Looking for things to do in Cairo? Welcome to one of my favorite, and most fascinating countries in the world. Having spent several days in the city of Cairo, along with speaking to the locals and a couple of close friends born in Egypt, this travel blog is intended to share the experience and knowledge gained to help you enjoy your trip to the max while being respectful to local culture.
Egypt is bursting with an array of incredible sights, ancient history and beautiful people, and despite controversy, Cairo tourism has really started to pick up. Before you go, there are a few travel tips that are critical in having the best experience Egypt has to offer. In this travel blog, we will cover what you should know before you visit Cairo mosques in Egypt in order to maximize your time, save money, and understand what to wear and how to get around the beautiful, ancient city.
Map out your favorite mosques in advance
There are over 1,000 mosques in Cairo alone, some dating back to the very beginning periods of Islam itself. As such, the architecture is enough to leave any cultural traveler awestruck by their unmatched beauty. If you want to see the the most famous mosques in Egypt, be sure to map out your trip in advance.
Mosques can range from small, subtle structures intended for prayer, while others resemble medieval castles towering over the city. If your primary purpose is to get a view of the most renowned, stately mosques in Egypt, Cairo is the place to start, where most tourist mosques are located. Having toured nearly two-dozen on my last journey through Egypt, here is a list you’re definitely not going to want to miss.
Famous Mosques to Visit in Cairo
- Mosque of Muhammed Ali
- Mosque of Amr Ibn Al-as
- Mosque of Ibn Tulun
- Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
- Al-Nasser Mohammed Mosque
- Aqsunqur Mosque
- Al-Azhar Mosque
How much to tip in Egypt
While this travel tip applies to all of Egypt as a whole, one might not expect to be on-guard for tipping scams during religious tours. However, don’t be fooled. Egypt is notorious for tipping scams on vulnerable travelers, even inside and the surrounding areas of mosques. Understand the tipping scale before you travel, and make thoughtful contributions accordingly.
You can find a chart of appropriate tipping charges the locals would expect to pay on Trip Advisor’s travel guide to Egypt. According to their chart, 100 LE is a generous tip for a tour guide taking you through the city for a full day (around $5 USD). Tips for drivers, meals and other services are even less. However, I have often heard the argument that while this is the standard price for locals, it is a kind-hearted gesture to tip closer to US standards.
To those who much is given, much can be expected. If your journey includes soul searching and spreading love along the way, you may find yourself more inclined to tip generously. A few extra dollars may not mean much to you, but it could mean a lot more to someone else. We found that even while negotiating prices for cars and services, we preferred the feel-good aspect of tipping more in the end. Just be well informed and intentional about your decisions, rather than getting scammed into paying more that what is expected.
Get a personal driver
Did you know Egypt has Uber? Incredible right? But before you tap that app, understand that it doesn’t quite work the same everywhere in the world. Having traveled several countries using Uber, we found that you could wait for unreasonable amounts of time for your driver to arrive. Then, when they were finally just moments away, the driver would cancel and you’d be waiting up to hours to get your ride arranged by the end of it.
Do you know what to do in Cairo when you’re stuck without a driver or other forms of transportation and don’t speak the language? Neither do I.
Instead, arrange for a driver. The cost of living in Cairo is 73.78% lower than that of NYC. In fact, the average net salary is just $178.26 net per month. What does that mean translated into traveling to Egypt and arranging for drivers? You’re cost is going to be exceptionally low, and well worth the investment of having a local drive you around. 400 LE (around $23) should cover your costs of a driver for 4-6 hours of travel time with a few stops. You will be expected to tip, so be sure to reference the tipping rate above!
A travel tip to make touring Egypt even easier – exchange your phone number with the driver if they provided good service. More than likely, they’ll be happy to work around your schedule during your entire stay. We opted for the same driver during our 4-day visit to Cairo, and it was helpful to have him understand the type of places we were trying to see, food preferences, etc.
What to wear in a mosque
Egypt is a heavily Muslim country. As such, be respectful in your clothing choices, especially while touring their places of worship. Just as you wouldn’t expect to see a women in a red sequins mini-dress in a church in the US (though it is technically allowed), you should not expect to see an access of skin or form-fitting clothes in an Egypt mosque.
Attempt to fully cover bare skin with loose-fitting clothes. You can also bring a scarf to cover your shoulders or other areas if the mosque attendants see fit to ask you to cover yourself more fully. The climate in Egypt is scorching, so opt for light-colored, lightweight materials that will allow your skin to breathe though the fabrics.
Egyptians love luxury fashion brands and have a great appreciation for style, so don’t feel like you need to go grunge. Just be mindful of your surroundings and dress respectfully.
You might need to walk barefoot
If you have a weird distaste for feet or being barefoot, consider yourself warned. Many mosques do not allow any kind of footwear in the inner-most places of worship. While some mosques provided sock-like footwear to borrow for a donation, this is not always the case. If you want a full-tour and don’t want your feet in someone else’s socks (literally), bring a pair of lightweight socks you can slip in and out of while you’re in the inner sanctuaries.
Bring water and snacks for your mosque tour
Prepare yourself for a long day. With so many beautiful mosques to see, you may find it difficult to slip away for a solid bite to eat or drink during your hop about. Bring a bag with some light snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated during your travel. If you have a driver, you can leave your non-valuable items in the car to take short refreshment breaks between stops.
People will probably stare
If you’ve done a lot of international traveling, you’re probably already familiar with the blatant stares you may get from the locals. Don’t be offended, they’re just not all as used to seeing a variety of faces as you are. While it may be considered rude or inappropriate to stare in the US, it’s a much more widely accepted behavior in many other countries.
From children to men and women, we not only remarked on many prolonged gazes, we were also often asked for photographs, or fallowed through the streets and mosques. If you’re uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to Kindly request to be un-disturbed. Traveling in a group or with mixed genders can also impact the amount of contact you receive from curious standbys.
The focus may be on you, but if you focus on the beauty around you, you’ll be able to see past the stares and into the eyes of your surroundings.
Be respectful while visiting Egyptian mosques
Don’t forget while visiting mosques in Egypt or other foreign destinations, you are in someone else’s country, not your own. It is not their responsibility to adapt to your culture, rather it is yours to learn and adapt to your surroundings. Be respectful to the local culture and people, understanding that their views, standards, and lifestyle may differ greatly from your own.
Many popular travel blogs only provide tips on the exciting places to see. As a travel blogger who has had the opportunity to visit many places around the world, I’ve found that understanding people and being respectful of other cultures is one of the most important aspects of international travel – and also the most rewarding. Through other’s eyes, we are able to expand our view and perception of the world, and evolve into more open and understanding people to the great expanse the universe has to offer. If you’re able to let go of pre-conceived notions and ideas, you will find that a variety of cultures is a beautiful thing, and once you can see beyond that, we are all just unique, beautiful people in the end.
I find some of the best travel blogs to be those that help me in my journey ahead, and I hope these Egypt travel tips are helpful to you in providing insight into Cairo travel and visiting the famous mosques of Egypt. Journey well my friends! Learn more about traveling in Egypt on my post listing 10 things you won’t want to forget to pack!