The choreographed chaos of Cairo often hits first-time visitors like a ton of bricks. The capital is vibrant jumble of sounds, sights and smells, a wall of noise surrounded by the snarl of traffic and the cries of hawkers selling exotic spices and bootleg electronics. Even in the midst of all of this, it is easy to be hypnotized by the city’s pulsating, metropolitan charm. More than 20 million residents call the city home, and modern Cairo is a hodgepodge of new growth resting on a long history. Islamic Cairo transports visitors to the medieval era, while just outside the city lies a time warp that takes you back thousands of years. The city’s premier museum is nearly bursting at the seams with ancient Egyptian treasures, but the biggest draw of Cairo lies in the places between these highlights. It is in the hookah bars, cafes, gardens and plazas that one really feels the allure of the city.
Although the city streets are often crammed with careening buses and dusty cars, Cairo is surprisingly walkable. It is especially good for unplanned, mapless wonderings because the districts are quite compact, there are no hills to trek and the scenery quickly changes, making even short walks endlessly interesting.
Throw yourself into the history of the city with an early morning walk through Islamic Cairo, ambling to the south in the direction of Al-Azhar Park, a lovely oasis with beautiful landscaping, plenty of paths to explore and one of the most impressive views of the city. From the park, follow the ancient walls built by Salah ad-Din in the 12th century until you come across many workshops, where locals are busy creating mother-of-pearl inlay boxes, leather shoes, parquet flooring and other treasures. Then, wander down to the Citadel, home to the country’s rulers for over 700 years. Only a small section of the original complex survives today, but visitors can walk through the complex’s three distinct mosques. The Muhammad ‘Ali Mosque is the most impressive, dominating the skyline of Cairo for over a century and becoming an icon of the city. The interior design is an interesting mix of French and Middle Eastern styles, outlined in ornate lines of gold, red and green. The mosque’s spacious and lush courtyard provides respite from the hot Cairo air, and it features a gilded clock tower given to the Egyptians in exchange for the obelisk that towers in the center of Paris.
The Egyptian Antiquities Museum is another must-see for history buffs, art lovers or really anyone visiting the capital. The huge neoclassical building houses more ancient artifacts than any other in the world, including such prized possessions as New Kingdom pharaoh Ramses II’s three colossi, a superb statue of Khafre, artwork from the reign of Akhenaton and the famous Tutankhamun collection, featuring the pharaoh’s sarcophagus and beautiful funerary mask.
When the sun sets and the air cools, stroll through the streets in search of a sidewalk cafe or sheesha house. You won’t have to go far, as the city is a playground at night and most places stay open until at least 2 am. The cultural scene is multi-layered, like the rest of the city, and visitors can attend classical Arabic music concerts in medieval houses, wonder at whirling dervishes outside old palaces or enjoy a an Italian opera performed by the Cairo Opera Company. In many places, Western and Middle Eastern styles combine in sometimes unexpected ways, ensuring that visitors feel welcome no matter where they spend the night in the capital.
Cairo Geographical Location
Cairo is located in the northeast of Egypt on the Nile River and is its largest city.
The approximate population of Cairo is 19,500,000 in the metropolitan area.
Arab is the official language of Egypt but English and Frencombre common among the educated and within tourist areas like Cairo.
Cairo Predominant Religion
- 90% Muslim
- 9% Coptic
- 1% Other Christian
The Islamic community of Egypt is mainly comprised of Sunni Muslims and is its state religion.
The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound.
Cairo experiences a desert climate with little rain throughout the year. The summers are dry and hot while the winters are warm with more rainfall.
Cairo Main Attractions
- Pyramids of Giza
- The Sphinx
- Egyptian Antiquities Museum
Other Attractions in Cairo
- Ramses II Statue
- Coptic Church of St. George
- Hanging Church (El Muallaqa, Sitt Mariam, St Mary)
- Asfour Crystal Factory
- Saladin Citadel (Al-Qalaa)