My City Celebrates: Nick’s Cairo

This year, inspired by our ever-popular “I Heart My City”

series on Intelligent Travel, we’re reveling in the holiday season by asking our readers to share their favorite ways to celebrate in their cities. Today’s city-lover is Nick Rowlands, who gives us an ironic twist on Christmas in Cairo.

What to share the things that make your city special?

We’ve put together a festively-themed fill-in-the-blank questionnaire, and we’d love to hear your responses. So cut and paste the list, fill in your answers, and e-mail us your picks at intelligenttravel@ngs.org.

(Please include links and photos if possible). We’ll be featuring your “My City Celebrates” posts through the New Year, click here for a list of cities we’ve featured so far. Happy Holidays!

My City Celebrates: Cairo

When I need a dose of holiday cheer, I always head to Zamalek. This posh island is overrun with expats, so the shops are full of Christmas trees and Santas, and you can almost convince yourself that Christmas matters here!

The best place to grab a cup of sahlab (a sort of sweet, hot custard drink with nuts) is at Cedars. Combine with a shisha pipe for the ultimate in mellow comfort. 

If you want to find great sledding you have to head to a different part of the world… Lebanon should do it!

Strap on your skates at Genena Mall, and enjoy the view of the locals gawking at the funny foreigner wobbling around the ice!

For a classic holiday photo op, be sure to check out Dr Ragab’s Pharaonic Village, which is known for its kitschy ancient Egyptian costumes. Take along a Santa hat, and indulge in some proper cultural confusion.

A great place to take the kids during the season is Dream Park. They may not meet Santa, but at least they get to ride a Big Wheel!

For all of your gift-giving shopping in one store, check out Yadawee – beautiful handicrafts from all over Egypt.

The area around Khan el-Khalili has the best markets. Be sure to pick up a pyramid-in-a-sandstorm paperweight for your ultimate anti-snowglobe gift.

No holiday meal in my city is complete without reminiscing about the bacon-wrapped sausages your family will be enjoying back home.

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My favorite holiday tradition in my city is spending the night in the desert on Christmas Eve: the stars are positively biblical, and if you stock up on incense and facial hair, you can get that whole wise-man thing going!

Locals know to avoid the throngs in the expat restaurants and bars, and find the real magic in the Church of St. Sergius in Coptic Cairo – where the Holy Family are said to have sheltered during their flight to Egypt.

The best part about my city during the holiday season is that Coptic Christians celebrate on the 7th of January, so there’s something to look forward to after the hangover of New Year’s Day!

Follow Nick on Twitter at @pharaonick.
For more on Cairo, check out our 48 Hours guide to the city.

Photo by Graham Harrison/Alamy

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