The January 2011 uprising and subsequent tensions in the country may have discouraged a handful of tourists from exploring Egypt. But recent developments suggest that now is the best time to experience the pristine aura of the land of the pharaohs.
As a confirmation, many European countries such as Belgium, Italy and even Germany have erased earlier warnings, asking travel agencies to market the cradle of civilization to their customers. On the whole, Egypt offers a fascinating experience for tourists – from the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Giza Necropolis, Great Sphinx to the Valley of the Kings.
But one place where the conversation never ends is Cairo, the capital city. It is a place where the past and present are fully interwoven and where the future keeps alluding to the city’s rich history.
Parking your bags already for your summer vacation? See 5 major reasons why you may consider experiencing Cairo.
#1. Hordes of Historical Sites and Landmarks
For one, the city of Cairo represents virtually everything Egypt has to offer. Imagine coming in direct contact with the Church of Saint Sergius and Bacchus where Joseph and the Virgin Mary sheltered baby Jesus during King Herod’s massacre of male babies.
Or imagine the distinct European finish of Zamalek on the Nile Island and all the arty boutique chains, sprawling streets ringed by flowery Jacaranda trees that wave at you as if to say welcome. A peaceful stroll around these breath-taking boulevards is as exciting as your first crush in high school.
Away to Downtown Cairo, you will be fascinated by the towering splendor that made Cairo once named as the “Paris of the Earth.” In one word, Downtown Cairo captures why 19th Century was referred to as Belle Époque, boasting one of the best clusters of stylish buildings reminiscent of the Art Nouveau. Exclusive tours are also available to add colour to your trip.
#2. Great Cuisine For Everyone
If your taste buds are as sensitive to great delicacies as mine, Cairo is one city where you are likely to become a glutton overnight. Despite the intrusion of European influences spanning centuries, traditional Egyptian cuisine forms a regular staple in virtually every home, restaurants and hotels.
There is the traditional Kebob, a brochette filled with green, leafy vegetables and meats. And there are new variations of Kebob made from fruits, nuts and deserts. If you are adventurous about foods, Ful Medames is a delicacy that would satisfy your cravings. For a meal that has assumed a national dish, breakfast time is sure to trigger some butterflies in your stomach.
And remember to add fatayeer, Falafel, muzzaga’a to the checklist of some of the great dishes to explore. But here is my caveat: you might just become a regular face at the nearest convenience if you lose control to the sweetness of these meals.
What is spectacular about Cairo is that for every attraction, there are specially carved out restaurants and spots that allow tourists ease off the pressure of the city’s bustle. For instance, after a busy day of shopping and haggling at the Khan el-Khalili market, a quick dash into the serene, air-conditioned Khan el-Khalili Restaurant offers some respite and calm. Or if you decide to make a stop at the 4th dynasty funerary temples at the Pyramids of Giza, Andrea is one spot where both delightful local dishes and wine go hand-in-hand.
#3. Exciting Night Life
Most cities are best experienced at night and Cairo is not an exception. After a long day of shopping, sight-seeing and experimenting with local foods or trying out the nobiin or the Egyptian Arabic, it won’t be a bad idea to immerse yourself in the vibrant night life Cairo has on offer.
Though in many spots, the distinction between a restaurant, club and bar is often blurred. But never mind, there is a shelf-load of great spots for everyone.
In case you are not so into all the excitement of clubs and casinos, you could head to the Midan Al-Hussein for soft drinks. Or simply find your way to Cairo Jazz Club to sip some cold beer with locals and foreigners while softly spinning around to some good music.
Bet you, Cairo offers much more than clubs and bars at night. Right at the Gezira Island is the Cairo Opera House, a spot where film, drama and dance are carefully interspersed with great music. Foreigners often flock these spots to experience the city through stories told from the Egyptian eye. Elsewhere in Downton Cairo, a flurry of contemporary performances take center stage at the Rawabet Theater.
#4. Presence of Sacred Destinations
After Jerusalem, Cairo is perhaps the second biggest reservoir of religious relics spanning several centuries and civilizations. Here, Jews, Christians and Muslims alike all have a basketful of ancient treasures that resonate with their faith and history.
Consider the 12th Century Citadel built by Saladin and his successors. Right from this historic hill, an entire Egypt was ruled for about 700 years. Cairo is also home to the stunning Hanging Church which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Suspended above a gatehouse in the Roman bastion, the Hanging Church is one of the most imposing churches in Egypt’s capital known for its open courtyards, mosaics, murals, marble pulpit and enameled screens.
A more imposing superstructure in Cairo is the Muhammad Ali Mosque which has dominated the city’s skyline for almost 200 years. With its cluster of suspended globe lamps, surging domes and tasteful finish, you are likely to confuse it for those impressive mosques in Istanbul. But then, this is Cairo!
In one breath, Old Cairo is one place where the four leading world’s religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism are heavily represented.
#5. A Place Where History Lives Forever
If you love history, you will love Old Cairo just opposite Rhoda Island. And in case History was your boring subject in school, coming in direct contact with Cairo would stir your interest to experience what had been confined to the pages of books for ages.
Here, you come face-to-face with the legacy of earliest forms of writing, magnificent arts and some of the most awe-inspiring structures the world has ever seen.
First, exploring the Babylon Fortress and all the thrills at the Coptic Museum is always a delight for tourists. The Coptic Museum boasts of the largest collection of Coptic Christian artefacts in the world, dating as far back as the arrival of Christianity in Egypt.
How about the ground where Pharaoh’s daughter found baby Moses in the stalks? Or the St. Paul’s Monasteries buried in the Eastern Desert in the Red Sea mountains?
To put it mildly, Cairo is one place where the poetry of earth is never dead.
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