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Cairo by Night: a handy guidebook for exploring the city's nightlife

The Egyptian capital surprises with the great number of activities that can be done at night, discover all the possibilities!

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

11 min read

Cairo by Night: a handy guidebook for exploring the city's nightlife

Cairo | ©Wesley & Brandon

Cairo is known as the city that never sleeps. If you do not feel like returning early to the hotel you can choose from a wide variety of activities to keep your day going: dinner cruises on the river, stroll through the bustling streets of the market, go to the opera or even go to a pub or a nightclub. In this article I detail some of the proposals in case it helps you during your trip.

1. Be amazed by the sound and light show of the pyramids

Light Show at the Pyramids| ©Carmen
Light Show at the Pyramids| ©Carmen

If there is one thing for sure when you travel to Cairo is that you are going to spend a few hours visiting the pyramids of Giza and the nearby Sphinx. However, not everyone knows that it is also very interesting to approach the area at night to enjoy and be amazed by the sound and light show of the pyramids sound and light show that takes place there.

For an hour, the pyramids are illuminated by laser beams of light. Both the walls of the Temple of the Mummification and the pyramids themselves, without forgetting the desert sand or the Sphinx become screens on which part of the history of the Egypt of the pharaohs unfolds.

The images are combined with a great soundtrack and you can hear the mysterious or dramatic voice of the Sphinx. During this time you will be able to learn some details about the life of Nefertiti or about the life of the pharaoh Akhenaten, as well as how the imposing pyramids were built.

Practical information

  • Location: The pyramids are located in Giza, about 30 minutes from downtown Cairo (as long as the chaotic traffic does not slow down the arrival).
  • Tickets: The most convenient option both to arrive and to enjoy the visit, is to hire a tour to the pyramids that offer tickets to the audiovisual show and, if necessary, transportation.
  • Schedule: Although there may be changes, the show takes place every day, in three different sessions. In summer the schedule is at 19:30, 20:30 and 21:30, while in winter it is at 18:30, 19:30 and 20:30.

Book your tour to the light and sound show of the pyramids

2. An incredible experience: enjoy a dinner cruise and dance show

Cruise on the Nile| ©Ana Paula Hirama
Cruise on the Nile| ©Ana Paula Hirama

Without the Nile, the history of Egypt and Cairo would have been very different. The great river is the creator of life in the country and the element that structures it from north to south. Booking a night cruise on the Nile is therefore a must and the experience gets even better if you add dinner and a belly dancing show.

These small night cruises in Cairo are not only perfect for relaxing after a long day of sightseeing. During the tour you can admire the illuminated skyline of the city and see some of its attractions from a different point of view.

There are different types of cruises depending on what you are looking for. Those that include dinner are divided between buffet style and those offered by excellent chefs and that will serve you to learn more about the great Egyptian cuisine. In addition, you can book a cruise that includes a belly dance show and small concerts of traditional music.

Book a night cruise on the Nile

3. Let yourself be surprised with a ride on the Nile in a falucca.

In Falucca on the Nile| ©Silviapef
In Falucca on the Nile| ©Silviapef

Although cruise ships are the most used by tourists when they are in Cairo, there is another more traditional way of cruising the Nile: in a falucca. If you want to live a truly unforgettable experience, I recommend you to book a falucca ride on the Nile, one of these boats to enjoy the sunset from the river.

Faluccas are small wooden boats powered by the wind. For centuries, they have been the means of transportation used by the Egyptians to travel the Nile, whether on short or longer journeys. Aboard these boats and rocked by the waters of the river you will feel transported to a different era.

If you want to do this activity try to find a falucca that, in addition to the sails and oars, also has an engine. During my trip to Aswan I had the misfortune to sail in a falucca on a totally calm day, with no wind at all. Just to say that it took quite some time before we could reach the shore with the oars.

Book a Nile phalucca tour

4. Visit the market of Khan El Khalili

Khan El Khalili Market| ©MohammedKhan12
Khan El Khalili Market| ©MohammedKhan12

The most visited place in Cairo by tourists who want to do their shopping is the Khan El Khalili market. Most of these visits are made during the day, but it is well worth delving into its narrow streets at night.

