SEE KING TUT’S TREASURE
- Discover the gold mask room housing the museum’s most famous artifact
- Timing is everything, stay ahead of the crowds and see the highlights of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
Upriver along the Nile corniche from the Conrad Cairo, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities houses some 160,000 objects covering more than five millennia of Egyptian history. Where to begin? We suggest you focus your hour on the King Tut mother lode, which occupies half of the second floor. Tour buses tend to arrive in time for the museum’s opening at 9 a.m., and guides devote 15 minutes to an introductory talk in the ground-floor lobby. Leave the hotel in time to arrive at a little before 9 and, after buying your ticket just inside the front gate, head straight for the gold mask room to have the museum’s most famous artifact to yourself. After gazing at all Tut’s gilded chairs, parasols, beds, chariots, toenail covers, and sarcophagi, dip around a corner into the gallery containing the hauntingly naturalistic El Faiyum mummy portraits, many thought to be the work of a single artist who left pharaonic iconography sometime after 250 B.C. If you still have a few minutes, the animal mummy room—linen-wrapped dogs, baboons, falcons, horses, cows, and several huge crocodiles—is more interesting than the rooms containing mummies of Egyptian pharaohs and their queens, where entrance requires a surcharge.
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities is close to Tahir Square, on the banks of the Nile towards the 6th of October Bridge.
110 Nile St., just across from Four Seasons Nile Plaza hotel
16 26th of July St.
TAKE A MINI NILE CRUISE
- Experience Cairo’s sights by Dok Dok boat
- Sample traditional Egyptian street food or bring your own picnic
From the Conrad Cairo it’s a short, metered taxi ride south along the Nile corniche to Dok Dok Felucca, a family-run business that has been taking celebrities (Umm Khaltoum among them), groups of expats, and Egyptians young and old on private urban sailing trips since the 1930s. Feluccas—lateen-sailed boats with wood or fiberglass hulls—feature cushioned bench seating around long dining tables. There’s no need to reserve in advance; you can just show up. The fare—to be confirmed on embarkation—runs about 60 Egyptian pounds per hour covering all passengers; the crew (who will expect a tip at the end) are flexible about extending the time on a prorated basis. Dok Dok boats sail back and forth between Tahrir Square and the Cairo University Bridge, and the experience is most atmospheric around sunset when the wind whips up and neon signs highlight the skyline of palm trees and high-rises. Order a picnic to go from room service or detour en route to Zooba in Zamlek to pick up healthy versions of traditional Egyptian fast food. Friendly but discreet felucca captains are tolerant of locals and foreigners who imbibe alcohol, so go ahead and raid your minibar, if you wish. No need to have the taxi wait; you can easily hail another for the trip back to the Conrad or your next destination.
You will find Dok Dok Felucca on El Nil St, across from the Four Seasons Plaza Hotel, across from the northernmost tip of Rhoda Island. Zooba is on 26th of July Street. You will be able to recognize its eccentric illuminated sign, where every letter is a different typeface.
110 Nile St., just across from Four Seasons Nile Plaza hotel
16 26th of July St.
PEOPLE-WATCH OVER ARABIC COFFEE AND A SHISHA
- Take in Cairo’s culture while sampling selections of traditional and local coffees and teas
- Discover vibrancy along the alley of the Khan al Khalili Bazaar
Although Cairo has plenty of Western-style bars, people-watching and convivial conversation more typically take place at the ahwa, neighborhood coffee houses offering non-alcoholic drinks, shisha (water pipes). At Sequoia, an upscale cafe and shisha lounge, cosmopolitan young Egyptians mingle with expats trying more than two dozen shisha flavors at alfresco tables right on the Nile; the menu also includes alcohol, Arabic dishes, pizza and sushi. Taakeeba, a 10-minute walk downtown from the Egyptian Museum, is an old-school streetside ahwa. In the eponymous alley of the Khan al Khalili Bazaar in the historic Islamic district, El Fishawi draws tourists and, in the late afternoons and evenings, as well as a parade, of fortune-tellers, henna artists, and watch sellers.
Note: When ordering thick, dark Arabic coffee, specify “ahwa mazbout” for medium sweetness or “ahwa sada” for a ristretto-strong, sugar-free single. Other drinks to try include shay, powdered tea, with or without mint; karkadey, or dried-hibiscus-petal infusion, which can be had hot or cold; and sahlab, a sweet hot drink made from dried and crushed Orchis mascula, sesame seeds, coconut, sugar, and milk, and topped with raisins and nuts. With shisha, the smooth smoke of a hunk of flavored tobacco (try mint or melon) heated atop a hot coal bubbles through a water-filled glass chamber before passing to a mouthpiece at the end of a long flexible hose.
Taakeeba is on the corner of Al- Nabrawy Street and Hussain Pasha Al Meamari Street, 10 minute walk from the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. El Fishawi is on El-Fishawi Alley, just off Passage No. 6 near the Khan Al Kahlili Bazaar. It has a dark wooden exterior.
