One of Africa's largest cities - with a population of close to ten million in the city proper and a further 10 million living in close proximity - Cairo is a chaotic mixture of sights, sounds and smells. It is heaving with life, volatile and boisterous, with an intensity that both exhausts and invigorates visitors. The congested streets of Islamic Cairo are full of donkey carts, traders and mosques, while camels weave their way haughtily between the crumbling pyramids on the outskirts. Taxis clamour for attention and pedestrians elbow their way past busy coffee houses, where those seeking a brief escape from the hustle and bustle sit sipping at strong cups of coffee while contemplating the smoke rings of Shisha water pipes.
Cairo © Berthold Werner
In Cairo, visitors practice the age-old art of bargaining for trinkets, spices and perfume in one of the world's largest bazaars, or pay a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which houses treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb. They wander the streets of Coptic Cairo, visiting places of worship that are centuries old, and marvel at the massive pyramids that loom just beyond the city. Sunsets are enjoyed overlooking the mighty Nile River and the restaurants promise flavoursome Egyptian cuisine and all sorts of international delicacies. The city is challenging but its treasures are myriad and it is the doorstep to the wonders of one of the oldest and mightiest human civilizations.
Situated on the Nile, Egyptians proudly refer to Cairo as the 'Mother of all Cities'. It is an ancient hub of human endeavour, populated since about the 4th century, when the Romans established the fortress of Babylon. The city holds an enduring fascination for travellers. It is as beguiling as it is messy, showcasing an exciting blend of African, Arab and European influences, the timelessness of ancient heritage, and the energy of the present.