Imagine traveling somewhere that not only has towering triangles made of sand but is also full of hands-on grandmothers and affable aunties eager to entertain at every turn.
Welcome to Cairo, where visiting with kids can sometimes feel like you’re constantly carrying a large banner that reads: “People of Egypt, take care of us!”
Is Cairo good for kids?
The allure of Egypt’s capital is less in its (minimal) carefree open spaces and more in the bustle and friendliness of its people and street animals; in its sights, sounds and smells. (Hello dogs and cats and, if you’re lucky, weasels.)
Cairo is easier with tweenagers and teenagers. The public spaces and buildings are generally not built with the safety of pedestrians (young or old) in mind. Toddlers will need helicopter supervision.
Nursing mums on the move can make use of the Metro’s women-only carriages. Above ground, strollers are not practical for Cairo’s untrustworthy kerb drops; a sturdy baby carrier will serve you much better with babies and toddlers. Walking reins may even be a safe bet.
Cairo’s public toilets are either absent or not worth the risk. However, restaurants will happily move heaven and earth so you can remove heaven and earth from your offspring’s nappy. The plush malls in the more well-to-do areas of Maadi, Nasr City and New Cairo do have areas for nappy changing and baby nursing.
Egyptians are direct about giving children unsolicited cheek pinches and/or pecks to any and all children. On leaving a shop, it’s not unusual to discover your offspring has become the proud owner of a brace of lemons and a quiver of lollipops, all garnered from the cashier, or a kindly customer.
Where is best in Cairo for children
The area around the Citadel is a top spot for all the family. Parents can take in a museum or mosque (or three) while the children play “spot the Pyramids among the tower blocks” or tear around the spacious medieval courtyards.
Just down the road, Al-Azhar Park is ideal for more running about (or, inshallah, napping) or even a picnic, before moving on in the evening to the bustling market of Khan El-Khalili next door for a family-friendly feast for all the senses and a tanoura dance show.
Best things to do in Cairo with babies and toddlers
Get to the parks
With Giza Zoo closed until early 2025 due to restoration, Al-Azhar Park is the place to go in the Downtown-adjacent area for green space. If you are staying in New Cairo or Nasr City, head to Family Park. Both parks have large, open spaces and sandy play areas. Family Park trumps Al-Azhar with its mini zoo and rapids ride. Bring your own food.
Escape to a family wellness retreat
For an oasis of calm amid the chaos of Cairo, head to Osana Wellness in Maadi. It has a restaurant with vegan options, a space for you to work (while your children are taken care of), yoga and meditation classes (for children and adults), a garden for some respite and a dedicated babies’ area.
Best things to do in Cairo with kids
Get your hands dirty
If you want to combine green space with hands-on fun, check out Woods Artground at Merryland Park in Heliopolis, where your kids can get stuck into a range of activities like painting, gardening, pottery and more.
Tick off the Pyramids
If your children haven’t learnt about ancient Egypt at school yet, they will do so soon. The Pyramids are unmissable, literally. Plus, your kids will get some exercise in the desert and see some camels too.
Watch out for vendors handing out “freebies” to kids when you’re not looking, as they’ll often then demand money from you, the hapless parents.
Get up close and personal with mummies
If you plan on visiting Cairo before February 2024, you’ll have the chance to peek inside the Grand Egyptian Museum whose doors have temporarily opened for Tutankhamun: The Immersive Exhibition. The immersive exhibition is a large hall where the story of Tutankhamun is played via a 360-degree audio and visual projection.
There’s nothing specifically geared to kids here, but they’ll certainly enjoy running about on the illuminated floors and jumping on giant (animated) lily pads. Note: the museum itself does not recommend children younger than six attend (possibly due to sensory overload with all the lights).
Around like a record, baby…
Catch a traditional tanoura show where whirling dervishes spin around in a flash of mesmerizing color in Wikala al-Ghouri in Old Cairo. Shows start at 7pm or 7:30pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays (be there by 6pm to secure your tickets). There’s often at least one clownish character among the troupe who’s sure to keep the young ones engaged.
Best things to do in Cairo with teenagers and tweenagers
Kayak or SUP on the Nile
For a really unique experience, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding on the Nile. Try Zamalek Kayak or Nile Kayak Club if you want to stay horizontal. (Also, check out Very Nile, a charity that frequently organizes volunteer river clean-ups by kayak.)
For the vertical adventurers, Cairow offers SUP sessions if you aren’t afraid of becoming one with the river. Follow this with a hearty sunset meal on a private felucca.
Play backgammon with the locals
Take your teens to any ahwa (a traditional street coffee house) in Downtown or Old Cairo. (Try Fishawy, the oldest in Cairo.) Order a drink and ask the waiter to bring a backgammon board (called “tawla”) or dominoes (“domino”). Sit back for the evening and watch your child(ren) learn a new game with new friends. Alternatively, get involved yourself and start a holiday tally. The overall winner gets a plate of basbousa (syrup-soaked semolina cake)!
- Buy a multi-use card for the Metro at any station. One card works for the whole family.
- Plan ahead with a local SIM card and data if you’re using Uber.
- Bring your own bottle. However, as the tap water is not safe to drink unfiltered, you can buy a big (19L) bottle to leave at your accommodation and refill your own bottles there.
- Cairo has an abundance of pharmacies that stay open until late and will provide basic assistance for your child’s ailments or point you to a specialist.