It's beautiful, it's old, it's crowded, it's charming and surprising. Call it Cairo, al-Qahirah or Masr, whatever, you will be always talking about one of the most interesting cities on the African continent.
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Egypt is one of the cradles of modern humans so it's no wonder that its capital is the largest city in Africa, one of the world's largest cities in the world and home of many wonders, from ancient pyramids to newly-built Library of Alexandria. Thanks to its heritage, Cairo is a complex city, its position on the river Nile makes all kind of influences possible and that's the reason why Cairo is a place where ancient and modern cultures meet and why local people call it Masr - Egypt. It's the whole country in one.
The four city areas are The Modern City, Islamic Cairo, The Old City, and West Bank. Like four different cities, they have their own history and attractions to see and feel. The Old City is the oldest part of the town which dates back to Babylon era, Islamic Cairo is established in medieval times and The Modern Cairo is the newest area, bordered by The Old City, the Islamic Cairo and the Nile River. Now, let's see some of the most interesting attraction in this cosmopolitan city. We said "some" because for all of them you would need months.
In the Old Cairo, once known as the Roman fortress Babylon, you can touch the same walls Emperor Justinian once touched, but he too was building on the old foundations: that part of the city is established some 2,600 years ago. Situated opposite of Rhoda Island, that is the place where Christians built 20 churches within one square kilometres. Here you can find some of the oldest Christian Churches in the world and the first mosque built in Egypt. One of the most interesting is the Hanging Church, a Coptic church located above a gatehouse of the Roman fortress.
At the heart of the city there is Khan el-Khalili, the Egypt's most famous market built in 1382. Khan was once the centre of spice trade but also the centre of political life. On its northern side locals are buying and prices are lower, while on the west side you can find a good deal of gold and silver. Don't forget to rest your feet in Cafe of Mirrors, the traditional gathering place for world-known artists. And of course, don't forget haggling, you will make your trader very unhappy if you don't try to lower down the price some 30 percent.
As you are walking from one attraction to another, be careful: the streets are crowded and don't think that drivers will pay attention to you. This city lives 24 hours a day and that's one of the reasons why locals are searching a bit of peace in al-Azhar Park, the largest green area in Cairo. It is a peaceful oasis that spreads on 30 hectares situated on the hill, packed with gardens and small cafes. Sit down, take a tea and enjoy the beautiful view to great pyramids kilometres away. Don't forget to give baksheesh (tip) to your host who received you with a smile.
The Egyptian Museum at Tahrir square is simply a must. In its first section you can see the biggest treasure of them all: the treasure of ancient Pharaohs. The museum has 107 halls and more than 120,000 artefacts, and it would take weeks to see all artefacts. So, we'll just mention the hall with eleven mummies of the most famous kings and queens, and the hall in which you can see how life in the ancient Egypt looked like. There is about 30 museums in Cairo, one of them being the Military Museum with a collection of weapons and costumes from ancient times.
One landmark you can't miss is the Cairo Tower, located in the heart of Cairo's embassy district on Zamalek Island on the river Nile. It was built in the shape of a lotus flower, a symbol of the ancient Egypt, and with 187 meters it is higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza. On the top of it you can enjoy a good meal in a rotating restaurant. You can also stop by some small restaurant and try koshari, a traditional dish based on rice, with fantastic local vinegar and spicy tomato sauce on top. A fantastic way to end your daily tour in this African jewel. ■
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