Traveling solo presents a singular set of perks and challenges, which is why having the right recommendations for venues and activities is paramount to the success of the trip—especially in a destination like Cairo.
Known as “The City of a Thousand Minarets,” Cairo is so robust and complex, even its guidebooks can be overwhelming. The following are a selection of our favorite easy-to-navigate Cairo haunts (with insight from Amr Helmy, chief concierge at Conrad Cairo) that suits the solo artist in us all.
Everyone will tell you that Egypt’s greatest attractions are easy to explore whether you’re with a group or traveling solo. But Helmy says seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx on your own gets you an Egyptologist’s undivided attention. Be sure to walk through the Egyptian Museum, just up the Nile Corniche from the hotel. It houses 160,000 artifacts spanning more than five millennia of the country’s history. Helmy suggests prioritizing the King Tut relics, which occupy nearly half of the second floor.
Then, turn back time in Islamic Cairo. Founded in the 10th century, this pocket of the city teems with visual surprises, from the Mosque of al-Hakim and its ornate minarets to the Qalawun complex, which features stunning examples of Mamluk architecture. For something more relaxing, take a cruise on the Nile from Dok Dok Felucca, where an erasold sailboat languorously travels back and forth between Tahrir Square and the Cairo University Bridge. It’s especially popular during sunset. So plentiful are these boats that Helmy says you needn’t worry about making reservations in advance.
Conrad Cairo’s curated selection of kitchens is perfect for solo travelers, but there are plenty of off-site eateries that Helmy says will familiarize you with the national cuisine in no time. Abou El Sid in the affluent Zamalek district is a Cairo tried-and-true restaurant that’s as popular with travelers as it is with locals. They come for the kitschy interiors (there’s almost a clandestine atmosphere) and the solid menu of Egyptian classics, such as a fortifying main course of chicken with creamy walnut sauce.
Helmy also recommends partaking in more casual culinary experiences, like heading downtown for a carb-loading lunch of koshary. This historic dish (that Egyptians have been enjoying since the 19th century) layers rice, macaroni, lentils, chunky tomato sauce and crispy fried onions. Afterward, you may want to burn some of it off with the mile-and-a-half-long walk back to the hotel. Helmy also recommends Koshary Abou Tarek, where the service is lightning quick and the koshary is super fresh.
The city of Cairo offers a truly diverse retail landscape, starting with its myriad markets and bazaars, which can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. There are lots of vendors who want your attention, and unless you’re an expert on a specific craft (from papyrus to pottery), it’s not always easy to know whether the inventory in question is authentic. Still, the people-watching is unparalleled.
Helmy suggests checking out Mobaco Cottons, which has been plying high-quality Egyptian cotton since the 1970s. Here, you can stock up on clothing (from vibrantly printed dresses to polo shirts) for the entire family. For a more upscale shopping experience, the hotel often points guests to the Gezira Island storefront of jeweler Azza Fahmy, who’s famous for collaborations with the likes of Rihanna. Fahmy’s work infuses necklaces, bracelets and cufflinks with ancient history and Egyptian motifs. Sterling silver cuffs are etched with Arabic calligraphy, and dramatic necklaces feature Roman coin centerpieces.