Along the Nile River in northern Egypt lies its capital, Cairo. Called “The Triumphant City,” many have tried to invade this historic land, only to be crushed by its troops. Today, visitors no longer flock to Cairo to conquer it, but to glimpse Egypt’s majestic past.
Begin your tour at Salah ad-Din’s Citadel, a mediaeval fortress built in the 12th century. The sturdy, high walls fended off the Crusaders, and and are built around great domed buildings, piercing turrets, and imposing towers. The Police Museum is also within the citadel, and displays uniforms, weapons, and pictures of famous Egyptian criminals. The Ottoman-style Gawhara Palace (or The Jewel Palace) was once used as a jewellery museum, and home to the 19th century ruler Muhammad Ali.
The final resting place of the ruler is the imposing Mosque of Muhammad Ali, also named the “Alabaster Mosque” for its lavish use of alabaster. Within is a single enormous prayer chamber, a spectacle of gold walls and red floors, with numerous globes of light suspended above.
If you want a postcard view of the entire city, go to Gezira Island and make your way up the Cairo Tower. The fourth tallest in the world, this lotus-shaped landmark soars at 187 metres. If you’d rather stay at sea level, then hire a felucca and cruise down the Nile. The Eqyptian Museum in Tahrir Square exhibits a vast collection of sculptures, jewellery, and tombs.
Your Cairo holidays aren’t complete without sampling the local food. Try kushari, a dish made up of rice, lentils, chickpeas, pasta, and carmelized onions. The coffee houses aren’t to be missed either. Try the sheesha or water-pipe, which comes with apple-flavoured tobacco.
Pick up some gifts at the Khan el-Khalili market, where you can bargain for silver, spices, and carpets. Egyptian cotton can be purchased on the streets of Wekala al-Balaq.