After a 7-hour train ride to the South, – only if the train leaves Cairo on time, which rarely happens of course – you arrive to the calm city of Sohag. Green fields on both sides of the road stretching as far as the eye can see, leading you to the city’s garland beauty. As soon as you arrive you realize that your expectations weren’t really that high.
For a team whose members are mainly from Cairo, being in a place with no traffic congestion that stays in for more than 3 minutes made us already fall in love with the city. Situated majorly on the west bank of the Nile, Sohag has a beautiful view on the river that appears to be wider, cleaner and prettier than anything you can see from Cairo’s side bank. The train station is located in the busy city centre, with countless taxis outside 24/7 waiting to pick up passengers exiting the station.
Where to stay?
If you like travelling solely for the hotel’s luxurious stay, I am afraid Sohag isn’t the place you should put on your bucket list!
When you get off the train, you would be surprised by the number of motels surrounding the station. Budget-wise as well as location-wise, they might actually seem really efficient as they are really affordable, central and on the main street (Sohag-Assiut Road).
If a comfortable bed and a clean private bathroom are considered essentials for you, after getting off the train, walk past those nearby motels and take a taxi to another neighborhood of the city where you will be choosing to stay in one of two proper hotels; Al-Safa Hotel and Al-Nile Hotel. Al-Safa Hotel is located on one of the city’s hottest streets; Al Gomhorya street, west of the Nile. A bit of an old building, the hotel has single and double rooms with both Nile and Street views. Right on the opposite side of the Nile (the Eastern Nile’s bank) you can find Al-Nile Hotel on the Sohag-Akhmim Road. You can easily locate the building since it is the tallest, biggest, fanciest building on the Eastern side of the Nile, with rooms that have both Nile and Garden views. At this junction, the two sides of the Nile are connected by the old, always busy Akhmim Bridge, and thus both hotels are a walking distance from each other. As per our team’s experience staying at both hotels, here is the conclusion; for bigger, cleaner and a bit grandiose rooms, you go with Al-Nile Hotel. For better customer service for first timers, you go with Al-Safa Hotel.
Where to eat?
Forget about Cairo’s fast food arena and all the time you deliberately waste trying to pick a restaurant or a diner to eat at; generally people in Sohag don’t have the culture of eating a meal that isn’t home-cooked!
Luckily for our team, the famous fast-food brand “Cook Door” had opened a branch, few months before we started our project. Located on the Eastern Nile Bank 10-minute walk south from Al-Nile Hotel, it is the #1 choice when it comes to good quality fast food. If quality is not your biggest concern in fast-food, then you should try Sohag’s all-time popular “Wesaya” and the nearby “Milano” in Al-Gomhorya Street, their prices are surprisingly the same as “Cook Door”.
Things would get a bit more difficult if you’re after proper restaurant-style meals, but anyways, your destination is Al-Gomhorya Street (in case you don’t want to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, which is actually advisable not to). There you’ll find “Mo’men”, a modern restaurant with variety of platters in addition to a good-speed internet connection as well, and “Sohag’s Club” or as locals call it “Al-Nady Al-Bahary”; the city’s oldest club luckily has a bit of an antique restaurant that serves amazing Egyptian plates.
P.S. Try the Molokheya!
For a budget-wise meal, try “Koshary Go7a” in “Midan Al-Thakafa”, and for a super-quick service for sandwiches, shawermas and meals; try the near-by “Al-Tekeya”. If you have a feel for some Italian food in Upper Egypt, go for the pizza at Papro Café, surprisingly enough located in Al-Gomhorya Street (YES it is where the action is in the city).
The question mark says it, nevertheless the exclamation marks! Yes, there is an amazing corniche, but you will most probably find it empty, especially in the winter. “Al-Nile” Hotel has an amazing cafeteria by the corniche where you can get hot and cold drinks for great prices – I mean compared to Zamalek’s expensive restaurant yet cheaper Nile view.
You can always get in a felucca ride in the river, especially if it was sunset. That would be a Nile ride you would truly always remember. You can take a walk around “Midan Al-Thakafa” with its plenty shops that sell the famous Sa’edi galabeyas and scarves.
But if you are staying for only a night or so, you should take the ferry from the Nile’s Eastern bank (right next to Al-Nile Hotel) headed to Ǧazīrat az-Zuhur, “Flower Island”; where the city’s leadership decided to set up an international flowers’ island like the famous one in Aswan. Sohag’s only café; Papro, can also be a good option since it is really accessible, and the food menu is actually good.
Supermarkets in Sohag are not too many, but there is one heck of a fancy supermarket in Gomhorya Street-again-named “Dima”; and by fancy I mean where you can easily find peanut butter, sweet corn and Swiss chocolates! Next to it, there is a guy with a cart on the street and he sells Corn Flakes that go along perfectly with the city’s chilled weather during the night. Yes, Sohag is that cool!
Nothing fancy; allegedly there is no public transportation in Sohag! But just as any neighborhood in Cairo with no accessibility to public transportation, Sohag also follows with its thriving microbuses’ culture that connects every part of the city. With not much of traffic all over the city, taking a microbus is not really a tough option.
Looking at the taxis’ scene in Sohag, there are some rules you should know since there are no taxi-meters that would automatically calculate the fare. If the taxi isn’t going to cross the Nile, the fare is normally 5 LE; no matter what time it is or how far the distance is. If the taxi is crossing the Nile over Akhmim Bridge or the New Bridge, the fare goes up to 7 LE if it is during the day, 10 LE if it is during the night. You must be wondering why, but we’ve been going there for 6 months now and we have no idea what kind of rule is that one in particular!
Reproductive Health Program Specialist