Khan el Khalili is located in the so-called Islamic Cairo. Its stalls and stores are distributed by a large number of alleys and zigzagging alleys. Getting lost in them is, more than a possibility, something inevitable. In this space you can also see some beautiful mosques, as well as the workshops where the artisans who then sell their products in the market work. The stores do not close when the sun goes down and the market district acquires a different atmosphere when the traditional metal lanterns are lit.

My recommendation is to go after 7:00 pm (earlier in winter) to walk around the market at your leisure and then have dinner in one of the street restaurants in the area.

Joaquin's Traveller Tip

If you have decided to go on your own and not with a guide I advise you to be patient. Some vendors can be very insistent to attract tourists to their stores. If you are not interested you will have to refuse their invitation several times.

5. Don't miss a walk along Al Moez street

Al Moez Street| ©abdelrahman alaa bayoumi
Al Moez Street| ©abdelrahman alaa bayoumi

Near Khan el Khalili is another essential spot to experience the Cairo nightlife: Al Moez Street (you may see the name spelled differently, as the Arabic transcriptions are not simple in terms of vowels). Walking along the approximately one kilometer of this street when its colored lights are turned on is an unforgettable experience.

Al Moez Street was closed to traffic in 2008, which increased the already considerable traffic of people along it. Along the way you will be able to see several small architectural gems, all beautifully illuminated. Thus, you should not miss the Al Hakim bi Amr Allah Mosque, the Al-Aqmar Mosque, the Al Nasir Muhammad Madrasa or the Qalawun complex.

Another very worthwhile building is Beit al-Suhaymi, a house (which is what beit means) built in 1648 and is considered one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture in the city.

6. Relax for a while at the Fishawi Cafe or Mirror Cafe

Fishawi Cafe| ©Rckr88
Fishawi Cafe| ©Rckr88

On one side of Khan el Khalili is the Fishawi, one of the most famous cafes in the Egyptian capital. If you have decided to stroll around the area at night, sitting on its terrace will serve to relax for a while from the bustle of the streets. The very street where the café is located is usually full of people at any time, so if you do not go with a guide you will almost certainly have to wait to find a free table.

El Fishawi or Café de los Espejos began its activity more than 240 years ago. Over time its clientele began to grow and today it is famous for serving the best tuco coffee, delicious mint tea and the best narghiles (water pipes) in the city.

For many Egyptians, spending time in this coffee shop contemplating the atmosphere while sipping tea and smoking a hookah is a real pastime and I'm sure you'll love it too. Also think that this place is proud to have been a favorite of some of the most famous writers in the country, as is the case of Naguid Mahfoud, Nobel Prize for literature in 1988.

7. See the whole city from the Cairo Tower

Cairo Tower| ©Ahmedsantos
Cairo Tower| ©Ahmedsantos

If you want to enjoy a view of the city with all its illumination lit at night there is no better place than the Cairo Tower, the Cairo Tower.

This former telecommunications tower, 187 meters high, is located in the modern neighborhood of Zamalek and its design stands out for a very stylized appearance and for having been covered with a lattice that sought to resemble the lotus flower.

To enter the tower you will have to pay about 10 euros, but it's worth it for the views from the viewpoint located on the terrace. Until 00:00 (in winter) or 1:00 (in summer) you can look out to see the Nile illuminated by the lights of the boats and have a perspective of the streets of the city. Another option is to book a table at the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower. This way you will enjoy the same views while you are dining.

Take a walk around Zamalek while you are in the area

The neighborhood in which the tower is located, Zamalek, is actually located inside a small island on the Nile River.

It has long been considered the most modern and westernized part of the city and here you will find many trendy shops and restaurants of a very high standard.

8. Attend the Opera House

Cairo Theater| ©Jessica Splain
Cairo Theater| ©Jessica Splain

You may not associate Cairo with the genre of opera or classical music. However, if you are a lover of these genres you are going to find in the city one of the best performing arts centers in the entire world. In fact, the Cairo Opera House, inaugurated in 1988, is a complex that houses seven different theaters. In addition, it also houses a music library, a museum and an art gallery.

