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For thousands of years Egypt has allured travellers from the world over. The centre of this ancient civilization is the city of Cairo. With over fifteen million inhabitants, Cairo is the largest city on the African continent and it can be an assault on the senses. With its heat, choking traffic jams and dusty streets it can be hard for first-time visitors to get accustomed to walking around, let alone make sense of the chaos.
Despite its unruly atmosphere, there is no denying that this city has enough to keep tourists busy for several days. By far the biggest attraction is the Great Pyramids at Giza. This article looks at these and other unforgettable sights no traveller would want to miss.
Things to do in Cairo
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world. The Greater Cairo metropolitan area, with a population of 21.3 million, is the largest urban agglomeration in Africa, the largest in the Arab world and the Middle East, and the sixth-largest in the world by population. Cairo is associated with ancient Egypt, as the Giza pyramid complex and the ancient cities of Memphis and Heliopolis are located in its geographical area.
Located near the Nile Delta, the city first developed as Fustat, a settlement founded after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640 next to an existing ancient Roman fortress, Babylon. Under the Fatimid dynasty a new city, al-Qāhirah, was founded nearby in 969. It later superseded Fustat as the main urban centre during the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods (12th–16th centuries). Cairo has long been a centre of the region’s political and cultural life, and is titled
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
With more than 120,000 artefacts on display, anyone can be easily overwhelmed by all of this history. Treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamun, Egypt’s most famous pharaoh, are on the second floor. His golden mask is thought to represent what the young king’s face really looked like. Mummified pharaohs are showcased in the mummy room, also on the second floor.
On the ground floor visitors will see statues, coffins, coins, papyrus and other articles that show what life was like in ancient times. No photos, flash or otherwise, are allowed within the building.
The Khan el-Khalili Bazaar
Travellers can expect to hone their bargaining skills here and to meet some locals. Located in the city’s Islamic district, this vast souk has been an important centre for trade since the Middle Ages. Spices, handicrafts, silks, gold, silver and copper goods await travellers in the maze of the bazaar. To get a break from the sun duck into one the ubiquitous coffee shops. Egyptians like their coffee strong so be prepared for quite a powerful jolt.
The Great Pyramids
Giza used to be a town all its own but has inevitably been swallowed by the ever-expanding mass that is Cairo. Located eleven kilometres, or eighteen miles from the centre of the city, these majestic structures have been the most widely recognised symbols of Egypt throughout the ages. Innumerable foreign tourists flock here every year.
The Pyramid of Khufu, also known as the Pyramid of Cheops, is the largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis. They have all stood the ravages of time rather well and the question of how they were built has not been given a definitive answer.
The Coptic Museum
Reflecting the long history of Christianity in Egypt, which linked the ancient period to the Islamic conquest of the country, this museum contains the largest collection of Coptic art in the world. Located in an older quarter of Cairo, which had been occupied by Romans in the second century A.D., the narrow backstreets are calmer and more subdued.
The museum is divided into seven sections; sculpture/frescoes, manuscripts, ancient texts, ivory and bone, metalwork, woodwork and pottery/glass. The exhibits are displayed in chronological order to give visitors a better understanding of the development of these objects through the centuries.
This mosque was built in 970 as a Friday mosque for the new residence of Cairo. Quickly became the center of Islamic scholarship. It is the oldest mosque still in use as a university. Situated opposite a lovely park, where you can make a nice walk.
Ibn Tulun Mosque
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is the second oldest mosque in Egypt as well as the whole of Africa surviving in its full original form and is the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area. It is built around an open square courtyard which allows natural light to travel through. Ibn Tulun Mosque features ancient architectural styles of Egypt, its decorations being created from carved stucco and wood. This mosque is a popular tourist attraction.
From this tower, you have the best view of Cairo. The tower is 187 meters high, which appears on a lotus and is number four on the list of the world’s tallest towers.
This is the most famous landmark of Cairo, built in the 12th century. Here are museums, ancient mosques, and other interesting things to find.
This is a stage of ninety steps that plunges into the Nile. The water heights are carved on the walls. Using the water was once the size of the harvest are determined and thus the tax payable. Above the Nile, the gauge of woing Weliicocks, a British engineer who worked on the first Aswan dam. It is now a small museum where the mummy of the sacred ram Chnum be visited.
Museum of Islamic Art
This museum gives you a good overview of the history of Egypt. There are over 70,000 objects of Islamic art to be found. Furniture pieces, guns, gravestones, carpets, books, the museum is enormous, there are about 20 rooms available.
The best time to visit is November through March, when temperatures are cooler. Anyone who visits between June and September should bring lots of sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses, because like everywhere else in Egypt, the heat is intense. There isn’t a lot of shade out by the Pyramids and daytime temperatures during this period can soar to 40°C or more.
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