Introduction to Cairo
Straddling Africa and the Middle East in more ways than just geography, Cairo is Africa’s largest urban area and the most populous city with over 17 million people (nine million in the centre alone). Surprisingly, for such an ancient capital, three fifths of the total population of Cairo are under 30, which may account for the dramatic protests and sweeping social change from the 2011 Arab Spring that originated in Egypt.
Located at the top of the Nile River in northern Egypt, Cairo is known as the ‘City of a Thousand Mosques’ with an Islamic minaret on almost every street in Old Cairo. But while Cairo is undoubtedly known for its ancient sights and historic significance, this modern metropolis has sprawled from the dense alleyways of Downtown Cairo to shiny new affluent suburbs like Heliopolis and Nasr City to the east, south to the verdant area of Maadi and all the way west to the Giza Pyramids. The enigmatic city colloquially called ‘Misr’, also the Arabic name for Egypt, is naturally proud of its past, but is also spurred onward by a youthful, ambitious and resourceful population to offer a unique yet cosmopolitan city experience.
This embrace of the traditional and trending can be seen in the eclectic mix of art, culture, music, shopping and entertainment where belly dancers meet the top 40 charts, dining options run the gamut from classic fare to Middle Eastern fusion, locals and visitors patronise souks and shopping centres as well as upscale clubs and baladi bars, and pyramids and museums hold just as much appeal as street art and viral events.
And while it’s true this charismatic city challenges with its gritty persona and infuriating chaos, Cairo is both a historic and thoroughly modern travel experience not to be missed.