With almost 20 million locals, modern Cairo is a warren of luxury hotels, shops and restaurants, superimposed on layers of ancient history. It’s almost impossible to visit Cairo without learning something new.
Thanks to a recent round of revolutions and riots, parents may think twice before booking a trip to Cairo.
But despite the difficulties, there’s more to the city than crowds and chanting, and plenty for families to enjoy.
Who is it good for? Unless you’re prepared to haul a buggy through the busy streets and around the sites, this is a trip for older children (8+), who will get a buzz from the exciting history of ancient Egypt.
Honey gold and towering, the Pyramids can be seen rising up over Giza long before you reach them.
Getting in means running the gauntlet of a long line of stern-faced officials, but once in you won’t be short of friendly company and there will be plenty of time to explore the three huge structures, the Sphinx and the warren of tombs without hindrance.
Even more fun is to do it all on a camel – an experience that will delight most children and their parents to boot.
There’s more for families in Cairo than most realise and you could spend weeks there without getting bored.
To the north, there’s the wonderful citadel, built by Saladin and still looming over the city, and the family hotspot of Al Azar Park boasting the best city view in Cairo.
Then there’s the Nile Corniche and its flotilla of feluccas for hire, and the labyrinthine Cairo Museum – home of both Tutankhamun and his famous tomb.
Perfect for parents with teens is Khan-El-Khalili, Cairo’s most famous bazaar.
Expect a blizzard of noise and colour, with leather babouches to bizarre kitsch stacked in higgledy piggledy rows. Once out of the winding commercial lanes, the souk’s sunny squares are great for people watching.
Where to eat
The quiet plazas of Khan el-Khalili offer local food in the form of mezze type dishes (houmous, pitta, baba ghanouche) and flavoursome meat and vegetable stews.
Delicious though most is, some dishes include sneaky servings of offal, which won’t go down well with children.
What should do better are the local desserts, Umm Ali and Baklava, both of which involve plenty of honey, nuts and crumbly pastry, and can be snapped up for a pittance at the bakery on the corner of Roushdy Street.
If it’s traditional Egyptian food you’re after then head to Cairo Kitchen, a chain of restaurants that provides traditional Egyptian home-style meals and street food. Even with its amazing history and culture – dishes have origins stretching back as far as Pharaonic times -, it has been overshadowed by the success of its neighbours, like Lebanese, Syrian and Turkish cuisine.
But this little delight of family-friendly restaurants – there are three main braches in different corners of the capital – has made the experience of local meals accessible to much of Cairo locals and tourists alike. Perfect for adding authentic and new food to the kids’ holiday.
Find your nearest branch at cairokitchen.com
Best time to go: Cairo is hot and dry most of the year, from May to August temperatures reach over 40°C, from September to March it is usually between 15 and 25°C, with February and March being the best months – bear in mind, this is also the busiest time to go.
Where to stay: The Kempinski Nile Hotel has rooms overlooking the river Nile in a central location just five minutes walk from Tahrir Square and the National Museum. Rates start at £150 per person per night.
Travel time: Flights from London to Cairo take 4 hours and 47 minutes.
Hot to get there: British Airways flies from London Heathrow to Cairo; from £407 return. Egyptair flies from London Heathrow to Cairo daily; from £380 return.