Accommodation - Hotels are at their most dense around the business district of Tahrir Square and Opera Square. There are further concentrations across the river in the dull but still noisy and traffic-laden W suburbs of Mohandessin and Dokki, around the airport and at Giza. If choosing a central base, it is advisable to ensure it is well soundproofed unless you are insensitive to a 24-hr cacophony of car horns. The majority of hotels have security guards and electronic alarm gates at the entrance.
Shopping - The main shopping streets are near the Egyptian Museum, although most of the available goods are pretty shoddy; a visit to the giant Khan el Khalili bazaar is of more interest as far as souvenir and "atmosphere" shopping are concerned. A few modern shopping centres including Arkadia on the Corniche and an elegant mall in the Four Seasons hotel complex. Other street markets worth visiting: Wekala al Balaq for fabrics including Egyptian cotton, the tentmakers' bazaar for applique work and the camel market ? for local colour rather than serious shopping!
Attractions - Popular attractions include various city and museum tours (an English-speaking guide or good guide book is essential) taking in the Egyptian Museum (including Hall of Mummies), 590-ft-high Cairo Tower for panoramic city views, Islamic Arts Museum, 18th-century Seheimy House and the Blue Mosque, founded in 1347; Pharaonic Village, a recreation of everyday life in ancient Egypt; swimming pools, health clubs and tennis at the smarter hotels; more tennis and horse racing at Gezira Sporting Club; 9-hole golf course; Nile trips, particularly in a traditional felucca; horse riding at the Pyramids.
Nightlife - By night there is a broad selection of discos, piano bars and a few hotel casinos; plenty of exotic shows, live bands and belly-dancers; thrice-nightly sound-and-light show at the foot of the Sphinx (check for times of English-language performances); theatre, dance and concert performances at the Opera House.
Restaurants/Bars - There are a range of restaurants, but you have to hunt for the quality establishments if you dine outside the hotels. Varied cuisine including Lebanese, Moroccan, French, Italian, Indian, Japanese and Chinese along with traditional Egyptian. Dinner cruises along the Nile are very popular. Levels of hygiene are often poor, however, even in hotels, and it is not unusual for tourists to get stomach upsets; be wary about what and where you eat and use bottled water, even for brushing teeth.
Getting around - Getting around Cairo can be difficult. Buses are not recommended because of overcrowding, hair-raising boarding practices and few printed schedules. The French-built underground (Metro) is a cheap, efficient and cleaner alternative. Taxis are metered, although the meters are rarely used, so ensure you agree the fare before setting off. It is helpful to have the name of your hotel or destination written down in Arabic. Beware: drivers tend to have a "kamikaze" streak to cope with the chaotic traffic conditions. Trains go to Luxor and Aswan and long-distance buses are also available but internal flights are the quickest and most efficient way to cover long distances.
Excursions - Popular excursions include a trip to the village of Harraneya for locally made tapestries and carpets. Full day tours to the Great Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, 10 mls from the city centre, including camel rides around the Pyramids, antiquities at Memphis and Sakkara; Fayoum Oasis; Suez, by car or bus; port of Alexandria.
Nile river running through Cairo
The funeral mask of Tutankhamun on display at the Cairo Museum