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Off The Beaten Path In Cairo: The Charming Streets Of Garden City

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5 months ago

For me, Cairo certainly wasn’t love at first sight. Between the traffic and the street vendors, Cairo quickly became the city of never-ending hassle. But after visiting every country, Cairo is perhaps my favorite city in the world. How? Well, I got off the beaten path in Cairo.

In my opinion, great cities of the world are made up of great neighborhoods or suburbs. The city within the city, with different unique architectural styles and subcultures. My main advice to anyone trying to plan a trip to Cairo: do your best to go beyond the shouting tour guides of the pyramids and the perfume sellers of Khan el-Khalili. Cairo’s real charm lies in its oases of serenity.

If I were a Cairo tour guide, I would take you on a Cairo city tour through the arched walkways of Heliopolis, or the rooftop bars of Zamalek. In short, let’s get off the beaten path in Cairo!

The unique architectural style of Garden City - a leafy neighbourhood that is the easiest way to get off the beaten path in Cairo
The grand historical mansions and unique architecture of Garden City

In this article, I’m giving away another one of my Cairo secrets and share the quiet, slightly residential yet aggressively charming district of Garden City.  

For those on the hunt for free things to do in Cairo, a meander through the Garden City shouldn’t touch the wallet.

Garden City? Off the beaten path in Cairo

In local Egyptian Arabic, this area is called… you guessed it, Garden City.  

Like me, you are probably are wondering: how did this English village end up in the heart of Cairo? 

a timeless scene in Garden City Cairo, where an old car is parked in front of a decaying old mansion
Timeless scenes in the leafy streets of Garden City

Built in the 1950s, Garden City was modelled on the British garden village, with the goal of Europeanizing Cairo. If you look at a map of Cairo, Garden City appears as a calm, planned set of roads, amidst the mayhem of Cairo’s zigzagging roads. Walking the streets here is like stepping into a (modern) Egyptian history lesson!

boat on nile in cairo
Garden City lies just a short walk over from the Nile

Today, Garden City is a mixed administrative and residential area. As the home of the U.S. and British embassies in Egypt, Garden City is one of the safest areas in Cairo.  

Getting to Garden City, Cairo 

In my opinion, Garden City is the easiest way to get off the beaten path in Cairo.

downtown cairo chaos
The chaos of Downtown Cairo is just a short hop from Garden City

Garden City is located about a 15-minute walk from Tahrir Square (and probably very close to your Cairo hotel).

fresh pomegranate in cup
Fresh fruits are a great way to get a quick boost of energy in the Cairo heat!

For those arriving by metro, the Sadat and Saad Zaghloul metro stations are about a 10 minute walk to Garden City.  

Top things to see in Garden City, Cairo 

Garden City doesn’t exactly have any major Cairo tourist attractions and I doubt you will find this area in any ‘Cairo must-see’ list. Remember, we are trying to get off the beaten path in Cairo!

hot breads in cairo
Fresh fiteer baladi in Cairo

But the charm of Garden City lies with tree-lined streets and unique architectural styles. Garden City combines Art Deco villas with the soft wood and dusty yellow hues of Cairo.  

To guide your stroll of Garden City, start with the streets around the St Mary Garden City Church and the Medrar for Contemporary Art. As you can see, these streets are particularly photogenic!

Off the beaten path in Garden City is where you can find Cairo's most unique architecture, including this wooden balcony
Soft wood balconies give some insight into the past glory of Garden City

Eating off the beaten path in Cairo: best restaurants in Garden City

Amid the leafy avenues, Garden City hides some of the top restaurants in Cairo.  

1. Foul Mahrous

Garden City will always hold a special place in my heart (and belly). During my months in Cairo, most evenings I would stroll over to Garden City to grab an easy bite at Foul Mahrous.  

An Egyptian Feast at Mahrous Restaurant in Garden City, including the ba'ad iskandrini dish
My favorite dish at Mahrous: ba’ad iskanrini

You will want to check if the owner, Tarek, is around. If so, you know the ful (fava bean stew) will be exceptional. Even if Tarek is out of town, pull up a table on the street and dive headfirst into Egyptian food culture. Preferably, order one of everything – this meal might just be the highlight of your Cairo trip.  

sphinx in egypt
Get ready for a meal fit for a Pharaoh!

If you have traveled from Alexandria to Cairo, you will know that it’s difficult to find ba’ad iskanrini (Alexandrian eggs) in Cairo. Not only is Foul Mahrous one of the few places in Cairo where this Alexandrian delicacy is on the menu, it’s probably better than anything you will find in Alexandria.  

an Egyptian feast at Mahrous restaurant in Cairo's Garden City
An Egyptian Feast: the full spread at Mahrous

At the time of writing, Foul Mahrous was completely vegetarian, making this one of the most down-to-earth places for home-cooked vegetarian Egyptian food in Cairo.  

a selection of egyptian foods including taamiya and eggplant
You will want to make sure you are ordering food like a local!

The staff don’t tend to speak much English so make sure to have Google translate ready. There isn’t any public Wi-Fi around Garden City, so you will want to make sure you have either a local SIM or eSim ready.

Location: 

Local tip: Foul Mahrous operate some of the most bizarre opening hours in Cairo. They tend to follow their Google maps times (which are updated super often), but they also tend to just open when they feel like it!

2. Falak Book Store 

Falak Book Store is a charming brunch café nestled in an old heritage home of Garden City. With a delightful Egyptian brunch, Falak is a favourite haunt for the American University kids. Follow their lead and find a peaceful corner to just grab a book and enjoy the early Cairo morning sun.  

The outdoor terrace of Falak book store highlights how peaceful and quiet Garden City is
The peaceful terrace at Falak is the perfect spot for a quiet breakfast with a book!

The small gift store has some unique souvenirs that you won’t find in the markets of Khan el-Khalili.  

3. Taboula 

The Lebanese really have the monopoly on ‘Middle Eastern Food’. If you have been craving the hummus and falafel that you know from home, Taboula offers the best of Beirut in a lovely (and slightly pricey) ambience.  

Spread of traditional Jordanian food
Who can say no to a Levantine feast?

4. Il Nilo 

All that taamiya and ful hurting your belly? For some of the best Italian food in Cairo, head to il Nilo. Wood-fired pizzas made in front of your eyes, homemade desserts and a wide selection of cocktails. 

5. Local coffee stalls

In my opinion, one of the great joys of Cairo is standing with a cup of Turkish style coffee at any of the nomadic coffee stalls. The coffee here is so good, you might as well be in Istanbul!

Cairo is famous for its moving coffee stalls, many of which can be found in the streets of Garden City
An iconic Cairo coffee stall, set up in the heart of Garden City

As you explore the streets of Garden City, keep an eye open for a cup of coffee.

Where to stay in Garden City, Cairo

Garden City is one of the best locations to stay in Cairo. Only a short walk from both Downtown Cairo and the Nile corniche, but a world away from the hustle and traffic. But sadly for budget travelers, the options in Garden City tend to be a little more expensive than Downtown Cairo!

Cairo Tower over the Nile
Cairo Tower watches over a tributary of the Nile

At the cheaper end, I recommend either the Garden Season Hotel ($$) or the New Garden Palace Hotel ($$)

With a quiet location on between Tahrir Square the Nile, Garden City is also home to some of the best hotels in Cairo with Nile views.

If you are less concerned about budget, I would definitely recommend the Four Seasons Hotel at Nile Plaza or the Kempinski Nile Hotel Garden City Cairo, both among the best 5 star hotels in Cairo.


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