Cairo nestles between a vast expanse of sweeping sand and the fertile banks of the Nile. Beneath the minarets and domes of the skyline are countless coffee houses, markets and mosques which transport you to an unfamiliar yet warmly welcoming world. Take your time in Cairo to appreciate everything without getting overwhelmed, as there is a lot more to see than the pyramids. You will no doubt be helped along by locals; Cairo’s inhabits must be amongst the most positive and peaceful city dwellers in the world. Having said that, be prepared to haggle.
It would be easy to see only the pyramids in Cairo and feel content with a visit, but the city has a myriad of other sites and museums which equal those of any historic city in the world. The citadel is a living monument to Egypt’s past, and the city, though modernised, is alive with tradition and spirituality. If you visit in summer be prepared for desert heat, but remember to dress respectfully. The most accommodating climate falls in spring and autumn.
Begin your adventures in the Egyptian Museum, one of Cairo’s best sites, not least because it houses Tutankhamen’s solid gold death mask; the enduring symbol of Egypt’s ancient past. The museum will also give you a chance to absorb some history, myth and culture to enhance your enjoyment of the surrounding sites.
The pyramids are the only remaining original Seven Wonders, and give new meaning to words such as magnificent, ancient and astounding. Thousands of years of hype all indicate one thing: that the pyramids are amongst the most breathtaking sites in the world and should be on every ‘to do’ life check-list. West of Cairo in a desert expanse the Sphinx and Giza Pyramids rise. They abide by bafflingly precise laws of geometry and demonstrate dizzying architectural prowess. Visit at dawn to feel the profound power of the pyramids before tour groups descend, and to bag a ticket for entry to the Great Pyramid (tickets on sale from 8am.)
Dashur and Saqqara are the other locations where pyramids are found, both equally as spectacular as Giza. If you have time, take a day at each of the three sites. The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is the oldest remaining, and is surrounded by some of the best decorated tombs in Egypt.
Be sure to take in some living culture and awaken your senses back in the city. Watch whirling dervishes dance in colourful costume at Wikaka-al-Ghuri twice weekly. Wander between bazaar stalls decorated with mountains of spices and piles of colourful fabrics in the Khan el Khalili quarter. In terms of sightseeing, the great Mosque of Mohammed Ali and the thousand year old Al-Azahar Mosque are beautifully constructed and peaceful sanctuaries from the city buzz. The famed Cairo Cities of the Dead are also incredible to witness. Full of life and prayer, these graveyards have become city suburbs in their own right. Mausoleums double up as places of worship and family homes.
Last Edit by sophie mcgovern on 9/11/2011 EDIT NOW >>