Cairo/Downtown

Midan Talaat Harb

Downtown Cairo is the commercial heart of the modern city of Cairo, centered on Midan Talaat Harb and located to the east and north-east of Midan Tahrir (Tahrir Square). Formerly known as Midan Ismaili until it was renamed on the 2nd of September 1954 by president Nasser as Midan Tahrir "Liberation Square". Midan Tahrir was the location of Africa's first Hilton hotel, which is now under renovation under the name of Nile Ritz Carlton. The other imposing building on Midan Tahrir opposite the Egyptian museum, is the bay-fronted government Moga'maa building opened in 1952 which houses the bureaucratic offices, and where visitors can renew or extened their Egyptian visas. Although lacking in obvious tourist "attractions", Downtown is nonetheless the convenient location of many smaller hotels, retail outlets, travel agencies and restaurants that would be of interest to the traveller. The district's central location makes it, together with Midan Tahrir, a natural "jumping off point" for exploration of the city. The east end of Downtown is marked by Midan Ataba, the starting point of Islamic Cairo.

Understand

History

Downtown Cairo's wide boulevards and streets were laid out in the late 19th century on the orders of Ismail the Magnificent, the Paris of Baron Hausmann being the obvious model for a ruler wishing to Europeanise his capital and his country. The architecture of many buildings is clearly redolent of Paris in the 1870s, if now somewhat run down from neglect and dusty from the Cairene climate.

Orientation

Downtown Cairo's main thoroughfare's are Sharia(St) Talaat Harb and Sharia(St) Qasr El-Nil, intersecting at the central junction of Midan Talaat Harb. Previously known as Soliman Pasha St, before being renamed on the 12th Feb 1964 to Talaat Harb St.The statue of the French General Jean Anthelme Seve also known as Soliman Pasha Al Faransawi, stood where the statue of Talaat Harb, founder of the Banque Misr now stands.Cairienes know this street by both names.

Be warned, all hotels/hostels as well as individuals who work the street in downtown will try to sell you vastly overpriced tours around Egypt. They can be very forceful at times as the competition for tourists is strong and they want to take money from you before the next one gets to you. Do not let yourself be bullied into taking one of these until you have spoken to fellow travelers who can give you a more neutral opinion. In fact there are very few places in Egypt where it would be necessary to organize tours from the capital, and fewer where it would be financially advantageous.

If you are a confident traveler and used to navigating your way around cities, then Cairo should be no different for you. Downtown has many small tourist oriented tour kiosks. The problem that visitors face is these tours often are inflated in price and always include at least 2 stops to 'uncles' perfume, papyrus, or handicraft shops. This takes away many hours from the tour itself and time at monuments in the hope that at least a few from the coach will buy something.

The better option would be negotiate a taxi for the day. Stop a few taxis and ask what the price would be for a whole day of sightseeing at the places you want to visit. If the price is mutual, a taxi driver will be happy to escort you around town and wait hours in the shade outside for you if he is sure of a good fare at the end of the day instead of driving around Cairo looking for fares.

Get in

The Main traffic hub of Cairo Downtown is at Abdel Mo'nem Riyad Station.

By metro

As of late 2013, the station is closed and metros don't stop at the Sadat metro station, which is located at Midan Tahrir, right beside the Egyptian Museum. From Midan Tahrir, Downtown Cairo is readily accessible, with only a 10 minute easy walk to the centre of the district, via Talaat Harb Street, however, walking in that areas especially at night is dangerous, as Tahrir Square has become one of the most dangerous spots in Greater Cairo, since 2011 (see Cairo/Midan Tahrir#Stay safe). You can take the metro from the Sadat station to the rail station (Mubarak station) or to Coptic Cairo (Mar Girgis station).

The area is currently accessed through the two farther stations, Mohamed Naguib or Gamal Abdel Nasser.

By bus

By Local Coach

The Abdel Mo'nem Riyad Coach Station a five minute walk from Tahrir Sq and behind the Egyptian Museum lies four coach stations. One is the micro-bus station, and alongside is the local bus station serving the areas of Giza, Ma'adi, Helwan, Sheikh Zayid City. The third serving the East of Cairo i.e. Heliopolis, Medinet Nasr, Cairo Airport, and El Rehab.

By Intercity Coach

The fourth station on Abdel Mo'nem Riyad Station, is across the road from the other three stations and this is where you can board the Intercity Coaches. The offices and bookings of Superjet, East Delta, West Delta, and El Gouna are here with destinations including Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, Ras Sidr, El Gouna, Alexandria, Delta Cities, Marsa Matrouh, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, El Tur, El Arish, Nuweiba, Dahab, Rafah, etc.

By taxi

Taxis to/from Zamalek, to Downtown should cost around 5 LE and to Citadel, Coptic Cairo or Islamic Cairo should cost around LE 10. Do not let the taxi driver choose you. You choose him and always look confident and that you use them regularly. Flag one down, hop in and always sit in the back of the cab. Try not to get into any discussion with the driver. Simply state your destination and look out the window. Ignore any chat if you can. Egyptians do not chat with drivers on the whole. Avoid eye contact especially in the mirror. Do not confirm the fare before getting in. No resident of Cairo does this, you should always pay afterwards, (after) you have stepped out of the cab, with no discussion of the price (unless the taxi driver thinks you've given him an unfair price). If you are obviously a tourist with your Lonely Planet Guide, North Face backpack, and are wearing shorts then you can sometimes expect an argument even if you have offered the correct price. Either pay him more to keep the peace (odds are he needs the money more than you) or just walk away. To avoid any confrontation regarding price, choose a cab from the new yellow, or white with black ones with meters.Then add a few LE tip if you so choose. A great look into the life of the average Cairo Taxi driver can be found in the excellent book 'Taxi' by Khalid El Khamissi. After reading that you may become more sympathetic to their daily struggle for business.

Get around

See

Do

Ta'kiba Coffee shop is a short walk away by the wrongly named Champollion Palace,on Champollion Street,and round the corner from the Townhouse Gallery and Theater. The gallery has a clean toilet for public use.

Buy

Midan Talaat Harb

The Downtown district of Cairo features a number of Egyptian department stores. These were once fantastic emporiums, full of the world's best products - until July 1961 when every one of Egypt's great department stores were nationalized. Those days are long gone, but quality shopping has moved to upmarket malls in Heliopolis, Nasr City, Maadi and other upscale neighborhoods. Today, Downtown is the place to go for cheap fakes and local produce of variable quality and the full range of Arabic pop music (and films).

The Midan Ataba area is home to large bookseller markets, where you can find inexpensive books, as well as electronics and clothing markets. Near the main post office, there are vendors selling stationary and cards. Talaat Harb Street is the place to find shoes, with one shoe store after another.

Eat

Downtown is not the main haunt for the greatest of culinary treats, although quality eating does exist. It's however heaven for Egyptian snacks, sweets and fast food. All restaurants under "splurge" serve alcohol unless otherwise noted.

Budget

Mid-range

Groppi's cafe in Talaat Harb

Splurge

Drink

Coffee houses

Downtown is a primary walk for coffee houses and almost every side-street has one. However, some areas and street have clusters of small places which makes for a very lively atmosphere.

Bars

Sleep

Downtown Cairo is full of cheap but often dirty hostels and hotels.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

There are a handful of internet cafes around Midan Talaat Harb.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 09, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.