Compiled by Daniel Jones
Home to the pyramids, the Sphinx, and Africa’s largest city of 16 million, Cairo is home to the continent’s most successful clubs, Al Zamalek and Al Ahly.
In Arabic, Cairo translates as "the Vanquisher" or "The Triumphant." While Al-Qahirah is the official name of the city, in Egyptian Arabic it is typically called simply by the name of the country, Masr.
A journey through Cairo is a virtual time travel: from the Pyramids, Saladin's Citadel, the Virgin Mary's Tree, the Sphinx, and ancient Heliopolis, to Al-Azhar, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-A'as, Saqqara, the Hanging Church, and the Cairo Tower. It is the Capital of Egypt, and indeed its history is intertwined with that of the country.
It was about 5000 years ago that a young prince by the name of Narmer (Menes) unified the Red (North) and White (South) kingdoms and became Egypt's first Pharaoh.
For the next 800 years or so, the first Capital of the ancient Egyptians prospered under the rule of Zoser, Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), Menkaure (Mycerinus), Unas, and others. It became one of the most influential and powerful cities in the world, and housed one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza. Constructed on the Giza plateau, a necropolis of the city of Memphis on the Nile's west bank, the three Great Pyramids are the ultimate manifestation of political stability and power of the ruler during the Third and Fourth Dynasties. Khufu's son built 2 of the Giza pyramids.
Over the next thousand years, Egyptian rule gradually declined, and later replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and eventually the Arabs. Under Islamic rule, the nation prospered. A series of dynasties followed for the next thousand years, before French and later British rule came in the 19th Century. Egypt later became independent in 1952.
The oldest part of the city is somewhat east of the river. These western areas, built on the model of Paris by Ismail the Magnificent in the mid-19th century, are marked by wide boulevards, public gardens, and open spaces.
Transportation in Cairo comprises an extensive road network, rail system, subway system and maritime services. Cairo is the centre of almost the entire Egyptian transportation network.The subway system, called 'The Metro' locally, is a fast and efficient way of getting around Cairo. It can get very crowded during rush hour. There is also usually a carriage at the front of the train that is reserved for women only.
An extensive road network connects Cairo with other Egyptian cities and villages. There is a new Ring Road that surrounds the outskirts of the city, with exits that reach to almost every Cairo district. There are flyovers, and bridges such as the Sixth of October bridge that allows straight, fast and efficient means of transportation from one side of the city to the other. Cairo traffic is known to be overwhelming and overcrowded.
Cairo’s Al Zamalek and Al Ahly, whose local derby is the most watched in Africa, are the first and the second champions in the African continent and the Arab World. Both teams play their home games at the 75,000 seat Cairo International Stadium, Africa’s largest.
Established in 1911 by a Belgian businessman and currently based in the suburb of Giza, Zamalek is Africa’s most successful side with 5 Champions Leagues, 3 African Super Cups and 2 Afro-Asian Cups. Zamalek became the first African-Asian club to top the FIFA World Club Ranking in 2003.
Claimed by Egypt’s aristocratic class as the club of choice for Egyptian free-thinkers, Zamalek lacks the government backing of Al-Ahly. Former notable players include Tottenham’s Hassam Mido and Egypt’s striking sensation Amr Zaki.
Derby matches between Zamalek and Al Ahly are usually officiated by foreign referees, and the action off the pitch is fierce enough for the government to employ nearly 1,000 national troops at the stadium.
Founded in 1907 Al Ahly is supported by the working class and has risen to become one of Africa’s most supported clubs with a reported 40 million followers. Al-Ahly, which means "national" in Arabic, has achieved its success domestically, winning the Egyptian League thirty-one times and the Egyptian Cup thirty-four times.
Cairo Opera House
President Mubarak inaugurated the new Cairo Opera House of the Egyptian National Cultural Center in 1988, seventeen years after the Royal Opera House had been destroyed by fire.
Egyptian clubs are the most competitive in Africa.
The National Cultural Center was built with the help of JICA, the Japan International Co-operation Agency.
