Direct flights from UK to Cairo all-year-round take under five hours
There are direct flights from the UK to Sharm el Sheikh – flying time 10 hours
Egypt has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites including: the Pyramids at Giza, Historic Cairo and Abu Mena
The Red Sea Riviera is a popular Middle East winter sun destination
Cairo has the best golf courses in the Middle East.
July and August temperatures in Cairo average 35˚C
Summer temperatures in Sharm el Sheikh average 40˚C
Where to go
Sharm el Sheikh
The Middle East’s largest city isn’t an instant enchantment. It’s incredibly noisy, always busy and sometimes looks as if the entire Egyptian population’s descended on Downtown at once. But, if you let yourself acclimatise, get to know the districts, identify quiet breathing spaces and exercise a bit of patience, Cairo’s one of the most rewarding cities in the world. Teenagers and older kids tend to get the hang of things much quicker than adults. Start younger children off somewhere gentle like Zamalek on Gezira Island, ease them into the ancient medieval quarter and, by the time you visit the Egyptian Museum in Downtown, they’ll be ready for anything.
If you want to stay close to the historic districts but not right in the city centre, the Nile Corniche is best for major international hotels and Gezira Island is lovely and green, home to Cairo Opera House and an excellent area for families.
Known for big, broad boulevards, elegant houses and its cool Korba district, Heliopolis is another area for family resorts, about half-an-hour from Downtown.
Old Cairo is remarkable and sprawling. If time’s tight, arrange a guided tour of highlights like the Coptic quarter and Hanging Church, Bab Zuwella, Salah El Din Al Ayouby Citadel and Ib Tulun Mosque.
Don’t leave without seeing the Egyptian Museum. The collection includes all the contents and mummies from the Pyramids at Giza and the tomb of Tutankhamun. Give it at least half-a-day – some exhibits like the mummified monkey can be a little disconcerting for younger children.
Don’t miss the legendary souks at Khan el-Khalili in the city centre. They date back to the 16th century and, apart from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or Marrakech Medina, few others even come close for sheer spectacle.
Downtown’s good for cafés and traditional restaurants. Zamalek, on Gezira Island, is where to find Cairo’s cool places to eat.
If you’re exploring the city with kids and it all gets too hectic, escape for an hour into the Garden district. It’s a little pocket of leafy, green peace just 20 minutes walk south of Downtown.
If Giza conjures up images of a vast, empty desert dotted with Pyramids, you may be disappointed to find it’s a large town packed with hotels, restaurants, shopping, malls and cinemas, right on the edge of the Pyramid Complex. But it’s also of the best areas in Cairo to base a family holiday. You won’t find abundant history and charm in Giza itself, but the Cairo city centre’s only 40 minutes away and day-trips mixed with downtime by the pool work out well for kids. Then there’s the added bonus of going to sleep and waking up within sight of Cheops and the Sphynx and it doesn’t get more historic than that.
Giza has the widest choice of family accommodation in Cairo ranging from five-star luxury resorts to good value three and four-star hotels.
The Pyramid Complex is understandably popular. If you’re going it alone, head out early in the morning to avoid the crowds and over-enthusiastic would-be guides.
There are various tours of the complex, including horseback expeditions. These are best arranged through your hotel or with an accredited Cairo tour company.
You can explore the inside of certain pyramids, depending on when you visit. All artefacts have been removed to the Egyptian Museum and the experience is a little claustrophobic.
Don’t miss the Solar Barque Museum. It contains the 44m long Khufa Ship buried at the base of Cheops in 2500BC and excavated, intact, in 1954.
Sharm el Sheikh
Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea is Egypt’s best known holiday resort. The city’s almost entirely centred around tourism and it’s atmosphere is less Cairo and more small-scale Dubai, without the monolithic architecture. Home to international brand names like Four Seasons, Hilton, Ritz Carlton and Hyatt Regency, Sharm’s famous for superb diving, exquisite private beaches, coral reef snorkelling and year round sunshine. Temperatures in summer rise to 35˚C and sit at a pleasantly warm 27˚C between November and January.
