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Things to do in Cairo

Cruise down the Nile on a traditional felucca boat

In spite of its many attractions, crowded Cairo can become a little maddening after a few days. A trip down the Nile on a traditional felucca boat is the perfect antidote. Gliding serenely along the fabled river, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been travelling like this from the beginning. Some boats offer live entertainment of music and dancing, but the refined will enjoy wining and dining on the Nile courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Cairo (tel: +20 2 2791 7000; www.fourseasons.com/caironp). Those wanting an authentic experience should pick up a public boat from by the Ramses Hilton.

Explore Egypt's underwater bounties

The waters off Cairo make for great diving. If you require some training before heading off to the open seas, Maadi Divers, at 18 Street 218, Maadi (tel: +20 2 2519 8644) is the first PADI diver centre in Cairo. It teaches PADI courses, organises live-aboard diving trips and has equipment for sale or rent.

Learn to cook like a local

Time to brush up on your shish taouk (a traditional shish kebab)? The House of Cooking (tel: +20 100 680 0621; www.thehouseofcooking.com) in Nasr City is the place to go. Cooking classes here teach pupils how to dish up everything from a simple fattoush salad (a delicious pitta and vegetable salad), to an om ali and kunafa pudding with mango that will wow your mates. Italian, American, Thai, Mexican and Chinese cooking classes are also available.

Ride a horse around the pyramids at Giza

A canter around the pyramids at Giza is a must. There are plenty of horses at the entrance, but for quality of steed, try and find decent stables. FB Stables, at Sharia Gamal Abdul Nasser, (tel: +20 106 507 0288; www.fbstablesgiza.co.uk) come highly recommended. They have English-speaking guides and offer fantastic desert excursions. For lengthy tours, Ride Egypt (tel: +20 100 152 0345; www.ride-egypt.com) organise horseback trips to Sakkara pyramids.

Tee off at a championship golf course

It’s something of a relief to see a great swathe of green in Cairo. The city’s golf courses, usually affiliated with top hotels, are open to non-members. By far the best for location is the pyramid-side 18-hole course at the Mena House Hotel (tel: +20 2 3377 3222; www.menahousehotel.com), which also offers good rates on golf lessons. Non hotel guests are welcome. A little further out, luxury country club Katamey Heights Golf & Tennis Resort (tel: +20 2 2758 0512; katameyaheights.com) has an 18-hole championship course with PGA qualified professionals.

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City Highlight: Cairo

Amid ancient monuments, 19th century splendour and the buzz of modern technology, Cairo, Egypt’s capital, roars with life

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Longchamps

Very popular small family-run hotel in a relatively peaceful area, this Cairo hotel has been going strong since 1953. Comfortable rooms are bright and clean, with a hint of a colonial flavour, and the real gem are the two leafy terraces. Always busy, so advance booking is essential.

Cairo Marriott Hotel

The hotel's twin towers are a distinctive landmark rising 20 stories high and providing magnificent views of the Nile and six acres of gardens. This former palace offers 977 updated rooms, 111 elegant suites, 15 restaurants and a world-class casino - it's got all the bases covered.

Hotel El-Hussein

If you want to be in the thick of Khan el Khalili, this is the place. Overlooking the mosque Al Hussein, rooms are basic, but large. Water is usually hot, and there is a ceiling fan but the air-conditioning – when working – is noisy, and bathroom might be a little grubby. However the real draw is the huge balconies overlooking the square, a fantastic spot for watching the world go by. Service can be surly, especially for the (very basic) breakfast, but overall it’s great value.

Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza

This Cairo hotel offers 366 luxury rooms, including 101 suites, all with wonderful views of the Nile, the city and citadel, and many with private terrace. Facilities include a rooftop pool deck with adult and children's pools, and an excellent beauty and wellness spa. The hotel has six restaurants, headed by the seafood restaurant Aqua.

Le Riad Hotel De Charme

Located on a charming street in Islamic Cairo, this brand new boutique hotel has been converted from an Ottoman house, complete with architectural features like domes, arches and mashrabiye (latticed wooden shutters). Elegant suites are filled with antiques, plus modern touches like free laptops and Wi-Fi.

Mena House

Originally the palace of the Khedives Ismail, with fabulous views of the pyramids, this is one of the most glamorous and romantic hotels in Cairo. Since opening in 1887, it has hosted kings, emperors and movie stars, with four luxury suites enhanced by antiques, murals and tapestries. Try and book a pyramid-view room.