Cairo, Egypt’s capital, is the largest city in the Arab world with a population that exceeds 16 million inhabitants. The locals call it “The Powerful” or “The Victorious” perhaps because its history is so rich and ancient that defies imagination.
A camel caravan in front of the Pyramids in the Giza Plateau.
Plutarch and Herodotus referred to it as “The Magnificent”, and famous writers such as René Savary and Baron Denon—who traveled there during the Age of Enlightenment—praised its impressive cultural heritage in their writings.
Cairo is a city that stays with you long after you’ve left, a place of constant, suffocating and chaotic fascination. At the same time, it is magical, surprising and full of charm. In this crowded metropolis, everything moves slowly because moving fast is like being afraid of life—as I was told by a philosopher selling carpets in the bustling Khan Al-Khalili market.
Visitors to Cairo are usually surprised because the city never stops. It feels tireless and energetic any time of day, and the heavy traffic enhance the sense of chaos. The cars move through the streets guided more by survival instinct and intuition than by traffic laws.
1. The Great Sphinx in front of the Great Pyramid.
2. King Tutankhamen’s Sarcophagus.
3. Khan el Khalili
4. 5. Christian Temples
6. The Great Pyramids of Egypt..
The city that fascinated Napoleon Bonaparte is one metropolis, yet many cities. As you get to know it—and one single trip is not enough—you discover not only its remarkable pharaonic past but also its Ottoman, Coptic and Colonial heritages.
You will find inspiration in its dilapidated facades, on terraces and rooftops from where you can take in—with enormous curiosity—the exotic scenes that surround you. All the senses are awakened in Cairo, from the sound of the call to prayer coming out of countless minarets to the penetrating and pleasant smell of ripe fruit, frankincense and myrrh, and spices like cloves, cumin and cardamom that flood the city.
If you are planning to travel to Cairo for the first time, you should get acquainted with its vast selection of five star luxury hotels: more than 50. Particularly impressive are the exclusive Fairmont Cairo, with stunning views of the legendary Nile River; the Ramses Hilton, or the Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo.
Most five star hotels offer views of the Pyramids, the Nile, beautiful parks and gardens. You should make use of the private car service with driver available to guests of the best hotels since Cairo is a difficult city to navigate on your own.
The city has a plethora of must-see landmarks and points of interest, such as the Giza Plateau. The complex includes the great pyramids and the Great Sphinx, a mythological figure half man, half lion. The best time visit is the late afternoon when the heat subsides, and the hordes of tourists have already left.
Another memorable place is the Egyptian Museum, home to ancient treasures that have remained in the country. The Museum is proud to exhibit and invaluable collection of objects that tomb robbers did not take, nor the French, English or German archaeologists who plundered the Egyptian monuments for centuries. The guests will marvel before Tutankhamen’s mummy adorned with the stunning gold jewelry of pharaohs, and also in front of the countless relics that elucidate the history of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.
View of the Nile at night.
Don’t forget to visit the Old Town Citadel, a religious attraction and a popular tourist spot for its large number of mosques, Orthodox temples, and Coptic churches.
Finally, you should get lost—literally—in Khan el-Khalili, one of the largest and most famous traditional markets. This legendary bazaar will allow you to buy everything Egyptian, but you must remember to bargain. It is what merchants expect of you. Take a cruise down the legendary Nile River: The Oberoi Zahra. ■