty of time in the afternoon to return to Cairo and see the last point of the day.
No visit to the complex of the pyramids of Giza and Memphis and Saqqara is complete without a visit to the Egyptian Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world.
In total there are more than 130,000 objects of various kinds and from all periods of Egyptian history. The museum is located in Cairo, so it is necessary to return to the city.
To see it in detail we would need almost two days of this itinerary so you have to prioritize certain pieces. The most relevant and well known are those belonging to the pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The golden funerary mask of the pharaoh is, in addition to the symbol of the museum, the most valuable. His coffin or throne are also fundamental pieces of all those found in his tomb. Given the size and historical value of the museum I recommend asking the guides which are the pieces you should see in an express visit to the museum.
The general admission costs around 3 euros per person and if you want to access the room known as the mummy room you have to pay about 5 euros extra.
The museum is open until 19:00 hours from Monday to Wednesday and until 21:00 on Thursdays and Sundays. In case you want to visit on Friday or Saturday, which I do not recommend given the high influx of people, you should know that on those days the museum closes at 16:00. In that case you can visit the museum first and then follow the itinerary I have shown you.
The Egyptian museum is located in Tahrir Square and to get there, being in Cairo, it is best to do it by metro taking lines 1 or 2, with the red and yellow colors, to the Sadat station stop.
Dinner at Tahrir Square
Tahrir Square itself is ideal to end the day after seeing the museum. It is an area with lots of atmosphere and several places to dine, besides being close to the Nile which on its banks is also a good area to approach afterwards.
Day 2: Downtown Cairo
After an intense first day immersed in ancient Egypt, it's time to get to know the center of Cairo. In a second day much quieter and with less travel, you will visit the most important historical sites within the borders of the city.
These are the fortress of Saladin and the churches and points of the Coptic Christian quarter. To culminate the visit it is best to visit the bazaar of Khan Al-Khalili and take a material souvenir of the capital of Egypt.
Visiting the Coptic quarter is a must, as it is one of the nerve centers of tourism in the city of Cairo. This is located south of the citadel of Saladin, about half an hour by bus or 15 minutes if we take a cab.
This neighborhood is the home of the Coptic Christians and a place of special relevance for Christians in general, as tradition has it that it was the place where the holy family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) was sheltered during their stay in Egypt. That is why the neighborhood is full of churches and monasteries linked to this tradition.
There are several interesting points within the ancient walls of Babylon that border this neighborhood. The first is the hanging church. So called because it was built on the gate of the wall, although it is also known as the church of Santa Maria.
The other two churches to visit are the church of Santa Barbara, in honor of the martyr after whom it is named, and the church of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. The latter is the oldest in the Coptic quarter and was built over the cave in which, according to legend, the holy family hid.
There are not only churches, there are also mosques like that of Amr Ibn Al As which was the first built in Egypt, or synagogues like that of Ben Ezra. There are countless religious sites highly recommended to see and a point that unites them is the Coptic museum.
A place to learn about the history of this neighborhood and the mysticism that surrounds it and makes it a point of pilgrimage and tourism. I also recommend that you spend some time just to stroll through its narrow streets and enjoy the atmosphere of the neighborhood.
It was the same ruler who gave it its name who commissioned the construction of the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo to protect against the attacks of European empires in the twelfth century.
Today, this walled complex is the most visited monument in the city of Cairo. There are many points of interest inside the Citadel of Saladin and it is best to visit it at your leisure.
There are several buildings to visit, starting with the imposing palace of Gawhara and continuing with its beautiful mosques.
The Mosque of Sultan Hassan, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun and the Mosque of Al Rifa'i are the most important to be found inside the citadel.
In addition to these buildings there are also museums that house pieces related to the history of the place. These museums are the carriage museum and the military museum. The latter is the most interesting of them as it is the most linked to the history of the fortress.
But the Citadel of Saladin is more than a set of buildings. Another of its main virtues lies in its location, as it is located on top of the hill of Mokattam in the center of Cairo and gives us one of the best views of the capital of Egypt.
It is almost mandatory to walk along its walls and stop to enjoy the views. The general admission is around 7 euros for the entire complex.
This neighborhood extends through the center of Cairo from the foothills of the hill of the Citadel of Saladin, making it an interesting place to visit. It owes its name to the fact that it was once one of the most important Islamic centers of the world, but it is really more of a medieval neighborhood with lots of charm.
Among its streets you will find many mosques, squares, stores and very interesting places. Its mosques are perhaps the most important, but many of them do not allow entry to non-Muslim tourists as they are sacred places for their religion. But the neighborhood offers much more.
We can visit, for example, the Midan Al Hussein Square where two of its most important mosques are located and is also a place where many restaurants and terraces are concentrated. Al Azhar Park
is also located in this neighborhood and is one of the main parks of Cairo.
I recommend you also go through the Sharia Al Muizz Li Din Allah Street where there are a large number of mosques and stores very interesting and where you reach our next destination, the Jan El Jalili market. Also known as Khan El-Khalili Bazaar.
Khan El-Khalili Bazaar
Also known as the market of Khan El-Khalili, this place was the cradle of trade in Egypt and throughout the Middle East in ancient times. Today it is a huge bazaar full of stores of all kinds and cafes that make it the ideal place to shop and relax with a coffee and some sweets to put the perfect finishing touch to a two-day trip to Cairo.
The market is located in the center of the Islamic part of Cairo, in a walled area that contributes to give it an ancient and traditional atmosphere very attractive. Inside the El-Khalili bazaar there are almost a thousand stalls where we can find everything from typical food and spices to handicrafts through stalls of fabrics, jewelry or perfumes. Anything you can imagine is here.
Visiting it in the afternoon or evening is ideal because we can walk through the stalls quietly and complete the visit by dining in some of its legendary cafes where in addition to traditional dishes you can taste the traditional teas and smoke the typical shishas.
For this reason, it is undoubtedly one of the best things to do at night in Cairo.
It is the perfect place to say goodbye to Cairo after 48 hours and take a traditional souvenir of a trip that surely you will not forget.
Tips for visiting Cairo in 2 days
To optimize and make the most of a 48 hour trip to Cairo there are a number of things to keep in mind. Here are some tips that can help you:
- The most important thing to optimize time is to get your tickets for the monuments in advance to avoid queues and know how to move from one place to another. Cairo is a chaotic city and if we do not know how to move around we can lose a lot of time. For the most tourist places there are usually tourist buses that go directly and to move around the city it is best to take a cab or metro.
- Although it is obvious, I remind you that Cairo is very hot and that in places like the pyramids of Giza there are few shadows. Go prepared with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. In any case, if you have to choose a month, choose the winter months to visit the Egyptian capital.
- It is important to remember that in the most religious places such as churches and mosques you should cover your arms and legs. This is especially sensitive for women so it is advisable to carry a scarf to cover up in these cases.