I can never be bored with Egypt. There is always something new to be discovered besides the main tourist attractions like the Giza Pyramids, which I am also happy to visit every time I am in Egypt. If I have time I always try and either visit the Giza Pyramids because it is hard to beat the sheer size and mysticism of the great pyramids. The drawback of course is the aggressive touts trying to con you and do things like sell you fake attractions like climbing the pyramid and more. Then of course you likely won’t be alone at Giza. Nonetheless when in Cairo I try and visit the Giza pyramids once during the day or at least catch the night show, which after 20 years of seeing it multiple times, I am happy to report that it hasn’t changed because as they say if it isn’t broken why fix it. But aside from Giza, there are plenty of lesser-known attractions in the Cairo area and here are a few I visited on various short stays in Egypt.

 

 

November 2010 Layover in Cairofor One night Meeting my Egyptian friends at the Colonial Era British Hotel at the Foot of the Giza Pyramids. The hotel is a great spot to stop and get a feel for the Britsih colonial presence in Egypt and to have a drink of gin and tonic at its majestic bar. 

Dahshsur Complex of Pyramids

November 2018: Only about 80 miles south of Cairo, and 4 hours driving because of traffic are some of the oldest and best-preserved pyramids in Egypt, built from 2613 to 2589 BC. They are the red and Bent Pyramids located in the Dahshur Plateau located along the Nile like all of the pyramids but further south than the Giza Plateau. The best part of visiting these pyramids and that you will likely have them to yourself. There are no tourists and no touts harassing you. of course, once the secret is out, all of this will likely change unfortunately. I visited with my friend Richard via a day trip with a driver we hired from our hotel in Cairo, and we were fortunate to have the complex to ourselves. To visit, you have to check in with the nearby military base and pay a ticket price and then you are free to walk the desert grounds surrounding the pyramids and although I didn’t climb to the top, there didn’t seem to be anyone to stop you from doing so. The only pyramid available to enter during my visit was the red Pyramid and the long steep, claustrophobic damp tunnel leading to the sarcophagus in the middle of the pyramid reminded me a lot like the tunnels in Giza Pyramids. 

Red Pyramid

Entrance to the Red Pyramid

Climbing into the Red Pyramid

Moonrise over the Red Pyramid

Bent Pyramid

City of the Dead

One of the most interesting places I visited in Cairo is the huge graveyard or necropolis called the city of the Dead that is approx. 1400 years old. It is called a city because the living coincides with the dead in a graveyard that is approx. 4 miles long where hundreds of thousands are buried. In Cairo where millions are impoverished, land is a hot commodity, and the city of the Dead is no exception to this. There are about one million people living in the city, many are squatters making homes out of tombs of the dead. In some cases, family members of the dead pay the residents to protect and maintain the tomb. The City of the Dead has grown into a kind of unofficial city that lies beyond Cairo and it has its own regulations and gangs that control it. There are outdoor food markets inside of it, slums, and prostitutes. I visited it once during the day and again at night. During the day it is safe, but you are advised to bring a knowledgeable guide who knows where to go and where not to. Even so, my guide was very concerned at times especially whenever there were young men or teenagers nearby who could be drug addicted gang members who wouldn’t hesitate to rob us with whatever makeshift weapon they have on their person. When I visited the city at night, all doors were kept locked, and we kept the windows up so none could see that there were foreigners inside.

Some of the tombs are very exquisite like the tombs of various Egyptian sultans over the centuries. While others appear to be abandoned and run down. The city also has incredible views of the looming citadel in the background. The Citadel competes with the pyramids for being the greatest and most beautiful monument in Cairo. It was built by Saladin the great inn 1176. Saladin the Great was the commander of the Arab armies who recaptured Jerusalem and formed an Islamic Caliphate across the Arab world.

I explored some of the tombs and had dinner in one of the outdoor cafes, speaking with locals including one prostitute who asked me if I would marry her and take her back to America. The city of the Dead is not commercialized in any way and few drivers that i asked were even willing to take me there and my Egyptian friends were not interested in going and warned me not to go. I doubt it is as dangerous as everyone thinks but then again i wouldn’t walk around it at night by myself either.

View of the Citadel of Saladin the Great from the City of the Dead

Streets of tombs in the City of the Dead

Food vender in City of Dead

A woman I spoke to that claimed to be a prostitute and asked if I would marry her

Tombs where squatters also live

View from one of the tombs of the Sultans

Tombs of Sultans from Old Cairo

Tombs of Sultans from Old Cairo

Tombs of Sultans from Old Cairo

Squatter sitting beside one of the tombs at night

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