Compelling Contrasts

A bustling centre that is a cultural, commercial and political hub, Cairo is a city where the past coexists with the present

From the brilliant to the bewildering, visiting Cairo is an experience like none other. With a population of close to 20 million, it is the largest city in the Middle East and one of the largest in Africa. Hence, it is aptly referred to as a megalopolis. Dating to the time of the pharaohs, the city situated on the banks of the world’s longest river, the Nile, was founded way back in 969 CE.    

Symbol of magnificence

A nerve centre of the Arab world, the ancient city of Cairo has grown at a phenomenal pace and boasts a whopping density of 19,376 people per sq km! While it is in Cairo that you see the last remaining wonder of the ancient world aka the Giza Pyramids, it is here that you also encounter instances of jostling traffic with not only cars packed beyond capacity but also donkey carts on the highway!

Intrinsically associated with and a fitting tribute to the history and achievements of ancient Egypt is the Giza pyramid complex that consists of the three iconic pyramids, the Great Sphinx and several other cemeteries. Standing tall since the last 4000 years, the pyramids are truly awe inspiring in terms of their size, perfect symmetry and excellent work of engineering that was prevalent thousands of years ago. These stunning tombs along with the Sphinx, which is the biggest single-stone statue of a human-headed lion in the world, continue to draw thousands of tourists each day to Cairo.

Museums and mosques galore

Another fascinating site to visit is the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, also known as the Egyptian Museum. It has close to a massive 120,000 items on display. It is the perfect place to take a step back in time and enjoy a journey through the genesis of Egyptian civilisation.

Completed in 972 AD, the Al-Azhar Mosque is also a place for history lovers. Apart from being one of the oldest surviving mosques, it is also one of the oldest Islamic universities in the world. The Citadel, which consists of a set of medieval fortified walls, is a great place to get a birds’ eye view of this lively city. Apart from three main mosques, the Citadel also houses the Egyptian military museum, Al-Gawhara Palace Museum and the Carriage Museum. The Sultan Hassan Mosque, housing one of the finest examples of Mamluk architecture in the world, was built between 1356-63 and is another key place of interest apart from the Museum of Islamic Art.

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