Cairo On the Road

Cairo, Egypt
It's hard to find the right words for a city that spreads in every direction and has more people than anyone really knows. All the chaos of Cairo, Egypt's capital city, reinforces this impression and can make your head go dizzy. This is a super-city, with the kind of electric energy some travelers go crazy for. But despite it's massive size, Cairo is like an overgrown village, with many little districts and communities that feel much smaller and more intimate than the city they form.

Like the rest of the country, Cairo's identity is deeply tied to its history. This history has developed and evolved for over a thousand years by the hands of various groups and leaders, a few of which have left the world's most magnificent legacies in their wake.

What makes Cairo unique is that each new ruler, rather than destroying what he had conquered, chose to build a new city upwind from the old one. You can follow the progression of the the city's history through a question-mark-shape path that leads from Old Cairo in the south, curving north through Fustat, east to Islamic Cairo, and then west to the colonial Downtown district and Maydan Tahrir (Liberation Square), where the city's center rests for the moment.

Visitors can practice the age-old art of bargaining for trinkets, spices and perfume in one of the world’s largest bazaars, or markets. They can visit the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, one of the country’s main attractions, which houses treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Indeed, one of the joys of Cairo is that its historic areas are still vibrant, living spaces and not open-air museums. The past here is more a state of mind than a historical fact and that ultimately is the way in which the city is truly overwhelming.