Downtown: Downtown Cairo

Posted On : 02/03/2023 Kate Clark 50
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In this article we are offering you a free tour presented by us as a Virtual Tour for Downtown Cairo which you can follow while staying at home, here are the points this tour covers:

The history of downtown Cairo?

The sites and restaurants to visit in downtown Cairo.

Points of interest ( food and drink ).

Downtown Cairo: West El Balad

The Egyptians refer to Downtown with the term "Wust el Balad", which could be understood poetically as "the heart of the country". This crowded and lively area of Cairo certainly lives up to its name.

In fact, it is not only the physical center of Cairo, but also the crossroads of its transport, business and culture, concentrated between Midan Talaat Harb and Midan Tahrir.

The Downtown complex was built in the 1880s as part of Khedive Ismail's largest modernization project in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

His goal was to make Cairo a European city, and he undertook this by hiring European architects to plan an entirely new section of the city with wide boulevards and an architectural style reminiscent of the Paris of the time.

The Khedive Ismail, when he visited Europe, was passionate about building, loving Western civilization and its architecture.

He always dreamed of making Cairo a piece of Paris, so when power was handed over to him in 1863, he set about realizing his dream, clearing the dust that surrounded it, planned and built Cairo's buildings on the European model to become a magical glittering city.

As the date for the opening of the Suez Canal approached, and given Cairo's reception of the kings and princes of European countries, Ismail wanted the Egyptian capital to be no less than its European counterparts.

Thus the Khedive built in an area of one square mile from Ismailia square ''Tahrir'' to Azbakeya Gardens, an integrated residential city in the style of the Austrian and Italian includes a social and political elite community.


The downtown area was not only a residential area but also witnessed the opening of a cluster of huge foreign-capitalized shops like Shamla, Shkorel and Sidnawi, and banks vied to find their headquarters.

The city center, where one of its cafés (Café Riche) hosted the meetings of the 1919 revolution, which stood against the British occupation and supported the leader Saad Zaghloul and his comrades in exile.

Within the middle of the last century, the downtown area, precisely at 4 go El-Sharif at the site of the old radio station, witnessed the delivery of a member of the free officers Muhammad Anwar Sadat, the famous declaration of the 1952 revolution.

In 1977, Tahrir Square in the center of the country witnessed demonstrations protesting President Sadat's decisions to raise prices, known as the January 18 and 19 events.

Downtown Cairo has remained a testament to Egypt's modern history, as Tahrir Square witnessed the January 25, 2011 revolutionary demonstrations against former President Hosni Mubarak.

The streets of downtown (Muhammad Mahmoud, Qasr al-Aini, Sheikh Rihan and others) have also witnessed protests, demonstrations and clashes in the transitional period that followed the fall of Mubarak.

Downtown Cairo and Tahrir Square also witnessed the June 30, 2013 demonstrations against former President Mohamed Morsi as well as the mandate of then Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to fight terrorism and celebrate his victory as president in the presidential election.

If you can cope with the traffic that chokes Downtown for most of the day, this will be an interesting place for an intensive walking tour in which to admire an important part of the period of Cairo's former greatness.

There are numerous famous corners in Downtown, as well as other less known ones that are still worth a visit for their historical significance in the cosmopolitan culture that animated the city during the twentieth century.

What to visit in downtown Cairo?

The Egyptian Museum

A must-see for any tourist visiting Cairo, this museum abounds with a myriad of Ancient Egyptian artifacts and much more evidence of the later influence due to the Greco-Roman period. Located in Midan Tahrir or it is called the Tahrir square. 

The Museum of Islamic Art

The museum is one of the largest Islamic museums in the world located in the area between Downtown and Islamic Cairo . This museum is lesser known than the others and simulates the Islamic rule of Egypt.

The museum is notable for its distinct architectural design, as well as artifacts, glass and metal utensils, some furniture, gemstones, and handwritten manuscripts in Arabic and English.

It also contains a collection in excellent condition of artifacts and architectural elements dating from the period after the arrival of Islam in Egypt. (641 AD)

Ticket prices: 10 Egyptian pounds for Egyptians and 100 Egyptian pounds for foreigners and Arabs.

Abdeen Palace

Abdin's Palace is one of Cairo's most important tourist attractions and traces the modern royal era in Egypt from the Khedive Ismail era to the departure of King Farouk and his family from Egypt after the July 1952 revolution.

Abdin's Palace includes many valuable possessions and furnishings for the royal family, as well as some of the artifacts donated by world leaders.

Ticket prices: 20 Egyptian pounds for Egyptians and 100 Egyptian pounds for foreigners and Arabs.

 The Coptic Museum

The Coptic Museum is the museum located next to the Roman Fortress of Babylon and the Hanging Church in the ancient region of Egypt, and is the largest museum including Egyptian Coptic antiquities in the world, with nearly 16,000 artifacts.

Ticket prices: 10 Egyptian pounds for Egyptians and 100 Egyptian pounds for foreigners.

The complex of religions

The interfaith complex combines "the Amr mosque, the hanging church and the Jewish synagogue", all close to each other at very mere distances, and was called the "interfaith complex" because it combined the three religions in one place contiguously.

Points of interest, Food and drink to try

Midan Falaki - this square and its environs east of Mudan Tahrir and south of Midan Talaat Harb, is bustlingly populated with a large number of classically styled cafes.

It is the ideal place to sit and have a coffee and watch the life of the city, while smoking a shisha or playing backgammon (tawla in Arabic). The Horreya cafe, in Midan Falaki is instead the ideal place for a beer or a coffee, in a very lively environment especially during the evening.

Stock Exchange - this pedestrianized area is located a couple of blocks northeast of Midan Talaat Harb, on Sharia Qasr Al Nil, with a plethora of outdoor cafes that are popular with young Cairo. Another great place to enjoy the view of city life, day or night.

Townhouse Gallery and Theater - art gallery and performance space that regularly hosts film screenings, art exhibitions and other genres of performing arts. It is located at the end of Sharia Mahmoud Bassiouni, northwest of Midan Talaat Harb. The gallery's website can be found at the following link:


Cafe' Riche - this restaurant was one of the main meeting places for Cairo's intellectual elite throughout the mid-twentieth century. Today it is a beer and good food joint on Talaat Harb. For a review, see the following link:


Cafe' Horreya - a unique café serving beer , and one of the nightlife hubs in Downtown, hosting a large Egyptian as well as foreign clientele.

The venue isn't particularly clean and tends to be quite noisy and smokey, but no less so than other typical downtown nightlife venues. Located in Midan Falaki.

Felfela - this restaurant is located in Sharia Talaat Harb and serves delicious Egyptian cuisine, as well as a fast food section where you can quickly grab a sandwich, which is equally delicious. 

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By Kate Clark

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