Cairo isn’t an accessible city, and its attractions aren’t very accessible either. In this section of the Cairo travel guide, I’ll share which opportunities are available, and how you can access them as a wheelchair user. While you won’t be crawling inside the pyramids, you’ll have an opportunity to see a great deal of beauty, be awed by magnificence and entertained by your own curiosity.
Each of the wheelchair accessible tourist attractions in Cairo listed below are ones that I visited myself. I will offer detailed insight into how to claim these experiences for your own, even if you use a wheelchair (like me).
The Great Pyramids of Giza (and Sphinx)
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Giza sits next to two smaller (but still grand) pyramids and the Sphinx, just miles outside of Cairo.
Now more than 4,500 years old, the Giza Pyramids have stood the test of time and are among the greatest architectural accomplishments in human history. Thanks to the development of Giza into a major tourist attraction, wheelchair access is possible, albeit on a limited basis.
Although the interior excavations and chambers are not wheelchair accessible, you can still get very close to the pyramids. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to take stunning photographs and admire their presence. While the sidewalks are not very accessible, the roadway throughout the complex is wide and traffic is fairly calm, so you’ll be able to roll your wheelchair from place-to-place, or use a vehicle or taxi of your own.
Are you adventurous? Would you ride on the back of a camel? This was something that had been on my bucket list for many years, and I just had to do it. I’m sure it looked awkward—a triple amputee holding on for dear life, riding around the desert with a camel? Scary as it was, it was an experience I’ll never forget or trade! And it cost me less than $15 USD.
For a full and detailed account of my experience riding a camel and seeing the pyramids, read my article on Exploring the Pyramids of Giza as a Wheelchair User.
Searching for a paradise within the heart of Cairo? Look no further than Al-Azhar Park, a public park of some 74+ acres which first opened in 2005.
Al-Azhar is so lush with green foliage, trees and colorful flowers that you might be tricked into thinking that it is a desert mirage. The product of a $30 million gift to the city, a hallucination it is not! For wheelchair users, accessible pathways and ramps are spread throughout the park.
Because the park sits on a hill alongside the city’s oldest neighborhood, “Old Cairo,” you’ll be able to capture a fantastic view of the historic city below:
The park opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes after sunset. The cost of admission is 5 EGP Sunday through Thursday and 7 EGP (<$0.50 USD) Friday and Saturday. The cost of parking is an additional 5 EGP, even if you arrive in a taxi.
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, located in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, holds the largest collection of Pharaonic pieces in the world. First established in 1835, the museum’s collection was moved to its current location in 1902. Home to some of the most important artifacts from the history of Ancient Egypt, the museum is an activity that must be included in any tour of Cairo.
Although wheelchair users are only able to access the first floor of the museum, one could spend a full day exploring that level. The two pieces pictured above were my favorites. The first, a wooden (sycamore) statue of Sheikh el-Balad, “depicts Kaaper, the chief lector priest, in charge of reciting payers for the deceased in temples and funerary chapels.” The eyes are particularly striking, made of rock crystal and quartz. The statue, circa 2540-2505 B.C., was excavated in 1870.
The second is perhaps the premier statue that has been discovered in Egypt to date – a diorite carving of King Chephren, found near the Sphinx in Giza. A placard nearby reads, “Its remarkable state of preservation, its grandeur and the motif of the hawk, emblematical of his mythological ancestors, protecting his head with her outstretched wings, all combine to rank it first in the statuary of Ancient Egypt.”
The museum is accessible via a ramp at the front entrance. I paid an admission fee of 35 EGP ($2.00 USD), which was discounted from the standard ticket price of 60 EGP on account of my disability. There is no air conditioning inside the museum (only fans), so it can become quite hot, especially in the summer months. Keep this in mind when making plans to visit the museum. For more information, visit the Supreme Council of Antiquities website at www.sca-egypt.org.
The Cairo Tower is a concrete structure on Gezira Island, standing at a height of 614 feet. Opened in 1961, it is the tallest building in Egypt.
Its mesh or lattice design mimics the lotus plant, a symbol of Ancient Egypt and the pharaohs. The tower, pictured in a stock photo at the left, lights up and is a beautiful sight against the dark sky of night.
Like most of the world’s tallest towers, its primary function is to serve as a platform for communications equipment. The tower has also become a major tourist attraction and today houses a visitor’s center, observation deck, restaurant and bar.
Wheelchair users can access the building via an elevator to the right of the large staircase at the building’s entrance. Although the uppermost observation level is only accessible via stairs, the bar and revolving restaurant are both accessible. The revolving restaurant is the place to be, as it offers floor-to-ceiling windows with a 360 degree view of the city below—each rotation takes about 30 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a drink, light snack or a full meal.
I decided to enjoy lunch while admiring the view of the city and the Nile River—the meal did not disappoint. For around $12 USD, I had a chicken entrée with rice and vegetables, together with the local new, Stella (not Artois!). If you plan to do some drinking in the bar or restaurant, note that the wheelchair accessible bathrooms are at ground level, in a building separate from the tower.
Admission to the tower is 70 EGP (~$4.00 USD) and there is no discount offered for people with disabilities. For more information, visit the tower’s official website at www.cairotower.net.
The Saladin Citadel of Cairo dates to the 12th century and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Islamic Cairo. This medieval fortification was built on Mokattam Hill and was intended to defend the city against the Christian Crusaders.
Sadly, little of the site is wheelchair accessible, but it is still worth a visit to see the exterior of the mosques (there are three within the Citadel) and to look out on Old Cairo which sits below. The photo above was taken from the side of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, which was built in 1848 while Cairo was under Ottoman control.
Although the sidewalks and curbs inside the Citadel do not have curb ramps, my taxi driver laid out a portable ramp so that I could access the Old Cairo overlook.
No matter which direction I looked, I was able to spot one, two or many mosques. Cairo is indeed the city of a thousand minarets! From this overlook location, I noticed a cannon (seen in the photo above), which my taxi driver told me is used during Ramadan, to alert Muslim worshippers that it is time to break the fast.
The firing of the “Ramadan cannon” across the Arab world actually traces its roots to Cairo, which is described in this short article from Arab News.