Visit Cairo off the beaten track

Unusual things to do in Cairo


Cairo, Egypt’s capital city, is a very visited and very touristic city. Most travel guides often offer the same activities and things to do. That’s why I selected different places for a discovery off the beaten track.


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Visit the City of the Dead

The city of the dead is a truly unusual activity to discover in the city of Cairo. A huge cemetery (about 7 km²) has been transformed into a city : the inhabitants live in the mausoleums, among the graves. Although a bit morbid, it is a beautiful place with beautiful monuments and old minarets.

© Wikimedia Commons / City of the Dead in Cairo

How to get to the city of the dead in Cairo?

The necropolis is located on 2 sides of the Kobri Al-Ebageah road, at Mokattam Hill.

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Walking to Souk Al-Goma’a

Souk al-Gomaa is the largest souk in Cairo. That is, one can find absolutely anything and everything. Especially parallel market and illegal things. Many protected animals, for example. I found Egyptian snakes, tortoises, barn owls, a monitor lizard or an eagle!

Visit Souk Al Goma
© Maverickbird / Visit Souk Al-Goma in Cairo

Where and when to visit Souk Al-Goma’a?

The market is held every Friday morning. You have to get there early. The souk starts in the city of the dead, the part opposite Mokkatam hill and ends on the outskirts of the city. It is huge, which is why it is interesting to visit it in its length since it is very different from one end to the other.

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Discover the Petrified Forest

The petrified forest was born due to the Red Sea floods 35,000 million years ago, they arrived near Cairo and fossilized.

Petrified forest in Egypt
© Wikimedia Commons / Petrified forest

Where is the Petrified Forest in Cairo?

The place, Gabal el-Khashab, is about 30 km from the center of the Egyptian capital, New Cairo.

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Admire the Hindu temple in Cairo

A large Hindu temple stands on the outskirts of Cairo. It was built by a French architect. This is an unusual visit to Egypt. Its local name is “Qasr-i-Baron”.

© Wikimedia Commons / Hindu Temple in Cairo

Where is the Hindu temple in Cairo?

It is located in modern Cairo, in the district of Heliopolis.

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Visit the Cairo slum

Due to a deleterious waste collection system, some places are overwhelmed by garbage. The inhabitants of Manshiyat Nasser therefore collect waste from the city in order to recycle it. The place may seem sad but it is impressive to see. The locals are mostly Coptic Christians.

© Wikimedia Commons / Cairo slum

Where is the Cairo slum?

The Cairo slum is located in Manshiyat Nasser, on the outskirts of Mokattam Hill. It is located a few kilometers from the City of the Dead and Souq Al Goma’a.

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Visit Birqash Camel Market

Hundreds of camels are sold in Birqash, starting at 7am. You have to be there early because the activity is in full swing at the coolest hours and ends after 10 am.

© Globalgaz / Birqash Camel Market

The camelids come by truck from the Sudanese deserts, are sold to Daraw for agriculture, then the weaker ones are sold to Birqash for meat or tourism for the strongest. You have to have your heart sometimes hooked for the treatment inflicted on animals. You have been warned!

How to get to Birqash?

Birqash is located 34 km northwest of Cairo. You will easily find shared taxis or minivans that get there from the bus stations.

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Excursion to the site of Saqqara

The necropolis of Saqqara houses 25 pyramids, including the famous Djoser (or Djoser). Most are in bad condition, worn out by time. Note that some could be more than 50 meters high at the time.

Visit the pyramids of Egypt
© The U.S National Archives / Djoser Step Pyramid

Where is Saqqara?

The archaeological site of Saqqara is located about 30 km south of Cairo, on the west bank near the city of Mit Rahineh.

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Discover Cairo’s Old Nilometer

The Cairo nilometer, dating from the IXth century, was built with limestone and is more than 10 meters deep.

© Wikimedia Commons / Nilometer on Rodah Island

Where is the Cairo nilometer?

It is located on the island of Rodah (Al-Rodha).

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Visit the fortress of Babylon

The fortress of Babylon is a vestige of the Roman conquest. It was at the time a mecca of the Jewish and Christian communities of Cairo. Today, only part of the ruins remain and it has been transformed into a Coptic museum.

© Flickr – Richard Mortel / Babylonian Fortress in Cairo

Where is Cairo’s Babylonian fortress?

It is located in the Old Cairo district.

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Examine the Colossus of Ramses II

Along its 10 meters, the colossus of Ramses II lies lying in a museum. Although the statue is unfinished, the visit is interesting since you can observe all the details that you can not necessarily pay attention to when the colossi are erected in the temples.

Visit the Cairo Museum
© Pixabay / Colossus of Ramses II in Memphis

Where is the colossus of Ramses II?

In the museum of the city of Mit Rahina (Memphis). The necropolis of Saqqara is about 7 km from here.

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Visit Islamic Cairo

Islamic Cairo is the historical core of the Egyptian capital, founded more than 10 centuries ago. The entire old city is fortified and includes many important mosques. Historic Cairo is one of the oldest Islamic cities in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Discover Islamic Cairo
© Pixabay / Islamic Cairo

Where is Islamic Cairo?

Historic Cairo lies on the east bank of the Nile, about 6 km from the Zamalek district.

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Enjoy handicrafts at Khan El-Khalili Bazaar

Khan El-Khalili is a particularly beautiful historical bazaar to see. You will find a lot of traditional crafts, spices and many other things, such as traditional coffees for example. I advise you to visit it in the morning because the streets are quickly crowded in the late afternoon. Even if it’s not an off beaten track activity, it’s still a must to do in Cairo!

Bazaar Khan El Khalili in Cairo
© Wikimedia Commons / Khan El-Khalili Bazaar

Where is the Khan El-Khalili bazaar?

It is located in the heart of Islamic Cairo, as seen earlier.

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Things to do in Egypt

Do you want to leave Cairo to visit other Egyptian places and cities?

So keep reading with this travel guide. Here you will find many ideas to add to your Egypt itinerary. The activities presented are very varied, from the most popular things to do, to the best places to see absolutely and without forgetting the discoveries off the beaten track :

➡️ Discover 35 things to do in Egypt

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About the author

Picture of Tom Spirit
Tom Spirit
Hey, it's Tom! Welcolme to Spirit Travelers. I'm a nomad traveler for several years and I share my experiences by publishing content and travel guides on this blog. Find some of the most popular countries to visit but also off the beaten track destinations.

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