Romancing the Orient

May 17, 2013 No Comments by

Looking for somewhere different for a romantic trip? I bet Egypt isn’t the first place on your list – BUT – have a read of this and maybe you’ll change your mind.

When planning a romantic trip for two, specific locations spring to mind including Paris, Florence, New York or (insert Caribbean island here). I wouldn’t expect Egypt to even be in your top 10.

Considering the recent revolution and political conflicts that still take hold of the country, great pyramid giza, romantic trip, photo credit Nastassja SmartEgypt has seen a drastic decline in tourism which has had a hugely damaging impact on its tourist industry. In March the New York Times ranked it as the last place on the tourism list due to political unrest resulting in street violence and an unstable economy.

I recently spent 10 days in Cairo. Though frustrating at times, my partner and I managed to have an interesting and insightful trip. This article is for the adventurers, the brave at heart and for those of you who might just be a little bit curious about the land of ten thousand minarets…

Look up, you’re in Cairo! This should be the city’s motto. Take a trip to Old Cairo to experience the Islamic heritage of the city. Towering above you in all their splendour, the minarets (mosque towers) pierce the clear blue skies, each one competing with the next. Take a taxi to Al-Azhar Street and make your way through Medieval Islamic Cairo. Start off on Muizz Street which hosts the largest concentration of medieval architecture in the Muslim world. Here also is your chance to break off the main path, get lost walking down the winding cobbled streets and visit the metal beaters and spice markets. One word of advice, do not allow yourself to be followed by locals offering to take you to “the real medieval market stalls”, they’ll walk you around aimlessly, showing you their friend’s stalls which usually sell cheap products made in China. At the end of your tour they’ll expect some money or for you to buy perfume from their shop and if you refuse they can get angry so watch out for these nifty merchants.

islamic cairo, romantic trip, photo credit Nastassja SmartWhilst in Islamic Cairo you’ll want to visit mosques. I would suggest those on Muizz Street as well as the great Mosque of Al-Azhar which is on Al-Azhar Street. Ladies should cover up, which means full length trousers/skirt and a top that covers your arms down to the wrists and especially your chest. Carrying a pashmina around with you is also handy as you must cover your hair. I also suggest wearing shoes that you can easily slip off and can carry around in your hands as there are men who sit at the entrance of mosques who will try to charge you to put your shoes away, this isn’t necessary. Be aware of “tour guides”, more often than not they don’t speak a word of English. They’ll walk you around for 5 minutes then take you into a dark hidden room to ask for money and they will insist until you give them lots of money!

If you got through Islamic Cairo and loved it, you’ll also enjoy the Saladin Citadel of Cairo. The citadel is located on a hill that towers over the city, a reminder of the great Salah al-Din who fortified the citadel during the 12th century in order to protect it from the Crusades. Here you have a panoramic view of the city with the pyramids of Giza in the distance. The Mosque of Mohammed Ali is a work of architectural genius and the good thing is that this appears to be a harassment free zone and one of the only tourist sites where you’ll find tourist police.

Another fantastic and merchant free zone is Coptic Cairo. Ask your driver to drop you off at Mar Girgis metro and bear witness to Cairo’s once thriving Coptic Christian community. The walls of the medieval quarter will shade you from the sun. I suggest paying a visit to the Hanging Church.

Finally you can’t visit Cairo without seeing the pyramids right? If you’re not the patient type then I’d suggest viewing the pyramids from a nearby hotel such as the Hilton. On entry to the pyramids you’ll be constantly harassed by merchants trying to offer you camel, horse, cart rides, postcards, water, plastic pyramids and the list goes on. Try not to lose your patience with them as there’s nothing worse than being emotionally blackmailed for not paying for rides to feed half the camels of Cairo! Once inside the pyramids you are left to explore the wonders of the world in peace.

Tips:mosque mohammed ali, romantic trip, photo credit Nastassja Smart

-Zamalek is the most Westerner friendly region of Cairo. It boasts the cleanest hotels, finest dinning and beautiful colonial period architecture (most of which buildings are now embassies)

-Take a taxi – taxis are the safest mode of transport in Cairo, especially for women. Try to bargain a price with the driver before your trip, the pyramids at Giza should cost no more than 200LE for a round trip

-Roof top bars – I would suggest the roof top bar in Zamalek just off Brazil Street. Relax, eat some nibbles and smoke some sheesha, minimum of 50LE (£5) per head, an absolute bargain!

-You can’t beat a merchant/harassment free romantic walk along the banks of the Nile during sunset.

This lovely Dating Symbol blog post is by Nastassja – an Art History postgraduate student with a passion to travel. You can visit her blog for more travel and lifestyle news at .

Editor Note: I haven’t been to Egypt yet but this post has made it look as if it can definitely be a romantic trip to remember.

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