Cairo is one of the world’s great cultural centers, an ancient city whose beginnings stretch back 10,000 years. With its position on the Nile River, Cairo has been an important trade, learning and artistic center for the Muslim world, and it’s now Africa’s largest city. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities brings together more than 120,000 ancient artifacts, including the mummified remains of 27 pharaohs. After visiting the ancient Sphinx and pyramids just south of the city at Giza, experience the modern chaotic vitality at Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s grand bazaar, where merchants sell carpets, chickens, spices, glassware and other bewildering treasures.
Egypt's ancient capital, Cairo, is one of the most fascinating, multifaceted, recognizable yet surprising places on earth. Starting with the Sphinx, the Pyramids at Giza, the wonderful Egyptian Museum, and the secrets of Old Cairo, this city probably has the largest collection of recognizable monuments and antiquities in the world. All certified guides must be trained Egyptologists, and most Western tourists book one of them for private tours of the places above which are always teeming with people as well as lesser-known places like the Alabaster Mosque and the ancient former capital city of Memphis. For souvenir shopping in fifth gear, brave the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, a famous bazaar with roots stretching back to the 14th century.
Few cities in the world boast a history as rich and varied as Cairo's. Where else can you see 6,000-year-old pyramids, the Sphinx, Roman ruins, exquisitely carved mosques and fortresses from the city's heyday as the cultural center of the Islamic world, catacombs and even a camel market?
All this plus a vibrant political and social culture, noisy, bustling bazaars packed into ancient, jumbled streets and the city's pervasive aromas (delicious, evocative and occasionally repulsive).
Though just a few miles from Memphis _x0097_ the capital of ancient Egypt _x0097_ and the pyramids at Giza, most of Cairo dates from the Islamic period, and today the city remains the most important center of Sunni Muslim scholarship in the world.
Must-see places include Memphis and the pyramids of Saqqara, the Egyptian museum (containing an outstanding collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts), the Islamic Museum with its works of art from throughout the Islamic world, the city's oldest bazaar _x0097_ the Khan el Khalily _x0097_ and the fascinating streets of Old Cairo.
And, of course, you simply can't go to Cairo without visiting Giza's wondrous pyramids and Sphinx. Built between 2600 and 2520 BC by the kings of the 4th Dynasty, the complex is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Cairo offers literally thousands of falafel and fuul cafes where you can get a meal for less than it costs to buy a newspaper back home. Or, spend an evening in the Khan el Khalily bazaar sipping tea in the old fashioned teahouses.
Finally, be sure to hike up to the Citadel, dating from the 12th century, to watch the sun set brilliantly over Cairo and the minarets of its manifold mosques.