Cairo Those who haven‘t seen Cairo, haven‘t seen the world
Those who haven‘t seen Cairo, haven‘t seen the world. That’s how a lot of texts, travelogues and descriptions of the Egyptian capital begin.
The quote comes from the famous stories of the Arabian Nights and tries to put the uniqueness of Cairo into words. The mega-metropolis is indeed incomparable.
An estimated 25 million people live in the city on the Nile, the city buzzes like a beehive, all day every day. This is probably why Cairo is also called “The city that never sleeps”.
It is the largest city in Africa, the female Arabic name al-Qahira means “the victorious” or “the conqueror”.
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This is why Cairo is many times referred to with a “she” or “her”. Every day, she still conquers her millions of inhabitants and the countless cars that pour through the metropolis in seemingly endless traffic jams.
Because Cairo is about to burst; illegal settlements and slums have always been part of the city. Even mausoleums in cemeteries are used as housing.
The city of the dead, which is just right below the Mokattam Mountains, is home to around 300,000 people and part of the Islamic old town of Cairo. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 as well as the Coptic Quarter since the 1990s.
The historic city center is home to numerous sightseeing places, including the Saladin Citadel with its integrated alabaster mosque (Muhammad Ali Mosque), the Hanging Church and the Ben Esra Synagogue as well as the famous Khan el-Khalili Bazaar.
The Alabaster Mosque is one of the biggest mosques in Cairo and was built under Pasha Muhammad Ali. After a powder explosion in 1824, part of the destroyed Citadel of Saladin was replaced by the Alabaster Mosque.
The colloquial name was derived from the magnificent alabaster-clad walls inside the Muhammad Ali Mosque. The citadel itself is located on a hill, at the foot of it is the Islamic old town with the Sultan Hassan and Ibn Tulun mosques.
The latter is considered to be the oldest mosque in Cairo, which has been preserved in its original form. The Hanging Church, on the other hand, is one of the oldest Christian churches in Egypt.
The church got its name because its nave is located above a gatehouse. As a representation of the Jewish faith, the Ben Esra Synagogue is especially famous because of its spectacular Genisa, which was supposed to be found around the year 800.
The synagogue is also part of the old town. Aside from the great diversity of worshipping places, one of the highlights of the old town is certainly the Khan al Khalili bazaar.
With its winding streets, the souk from the late 14th century is one of the attractions of Cairo and has not lost its oriental charm. In it the spirit of the Orient is still alive, the shopkeepers seem to be reminiscent of the former merchants from 1001 nights.
The history of the Cairo comes to life in countless corners, especially the recent past seems almost tangible on the famous Tahrir Square.
It was the epicentre of the Arab Spring, became part of more recent historiography, and was both a joy and a theatre of war for the Egyptian people. Not far from the Tahrir Square is the Egyptian Museum; it is both a treasure trove of ancient Egypt and a journey through time to a former highly developed culture.
The walls of the neoclassical-style building are packed with over 100,000 exhibits, with even more in the inaccessible basement and on the second floor. The highlight of this collection are most likely the objects around the famous Pharaoh Tutankhamun, which includes his impressive mask made of around ten kilograms of solid gold.
The Egyptian Museum is also the resting place for the mummies of many pharaohs from the New Kingdom, such as Amenophis, Thutmosis and Ramses for example, as well as countless other grave goods and artefacts from the Middle Kingdom.
This also includes items which were discovered during excavations in other parts of Egypt.
The great past of Egypt becomes clear once again at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
Together with the Chephren and Mykerinos pyramid, it is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The walk across the forecourt becomes a gateway to the past: around 4,500 years ago, people left their foot prints in the sand.
In addition to the valley temple, another contemporary witness joins below the Giza plateau: the Great Sphinx, which sits majestically in front of the graves of its alleged builders.
The evening sound and light show illuminates the impressive monuments, while the narrators’ voices bring the pharaohs and their families to life. While historic Cairo basks in the splendour of its great past, contemporary Cairo is a young, almost fluid structure.
It does not follow any laws as it was and is the saving haven for a whole range of people: war refugees, artists and intellectuals. Cairo is neither one-dimensional, nor simple or quiet, on the contrary; it is loud, charismatic and lively – it is “the victorious”
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