Occupying an island in the River Nile, the Cairo district of Zamalek provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the Egyptian capital. Despite being incredibly central, the district has preserved its greenery and calm. It’s evolved into one of Cairo’s most affluent neighbourhoods, filled with good restaurants, expat residents, art galleries, and peaceful streets.
Zamalek’s chief attraction is its location, and many of Cairo’s landmarks are within easy reach of this island district. Rising high above everything is Cairo Tower, where the revolving restaurant on the top floor commands stunning views over downtown Cairo and the Pyramids. Down on ground level, the Museum of Islamic Ceramics is notable for both its exhibitions and the palace of Prince Amr Ibrahim that it’s housed within. Zamalek has a modern edge that is reflected in its galleries, which all focus on contemporary Egyptian art rather than archaeological classics, and the Picasso, Safar Khan, and Zamalek Art galleries are all worth a visit.
Cairo Opera House also celebrates a modern style and has become the most important cultural performance space in Egypt, as it’s located on the southern tip of the island and has its only metro station. Most visitors get around by local taxis which are very reasonably priced, and walking is an option in winter but the summer months can be scorching along the Nile. Most people arrive at Cairo International Airport which is a short taxi ride away from Zamalek, although this can take a long time during rush hour traffic.
This island in the Nile was once called the “Garden of Plants”. Exotic flora from around the world was shipped in, and parts of the original gardens remain to the south of Zamalek. Three palaces can be found on the island, although they’ve now been incorporated into ministry buildings and hotels.