The Pyramids and the Great Sphinx
Located in the suburbs of Giza, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and the largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis.The oldest and only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the World, it is believed to have been constructed over a 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC. The Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for Fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. COST: £e40, £e20 additional Boat Museum; additional £e10 to use your camera and £e100 to use your video recorder. OPEN: Daily 8-4.The "enigmatic" Sphinx, part human and part feline, is attached to Khafre's Pyramid complex, just north of his valley temple, with a separate temple (now very much destroyed) of its own. The figure of a recumbent lion with a man's face wearing the nemes (traditional headdress of the pharaoh), is thought to be Khafre in the guise of Re-Harakhte, a manifestation of the sun god, and, in this case, a guardian of the necropolis. COST: £e20; Sound-and-Light Show £e33.50. OPEN: Daily 8-4; Sound-and-Light Show (in English), Fri.-Wed. 6:30 PM in winter, 7:30 PM in summer. Address: Al-Haram, Giza.
The Egyptian Museum
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum' is home to the most extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world. It has 136,000 items on display, with many more hundreds of thousands in its basement storerooms.
For many the most entertaining section of Cairo, Khan el-Khalili is an ancient shopping area, nothing less, but some of the shops have also their own little factories or workshops. The suq (which is the Arabic name for bazaar, or market) dates to 1382, when Emir Djaharks el-Khalili built a hotel for traders, and usually the focal point for economic activity for any surrounding area. This caravanserai is still there, you just ask for the narrow street of Sikka Khan el-Khalili and Badestan.
The Cairo Tower is free-standing concrete TV tower in Cairo, Egypt. It stands in Zamalek district on Gezira Island in the River Nile, in the city centre. At 187 metres, it is 43 metres higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which stands some 15 km to the southwest.
WHERE TO EAT
Al-Tazaj, 16 Shar'a Gameat al-Dowal al-Arabiya, Mohandiseen, Cairo; 02/305-0905
When it comes to speedy service Al-Tazaj is second to none. The owners claim to get their produce from farm to grill in fewer than four hours, which is why (despite the fast-food decor) this joint turns out some of Cairo's tastiest grilled chicken -- and little else. The birds are small, so you might want two, and while you're at it, ask for an extra container of the deliciously garlicky tahina to use as a dip. Only the slightly soggy corn on the cob disappoints. Reservations not accepted. No credit cards.
Andrea, 60 Maryotteya Canal, Shar'a Kerdessa, al-Haram, Cairo; 02/383-1133
Near the pyramids down an unmarked canal off Shar'a King Faisal, Andrea is hard to find -- your taxi driver might know it, or ask pedestrians once you get out there -- but it is absolutely worth the effort. Friday lunch in the gardens is an Egyptian family tradition. Chicken is grilled on beds of charcoal visible to the left as you walk in, and warak einab (stuffed grape leaves and chicken livers) are unequalled. At night the Byzantine interior becomes Cairo's most sophisticated nightclub.
WHERE TO STAY
Cairo Hilton World Trade Center Residence, World Trade Center, Corniche al-Nil, Bulaq, Cairo; 02/580-2000 - Cairo's best-kept lodging secret is that the palatial, fully furnished, 2,000-square-ft apartments in this Hilton-managed luxury residential complex can sometimes be rented by the week, not just long term -- and for less than the cost of two hotel rooms, which makes it ideal for families. Each Royal apartment has two bedrooms, four bathrooms, a terrace (opt for the city view, which is better and less expensive), a large living room, a study, and a fully equipped kitchen. 104 apartments. Amenities: pool, gym. AE, MC, V.
Mena House Oberoi, Shar'a al-Haram, Giza; 02/383-3444 - This is the great colonial-era hotel in Cairo and it began life in the mid-19th century as a hunting lodge for Khedive Isma'il, the Egyptian ruler. Since becoming a hotel, it has hosted almost every politician, celebrity, and member of royalty to visit Egypt. There have been a number of expansions over the years (many of them unsuccessful), but the core of the hotel remains the Moorish fantasy lodge of old. Of course, it is the view of the pyramids, so close you can almost touch them, that will leave you gasping -- rooms with a view are in such demand that there is a $15 per-person charge just to guarantee one, plus the premium for the room. 498 rooms, 25 suites. In-hotel: 5 restaurants, bars, pool, gym. AE, DC, MC, V. www.oberoihotels.com