Not the destination for history lovers, there are some attractive heritage experiences but on the whole Sharm el Sheikh is for luxury beach holidays and complete escapism.
Resorts are well designed for kids and most have clubs, activity programmes, on-site dive schools and private beaches with excellent water sports facilities.
Sharm el Sheikh has its own airport and direct flights from the UK all year round take between 10 and 12 hours.
Cairo is under two hours by air from the city and short breaks to the Pyramids at Giza are included in a number of Sharm el Sheikh holidays.
Another Red Sea Riviera resort, lively Hurghada is a younger version of Sharm el Sheikh and has the advantage of being less than four hours by road from Cairo or an hour’s flight. Luxurious beach resorts are a signature here too, but many have their own water and theme parks, wide ranging kids activity programmes as well as private beaches, water sports and dive schools.
What to do
Pyramid Complex, Giza The only remaining wonder of the ancient world is astounding, but avoiding ‘freelance’ tour guides at the complex is almost impossible. The best option is to arrange a guided tour with an accredited company specialising in Egypt for families with kids.
Egyptian Museum, Downtown Cairo The world’s finest Egyptology museum and the place to see artefacts from the Pyramids, Tutankhamun’s tomb, the unfinished head of Nefertiti and more mummies than anywhere else – including unfortunate royal pets.
Felucca Nile Cruise, Cairo Traditional, white-sailed felucca are one of the prettiest sights on the Nile. You can board one almost anywhere along the Corniche, but a day cruise up the legendary river is amazing with kids.
Cairo Tower, Gezira Island
Take the elevator to the top of 187m high Cairo Tower in the morning for the city’s best view – go in the early evening, watch the sun set behind the mosques and see why Cairo’s known as the ‘City of a Thousand Minarets’.
Khan el-Khalili, Old Cairo You can’t visit Cairo without spending at least a few hours browsing Khan el-Khalili. The 16thcentury Grand Souk is architecturally magnificent and kids find the whole experience thrilling. Make time to see the silversmiths creating intricate, traditional jewellery.
Sharm Semi-Submarine Tour The coral reefs and underwater world of the Red Sea make it one of the world’s top diving destinations, this is the next best thing for non-divers.
Cairo to Luxor Nile Cruise A Nile cruise from the Pyramids at Giza to the temples of Luxor with Red Sea beaches and the world second longest river as part of the adventure is an unforgettable holiday with kids.
Old Cairo self-guided walking tour Download the app and go it alone round ancient Cairo. A good way to get your bearings, see the major sights in a short space of time or decide what you want to re-visit and explore in more detail.
Salah El Din Al Ayouby Citadel, Cairo One of Cairo’s major attractions, this 12th century citadel is considered to be the finest example of medieval military architecture in the Middle East.
Hanging Church, Coptic Cairo The oldest church in Coptic Cairo has a wooden roof constructed to replicate a 7th century imagining of Noah’s Ark. Older kids usually find the rest of the interior interesting too.
Educational value for kids
Historic Cairo is a UNESCO World Heritage site – take a guided tour with kids.
Go for a late afternoon walk in one of Cairo’s lovely parks, it’s a city custom – Al Azhar’s great for views.
Visit Wekalet El Ghouri Arts Centre in Cairo to see traditional Egyptian theatre and dance – the whirling dervishes are spectacular.
Book a cruise on the Nile, even just for a few hours, the busy river’s captivating for kids.
Spend an afternoon in Zamalek, it’s a lovely, calm district for interesting shops and cafés.
Don’t miss the ‘x-rayed mummies’ video installation at the Egyptian Museum – it’s awesome for older kids but might be a little confusing and creepy for younger ones.
Familiarising children with the history of the Pyramids and the myth of the Solar Barque before you tour the complex makes it more fun.
Getting around with kids in Egypt
Cairo has a metro and good bus services from the centre to Giza and other city districts. Driving’s best avoided and most hotels and resorts have shuttle services or will arrange transport. Guided tours take a lot of pressure out of sightseeing. There are regular flights from Cairo to the Red Sea Riviera. Nile river cruises are an excellent way to see more remote areas.