Culture shock is part of the experience of Cairo and can at times be wearing. But as is written in the ancient tales of the 1,001 Nights, ‘He who hath not seen Cairo, hath not seen the world’.
Cairo, which Egyptians proudly call the ‘Mother of All Cities’, spreads along the banks of the River Nile for 40km (25 miles) north to south, the largest metropolis in Africa. Travellers through the ages have been both fascinated and repelled by Cairo. Visitors are intrigued by its twisting streets, medieval buildings, oriental bazaars and Islamic architecture of carved domes and sculpted minarets.
During your trip, you will feel some noise, pollution and crowds, just like as you feel when visiting one of the most populous cities worldwide such as Tokyo, Delhi and New York.
Cairo is a bewildering place but most of the city lies on the east bank of the Nile. Visitors often feel more comfortable finding their feet in the western downtown area of downtown Cairo around Tahrir Square (Tahrir Square) which watched two revolutions in recent years. This is a public transportation hub, separated from the Nile by the huge Nile Hilton. Also here is the main attraction in the city center, the Egyptian Museum. Opposite the center of the country lies the island of the Nile, which belongs to the island, and the island of Rawda to the south.
The Pyramids of Giza are located on the west bank of the river, about 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the center. Old Cairo lies south of central Cairo, while Islamic Cairo includes a large area to the east. The city is growing rapidly, both in terms of population and geographical area, with new suburbs expanding into its outskirts, especially in the Eastern Desert. Northwest of downtown, near the airport, the Sheraton Heliopolis, Zamalek, and Maadi neighborhoods are home to many of Cairo’s wealthy (and the presidential palace), while to the west, the middle-class suburb of Giza has expanded to within sight. Pyramids.
Although Cairo is today Egypt’s capital and largest city, and bustles with some 18 million people, its prominent place in the long timeline of Egyptian history is relatively recent. It didn’t even exist when the pyramids were built at Giza. Then the city of Memphis, 24 kilometers (15 miles) to the south, was the pharaonic capital. Cairo was not established until the Romans rebuilt an ancient Persian fortress along the Nile in AD 116, which was known as Babylon in Egypt, in the area of ancient Cairo today.
From the late ninth century onwards, a succession of Arab rulers left their mark on the city: Ibn Tulun built his royal city al-Qatay, and the Fatimids built the walled city of Cairo from which Cairo was named. In the 13th century, the Mamluks, a class of Turkish soldiers and slaves, rose to power. They were succeeded by the Ottomans, the French under Napoleon, and finally the British. The birth of modern Cairo came in 1863, when the ruler expanded the city along the Nile River on the model of major European cities. After the country returned to Egyptian rule in 1952, Cairo rose to the fore as the capital of the Arab world.
Cairo, also called the “City of a Thousand Minarets”, is an eerie skyline of graceful domes and towering minarets that casts a spell on the city’s grinding reality. Most visitors come to see the great pyramids of Giza, treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb and other wonders at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, as well as to shop at the sprawling Khan el-Khalili market. There are also dozens of mosques, Coptic churches, smaller museums, and winding streets to explore.
For an overview of the city, climb to the 12th-century citadel looming above the urban sprawl. Built by Salah Al-Din, Cairo was effectively governed from atop Mokattam Hill for the next 700 years. Before that, Cairo was a cornerstone of Islamic civilisation. As such, the old Islamic quarter has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tourism is the main source of foreign income in Egypt, while the public sector, including government, social, and military services, constitutes the largest “industry”. The city is also the center of a growing trade, finance, and insurance sector.
Spring (March to May) is one of the best times to visit Cairo, with pleasantly warm days and little chance of rain. The average temperature in April is 21°C (70°F). Time your visit with the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival, which runs for three weeks throughout Spring and includes dance performances, music concerts and shows.