The Egyptian city of Cairo is a city that lives non-stop, 24 hours a day. Exhilarating, noisy, choked with chaotic traffic, it combines the excitement of modern day living with some of the most iconic and legendary sights of the ancient world. You can find yourself speeding along a modern highway and seeing 4500 year old pyramids on one side.
You can buy fruit and snacks from roadside stalls for literally pennies, or spend a fortune on designer clothes, or beautiful handmade gold jewellery. This is Cairo, city of contrasts and extremes.
Don’t believe those photos you see of the ancient Pyramids of Giza rising up from a lonely desert! Romantic images, but there is clever photography at play here! While the Pyramids lie on a plateau some ten miles from the centre of Cairo, the suburbs of the city have now spread almost to their feet. Remember when the Pyramids were first built, Cairo had not even been thought about. Despite their proximity to the bustle of the city, you won’t fail to be moved by the fact that you are looking at the last survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They still cast their spell.
Unfortunately, you can no longer go inside a Pyramid, as heat and condensation from the many visitors had begun to cause considerable damage to the ancient stonework.
Close to the Pyramids, lies the Sphinx, which in recent years has had to be restored, but still retains an air of mystery and magic. At night, the Sphinx takes on the role of narrator at the Sound and Light show, put on just for the tourists, but still a spine-tingling experience.
Back in Cairo, a visit to the legendary Egyptian Museum is a must, but be prepared for the crowds. It is not huge as museums go and you may be disappointed to find that exhibits are not well labelled, and are at times badly displayed. But with a bit of patience, there are many discoveries to be made in the dusty display cabinets. Don’t be put off by the fact that they don’t appear to have been touched since the museum was built in 1902!
Remember that this museum is also home to the many treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the stunning gold death mask and fabulous jewellery, all now displayed under modern lighting.
For a really unique experience that is not for the faint-hearted among us, visit the Royal Mummy Room, where you will find the bodies of some of Ancient Egypt’s most illustrious rulers. Very creepy but not to be missed! After your visit to the museum, have a wander through Old Cairo, an area of narrow back-streets full of crumbling houses and tiny dark shops. Here you will find donkeys pulling laden carts, goats tethered to any available post, and young boys riding horses bareback.
Women covered head to toe in black or grey hurry around, and men sit outside smoky cafes playing backgammon. This is truly a visit back in time to another era.
With the extreme heat, noise and traffic, Cairo can take some getting used to, but if you visit Cairo, the memories will remain with you for a very long time.