As the name of the theater indicates, the genre most often performed is opera, but ballet, musicals, plays and concerts are also programmed.

This theater is the main venue for several companies, such as the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, the City Opera Company, the Cairo Opera Ballet Company and the National Arab Music Ensemble. To get to the building you will have to head to Gezira Island, located on the Nile. Before you go, check the schedule on their website, where you can also buy tickets.

9. Experience Cairo's nightlife

Cairo by Night| ©Radiaton/2
Cairo by Night| ©Radiaton/2

You almost certainly don't think of Cairo as a place conducive to nightlife, but the truth is that the Egyptian capital offers a number of options for a night out, albeit in its own style. If you are looking for nightclubs, you should head to those located in the most luxurious hotels in the city, while near the Egyptian Museum, there are some clubs frequented by locals. Another interesting option are some boats anchored in the river and that function as authentic floating discos.

You can also go to the well-known Baladi bars, a kind of coffee shops licensed to sell alcohol, although this is usually only drunk by tourists. Most of these places are located in the area of Sharia Alfy, near Midan Orabi and the clientele is composed almost exclusively by men.

Note that in both clubs and discotheques you eat and drink while watching some shows. As in other cities, the trendy places change over time, but here are some of the best known:

  • Harry's Pub: located in the Cairo Marriott Hotel. It has a karaoke and some nights organizes special events for women.
  • Windows on the World: on the 36th floor of the Ramses Hiton. Boasts some of the best views of the city.
  • Sultan Bar: at the Mena House, located in a palace overlooking the pyramids.
  • Jackie's Joint: inside the Nile Hilton and features dance floors and pool tables.

Joaquin's Traveller Tip

Alcohol is prohibited for the Muslim population, so in practice it is difficult to find alcoholic beverages outside of tourist hotels or in some specially licensed venues. Even if you are a foreigner, you should not show signs of drunkenness in public.

10. Listen to live music

Cairo Jazz Club| ©Sharmoofers
Cairo Jazz Club| ©Sharmoofers

Cairo's nightlife also offers the opportunity to go to some venues to listen to live music, both international and Egyptian. One of the best places for this is The Place, located inside the Sheraton el Gezirah, where you can also enjoy great views of the river.

If you like jazz and want to listen to it while sipping a cocktail you can go to the Ramses Hilton Hotel, specifically the club located on the 30th floor. Somewhat further away, this type of music is also played at the Cairo Jazz Club, a place highly recommended for its extraordinary atmosphere.

Is Cairo safe at night?

Streets of Cairo| ©ASaber91
Streets of Cairo| ©ASaber91

Although it is not an unsafe city, you should always keep in mind some safety tips. For starters, watch out for pickpockets in the areas most crowded by tourists. Also, do not lose sight of your belongings, as the so-called careless people can be pending.

Another tricky aspect are the scams when taking a cab or by some vendors. In the first case, you should always negotiate the fare before getting into the vehicle and, of course, only use official cabs and, if possible, those that have been requested by your hotel or by the managers of the place where you are. As for the sellers, everything will depend on your ability to bargain and not to be fooled when you are offered supposedly antiques at a bargain price.

Finally, if there is something really dangerous in Cairo , it is the traffic. The crosswalks (when they exist) are more of an ornament, as are the traffic lights. Crossing the street requires decisiveness and a fair amount of caution.

Book a desert tour from Cairo

How to get around Cairo at night?

Cairo Metro| ©Andrew A. Shenouda
Cairo Metro| ©Andrew A. Shenouda

Most tourists choose to hire guides to enjoy all the things to see and do in Cairo, but if you prefer to do it on your own it is best to use the metro or cabs.

One of the advantages of the metro is its ease of use, in addition to having the signs in English as well as Arabic. There are 3 different lines and it runs from 5:15 am to 00:30 am.

After that time you are only left with cabs, unless you can read Arabic so you can use the buses. Remember to negotiate the fare with the cab driver and ask your hotel for the approximate fare beforehand to get a rough idea.

Book a tour to the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum