Cairo Overview

       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. Travelers 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, while being appalled by its dirt, pollution, noise, crowds and constant demands for baksheesh (gratuities). Paying baksheesh is the local custom, however, so expect to give little advertisement

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       and often. 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 1001 Nights, ‘He who hath not seen Cairo, hath not seen the world’.

       Cairo is a disorienting place but most of the city lies on the east bank of the River Nile. Visitors often feel most comfortable finding their feet in the Westernised downtown district of central Cairo around Midan Tahrir (Liberation Square). This is a public transport hub, separated from the Nile by the massive Nile Hilton Hotel. Here too is the city center’s main attraction, the Egyptian Museum. Opposite downtown is the Nile island of Gezira, with the island of Roda just to the south. The Pyramids of Giza, however, are on the west bank of the river, some 18km (11 miles) from the center. Old Cairo lies south of central Cairo, while Islamic Cairo encompasses a large area to the east. The city is growing rapidly, both in terms of population and geographical area, with new suburbs expanding on its outskirts, especially into the Eastern Desert. Northwest of the city center, near the airport, Heliopolis is 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 of the Pyramids.

       Although Cairo today is Egypt’s capital and largest city, teeming with some 18 million people, its position of prominence in the long timeline of Egyptian history is relatively recent. It did not even exist when the pyramids at Giza were constructed. Then, the town of Memphis, 24km (15 miles) to the south, was the Pharaonic capital. Cairo was not founded until the Romans rebuilt an old Persian fortress along the Nile in AD116, which was known as Babylon-in-Egypt, in today’s Old Cairo district.

       From the latter ninth century, a succession of Arab rulers made their mark on the city: Ibn Tulun built his royal city el-Qatai, the Fatimids built the walled city of el-Qahira, from which Cairo takes it name. In the 13th century, the Mamluks, a caste of Turkish soldier-slaves, rose to power, then the Ottomans, the French under Napoleon and finally the British ruled in their turn. The birth of modern Cairo came in 1863, when the ruler Ismail expanded the city along the Nile in the style of the great European cities. After the country returned to Egyptian rule in 1952, Cairo rose to the forefront as the capital of the Arab world.

       Cairo is also called the ‘City of 1000 Minarets’ and it is the exotic skyline of graceful domes and towering minarets that casts a spell of magic over the grinding reality of the metropolis. Most visitors come to see the great Pyramids of Giza, the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb and other wonders in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, as well as to shop in the sprawling Khan al-Khalili marketplace. There are also dozens of mosques, Coptic churches, smaller museums and winding streets to explore. This tourism is Egypt’s key source of foreign income, while the public sector, including government and social services and the military, makes up the largest ‘industry’. The city is also the center of a growing trade, finance and insurance sector.

       During the summer, temperatures in Cairo can climb to 38 degrees Celsius, though the low humidity is some consolation. The best time to visit is between October and April. Occasional downpours occur in January and February, while during March and April the khamseen, a strong, hot, dry wind, blows in periodically from the desert.


       Dubbed the Mother of the World, Cairo has been the largest city in Africa and the Middle East for most of the last millennium. Its population, now estimated at 20 million, continues to swell, and the city gobbles up more farmland and desert every year to accommodate the growth.

       During rush hour in Tahrir Square, nothing moves but car horns. Once the gridlock breaks, a smoke-spewing bus jammed with riders overtakes a donkey-drawn vegetable cart, a bicycle beats out a stalled Mercedes and two taxis collide. Women clasp each other's hands to cross the street, gracefully slipping their bodies between passing cars with a hair's breadth to spare.

       The amount of green space per resident is said to be smaller than a child's palm. Breathing the city's air pollution is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Despite the despair and madness of Cairo, foreigners have flocked here since the dawn of leisure travel. Travelers are seduced by the romance of Egypt's pyramids and desert, which evoke a feeling of eternity few can deny.

       Cairo has a timeless quality most travelers relish. There's perhaps no better example than Khan el-Khalili, the city's 600-year-old bazaar. Goldsmiths, woodworkers, and tentmakers in the Khan carry on crafts passed down since medieval times.

       Shades of wealth and modernity exist in Cairo. You'll see working women wearing chic Chanel headscarves to match their gold and black pantsuits, and hotels as grand as anything in Manhattan. But once you leave the faint glimmer of downtown Cairo and venture into its labyrinthine neighborhoods, you'll wonder where time has gone.

       Life in Cairo revolves around family and religion. Almost without exception, children remain with their families until marriage. About 90 percent of Egypt's population is Muslim; the rest are mainly Christian. Reflections of Islam are everywhere: in Egyptian speech and dress, on the radio and television, and with the unforgettable call to prayer that bellows from the city's mosques five times a day.

       Cairo is really a jigsaw puzzle of the past, and each district tells a different chapter in Egypt's history, from the pharaonic dynasties to the 20th-century British occupation. The area was first settled some 2,500 years ago, when Persians put a fortress called Egypt-in-Babylon near what is now known as Old Cairo.

       Old Cairo maintains some of the world's oldest Christian churches, as Egypt was among the first nations to embrace the faith. Saint Mark the Apostle began preaching to Egyptians in A.D. 35, although the Roman Empire didn't accept Christianity until the 4th century. The Coptic Christians living in Old Cairo today descend from these early worshipers.

       Cairo's Muslim roots go back to A.D.640, when the Arab general Amr led 3,500 horsemen into Egypt under the banner of Islam. The army founded Fustat, "City of the Tent," near the old fortress at Babylon. For the next thousand years, a succession of dynasties ruled over Egypt as part of the Islamic Empire. Cairo got its modern name when the Fatimids seized control in A.D.969. Three of the 60 original gates to this walled city, El Qahira, still stand today.

       Orienting yourself in Cairo requires patience. Streets aren't always marked and Egyptians are notorious for creative directions. Most of the city lies to the Nile's east. On the Nile itself are two islands. The northern island is Gezira, whose northern half is called Zamalek; to the south is Roda Island. Just east of the river is Tahrir Square, the hub of downtown Cairo. Garden City, where many embassies are located, is adjacent to Tahrir Square.

       To Tahrir's northeast are Ramsis train station and el-Azhar bus station. Residential neighborhoods to the north are Shubra, Abbasiyya, and Heliopolis. South of Tahrir is Sayida Zeinab, or Islamic Cairo, and south of that is Old Cairo, also known as the Coptic Quarter. Even further south is the upper-class Maadi


       Asia 亚洲

       The Himalayas 喜马拉雅山

       Great Wall, China 中国长城

       Forbidden City, Beijing, China 北京故宫

       Mount Fuji, Japan 日本富士山

       Taj Mahal, India 印度泰姬陵

       Angkor Wat, Cambodia 柬埔寨吴哥窟

       Bali, Indonesia 印度尼西亚巴厘岛

       Borobudur, Indonesia 印度尼西亚波罗浮屠

       Sentosa, Singapore 新加坡圣淘沙

       Crocodile Farm, Thailand 泰国北榄鳄鱼湖

       Pattaya Beach, Thailand 泰国芭堤雅海滩

       Babylon, Iraq 伊拉克巴比伦遗迹

       Mosque of St, Sophia in Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey 土耳其圣索非亚教堂

       Africa 非洲

       Suez Canal, Egypt 印度苏伊士运河

       Aswan High Dam, Egypt 印度阿斯旺水坝

       Nairobi National Park, Kenya 肯尼亚内罗毕国家公园

       Cape of Good Hope, South Africa 南非好望角

       Sahara Desert 撒哈拉大沙漠

       Pyramids, Egypt 埃及金字塔

       The Nile, Egypt 埃及尼罗河

       Oceania 大洋洲

       Great Barrier Reef 大堡礁

       Sydney Opera House, Australia 悉尼歌剧院

       Ayers Rock 艾尔斯巨石

       Mount Cook 库克山

       Easter Island 复活节岛

       Europe 欧洲

       Notre Dame de Paris, France 法国巴黎圣母院

       Effiel Tower, France 法国艾菲尔铁塔

       Arch of Triumph, France 法国凯旋门

       Elysee Palace, France 法国爱丽舍宫

       Louvre, France 法国卢浮宫

       Kolner Dom, Koln, Germany 德国科隆大教堂

       Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy 意大利比萨斜塔

       Colosseum in Rome, Italy 意大利古罗马圆形剧场

       Venice, Italy 意大利威尼斯

       Parthenon, Greece 希腊巴台农神庙

       Red Square in Moscow, Russia 莫斯科红场

       Big Ben in London, England 英国伦敦大笨钟

       Buckingham Palace, England 白金汉宫

       Hyde Park, England 英国海德公园

       London Tower Bridge, England 伦敦塔桥

       Westminster Abbey, England 威斯敏斯特大教堂

       Monte Carlo, Monaco 摩洛哥蒙特卡罗

       The Mediterranean 地中海

       The Americas 美洲

       Niagara Falls, New York State, USA 美国尼亚加拉大瀑布

       Bermuda 百慕大

       Honolulu, Hawaii, USA 美国夏威夷火奴鲁鲁

       Panama Canal 巴拿马大运河

       Yellowstone National Park, USA 美国黄石国家公园

       Statue of Liberty, New York City, USA 美国纽约自由女神像

       Times Square, New York City, USA 美国纽约时代广场

       The White House, Washington DC., USA 美国华盛顿白宫

       Central Park, New York City, USA 美国纽约中央公园

       Yosemite National Park, USA 美国尤塞米提国家公园

       Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA 美国亚利桑那州大峡谷

       Hollywood, California, USA 美国加利佛尼亚好莱坞

       Disneyland, California, USA 加利佛尼亚迪斯尼乐园

       Las Vegas, Nevada, USA 美国内华达拉斯威加斯

       Miami, Florida, USA 美国佛罗里达迈阿密

       Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA 纽约大都会艺术博物馆  Acapulco, Mexico 墨西哥阿卡普尔科

       Cuzco, Mexico 墨西哥库斯科




        Asia 亚洲  The Himalayas 喜马拉雅山  Great Wall, China 中国长城

        Forbidden City, Beijing, China 北京故宫  Mount Fuji, Japan 日本富士山

        Taj Mahal, India 印度泰姬陵  Angkor Wat, Cambodia 柬埔寨吴哥窟

        Bali, Indonesia 印度尼西亚巴厘岛  Borobudur, Indonesia 印度尼西亚波罗浮屠

        Sentosa, Singapore 新加坡圣淘沙  Crocodile Farm, Thailand 泰国北榄鳄鱼湖

        Pattaya Beach, Thailand 泰国芭堤雅海滩  Babylon, Iraq 伊拉克巴比伦遗迹

        Mosque of St, Sophia in Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey 土耳其圣索非亚教堂

        Africa 非洲  Suez Canal, Egypt 印度苏伊士运河  Aswan High Dam, Egypt 印度阿斯旺水坝

        Nairobi National Park%2  Nairobi National Park, Kenya 肯尼亚内罗毕国家公园

        Cape of Good Hope, South Africa 南非好望角  Sahara Desert 撒哈拉大沙漠

        Pyramids, Egypt 埃及金字塔  The Nile, Egypt 埃及尼罗河  Europe 欧洲

        Notre Dame de Paris, France 法国巴黎圣母院  Effiel Tower, France 法国艾菲尔铁塔

        Arch of Triumph, France 法国凯旋门  Elysee Palace, France 法国爱丽舍宫

        Louvre, France 法国卢浮宫  Kolner Dom, Koln, Germany 德国科隆大教堂

        Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy 意大利比萨斜塔  Colosseum in Rome, Italy 意大利古罗马圆形剧场

        Venice, Italy 意大利威尼斯  Parthenon, Greece 希腊巴台农神庙

        Red Square in Moscow, Russia 莫斯科红场  Big Ben in London, England 英国伦敦大笨钟

        Buckingham Palace, England 白金汉宫  Hyde Park, England 英国海德公园

        London Tower Bridge, England 伦敦塔桥  Westminster Abbey, England 威斯敏斯特大教堂

        Monte Carlo, Monaco 摩洛哥蒙特卡罗  The Mediterranean 地中海  Oceania 大洋洲

        Great Barrier Reef 大堡礁  Sydney Opera House, Australia 悉尼歌剧院

        Ayers Rock 艾尔斯巨石  Mount Cook 库克山  Easter Island 复活节岛  The Americas 美洲

        Niagara Falls, New York State, USA 美国尼亚加拉大瀑布  Bermuda 百慕大

        Honolulu, Hawaii, USA 美国夏威夷火奴鲁鲁  Panama Canal 巴拿马大运河

        Yellowstone National Park, USA 美国黄石国家公园 Statue of Liberty, New York City, USA 美国纽约自由女神像

        Times Square, New York City, USA 美国纽约时代广场  The White House, Washington DC., USA 美国华盛顿白宫

        World Trade Center, New York City, USA 美国纽约世界贸易中心 Miami, Florida, USA 美国佛罗里达迈阿密

        Central Park, New York City, USA 美国纽约中央公园  Yosemite National Park, USA 美国尤塞米提国家公园

        Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA 美国亚利桑那州大峡谷  Hollywood, California, USA 美国加利佛尼亚好莱坞

        Disneyland, California, USA 加利佛尼亚迪斯尼乐园  Las Vegas, Nevada, USA 美国内华达拉斯威加斯

        Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA 纽约大都会艺术博物馆

        Acapulco, Mexico 墨西哥阿卡普尔科  Cuzco, Mexico 墨西哥库斯科