PICK UP A JEWEL OF THE NILE
- Discover the exquisite jewelry shops of Cairo
Azza Fahmy, a collector and historian of Middle Eastern urban and rural jewelry, started as an apprentice to Cairo silversmiths in the Khan al Khalili and now collaborates with international celebrities (Rihanna) and fashion houses (Preen), often modernizing ancient Egyptian and African motifs. Among several Cairo branches of her eponymous boutique, the one in the Zamalek neighborhood on Gezira Island is closest to the hotel. In the same neighborhood, Suzanne el Masry uses North African enamel, semi precious stones, contemporary and ethnic techniques on silver and bronze to render colorful rings, earrings, and complex necklaces based on leaves, coral, and other natural forms. Find them at Al Qahira, an Egyptian design boutique also selling hand-painted boxes, textiles and handbags.
Azza Fahmy is on Dr. Taha Hussain street, near Amin Al Sargeny and the Port Said Language School. Al Qahira Gallery is on Bahgat Ali Street in Zamalek, on the corner where it meets Mohammed Thakeb St.
GET AN AUTHENTIC SUGAR FIX
- Sweet treats just footsteps from your guest room
- Experience culture and arts at a traditional bookshop and musical performance center
Egyptian treats include basbousa, a grainy semolina cake topped with almonds and soaked in sugar syrup and sometimes flavored with orange-flower water or rose water; kunafeh, semolina dough rolled and fried in crunchy fine threads and stuffed with a sweetened white soft cheese; and qatayef, honey-drizzled dumplings filled with cheese or nuts. Shops sell individual pieces, which you can enjoy with tea or coffee on your hotel room balcony. Once you settle on your favorites, you can order whole trays, typically sold by the pound and wrapped in leakproof paper, perfect for taking home or aboard a Nile cruise. We love the sweets at Mandarine Kouider on Gezira Island, just across the river from the hotel. There’s good coffee, indoor seating, and an ice cream parlor (try the mango during mango season), in addition to trays of traditional Arabic pastries, permutations of phyllo dough, honey or sugar syrup, nuts, and dates, along with clotted cream, raisins, coconut, or rose water. Afterward, walk down 26th of July Street to the Diwan bookstore, which stocks multicultural and multi-ethnic works, or the El Sawy Culture Wheel, a community arts center with musical performances and photography exhibits. Bloudan Sweets, just off Tahrir Square and a few minutes walk from the Egyptian Museum, has no place to sit, but ahwa etiquette permits you to bring sweets to any nearby casual café without a food menu. The friendly Syrian manager happily explains his recipes, including warbat, the Damascene version of baklava.
Mandarine Kouider is on the corner of Shagaret Al Dor Street and Hassan Assem Street. Diwan is on 26th of July St. close by. The El Sawy Culture wheel is further down the street, under the May 15th bridge. Bloudan Sweets is just off Tahir Square, towards the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
DITCH YOUR USUAL TRAVEL DUDS
- Shop the handloomed textiles and locally crafted ceramics of Egypt
Tired of the stuff you packed? Head for Nagada, a boutique occupying an entire 1930s villa across the Nile from the hotel in the Dokki district. Founders Silva Nasrallah and Michel Pastore revived traditional handloomed cotton textiles of upper Egypt to make loose yet stylish men’s and women’s clothing. Tunic-style shirts, gaucho pants, and sleeveless sheath dresses—riffs on the galabiyyah, or traditional Egyptian men’s long gown—translate well to other warm-weather destinations, while lightweight shawls and scarves are perfect for covering up while visiting Egyptian mosques or sunning on breezy Nile-cruise-ship decks. Nasrallah’s travels to Turkey, India, Vietnam, China, and Cambodia also inspire her garment designs. The Nagada team founded a pottery school in Faiyum Oasis; students and mature artists craft practical dishware and impressive statement pieces, often with animal motifs. Pastore’s own ceramic pieces include jewelry modeled after fossils found in the Egyptian desert.
Nagada is on Refa’a Street, at the northernmost end of Messaha Garden.
TAKE A DEEP DIVE INTO HISTORY
- Take a self-guided tour through some of Cairo’s most exquisite museums
Hop in a TK-minute taxi to the Gayer Anderson Museum, inside twin Ottoman mansions in Old Cairo. The superb collection of pharaonic sculpture and Islamic artifacts from Egypt, Syria, and Iran includes oddities such as Mamluk birthing chairs, collected by a British resident doctor in the early 20th century. The museum is adjacent to the austere but elegant Ibn Tulun Mosque, built in the ninth century A.D. and the oldest in Cairo surviving in its original form. The unusual, ziggurat-style minaret affords wonderful views of Old Cairo. Facing the mosque entrance, Khan Misr Tulun, run by a French expat, sells well-curated crafts from around the country, including handblown glass from Cairo, carved wooden dishes from Upper Egypt, textiles from Siwa Oasis, and modern jewelry incorporating antique fake pharaonic scarabs.
The Gayer Anderson Museum is at the southeast corner of Ibn Tulun Square. You will find the Ibn Tulun Mosque directly in the middle of the square. Khan Misr Tulun is directly opposite the entrance to the Ibn Tulun Mosque.