From snow in Hurghada to weeks without the sun in Cairo, most would not hesitate to say this year’s winter has been especially cold. Considering Egypt tends to be a very food-focused culture, a simple way of coping with the winter would be to stay in, and bask in homemade soups, however, there are more opportunities to enjoy the capital without resorting to carb-loading.
This winter, one can break the pattern with 5 alternative activities.
Painting by the Nile – Paint and Sip by Brush It
If you’re an art buff, and you enjoy creating your own, Brush It offers Cairenes an opportunity to unwind, with a brush and easel in hand.
‘Brush It’ holds the ‘paint and sip’ space in the Gezira Sofitel Hotel, where one can get creative with the company, overlooking a gorgeous view of the Nile.
Paint and Sip are open to artists, art enthusiasts, and beginners alike; all are guided by an artist in the creation of their painting, with complimentary drinks and snacks.
Brush It describes the sessions as a “paint party,” and the Cairo venue’s alternative is located in Gouna.
Book a session through their website
Everywhere one looks in Cairo, there is always something that catches the eye. From the beautiful woodwork in downtown Ahawi to the original architecture of Korba, to even the graffiti etched on the walls – the ‘city of a thousand minarets’ promises a little bit of its soul to all visitors and residents. One aspect it is particularly famous for is its history.
If you’re into walking tours, think of initiatives ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ or “Cairo D-Tour’. Both promise to unpeel a little bit more of the city’s historical, social and architectural secrets.
On a fine Friday morning, it is worth walking around in Zamalek, or Downtown, with endless hidden allies full of galleries, restaurants, and bazaars to discover.
Visit the Aquarium Grotto Garden
The Zamalek Grotto Garden was created by Khedive Ismail in 1867, 145 years later, Khedewy Ismail established the Aquarium.
Originally, only the elite of society would visit the green little space on the island; in 1902, it was reopened for the public.
The best aspect of the garden is the architectural structure posited in its center. Built akin to a cave, sunlight sneaks through the walls in the most idyllic way.
All year long, the space is also dedicated to flea markets on the weekends, where the local residents need not travel far for homemade specialties.
For more information
Go ‘ Library Hopping’
Although hidden to the naked eye, there are numerous interesting libraries in Cairo, with rare books to peruse.
One can start at the ‘Greater Cairo Public Library’ in Mohamed Mazhar Street, Zamalek. The library is located in an antique villa that used to belong to Princess Samiha Kamel, the daughter of Sultan Hussein Kamel. The villa overlooks the Nile River, one can easily spend the day there with a cup of good coffee and one of the thousands of educational books featured in the library.
One of the building’s most famous aspects is the beautiful staircase leading to the second floor, adorned with a bright red carpet. As well as the intricate ceiling design that has bewildered many visitors. Having been established over 100 years ago, the library still remains lively as ever, it is not odd to find an array of students studying in the library at any time of day, or to walk into an event on a random Tuesday.
Then, book enthusiasts can head to the ‘National Library’ (aka Dar el Kotob or the National Institute of Archives) on the Nile Corniche. Established 152 years ago, it’s the first-ever book house to ever exist in Egypt, Ali Pasha Mubarak suggested it to the Khedive Ismail in 1870, as a way to collect and archive manuscripts and documents that have been seized by Sultans, Princes, and Scholars. These documents then formed a public library, which then got moved to its current location.
The library houses thousands of documents discussing almost any subject that comes to mind, more interestingly, they feature a huge academic section, filled with Egyptian historical documents.
For more local ‘bookworm gems’, find it here.
A more eco-friendly, less expensive, and nifty way of shopping is thrift, which has recently become available in Cairo. While many shops are online, a few are hidden in Zamalek, Downtown, and Maadi.
A tentative route for thrifting for the day would be to start early in Zamalek and move your way around to Downtown, and eventually Maadi.
Debatably the best place to thrift in Cairo would be ‘El- Wekala’ ( aka Wekalet el Ballah) market. The centuries-old market is located in the Boulak Abou el Ela district, it’s rich in Egyptian history and heritage. The Wekala market is identifiable by its rows and rows of shops and its bustling crowd of visitors.
In el Wekala, one can find a mix of high-end brands that simply never made it to the shops, some reselling items, and Egyptian brands. Although, it has to be mentioned that it is not a safe place to go during COVID, due to the large masses and the lack of safety regulations.
A good idea is for one to have a list of select items prepared beforehand, to double layer their masks, and always carry sanitizer. After getting the clothes, it’s important to remember to dry clean, and disinfect them.