24 hours in Cairo
Written by Jessica Lee Illustration by Fernando Volken Togni
It’s no wonder Cairo is known as Umm al-Dunya (‘Mother of the World’)
Hemmed in by the desert, with the Nile slicing through its heart, this city has said hello, and in turn waved goodbye, to a mind-boggling list of conquerors since being founded by the Fatimids in AD 969.
The district of Islamic Cairo hides a jumble of Mamluk mosques and monuments that illustrate the city’s glorious zenith. To experience modern Cairo, dive straight into the vibrant street life of Downtown, overlooked by the crumbling beaux-arts façades of Khedive Ismail’s genteel ‘Paris-on-the-Nile’.
Forever restless and shape-shifting, this no-holds-barred city has its finger on the pulse of both Africa and the Middle East. With its soundtrack of the muezzin’s call to prayer, backed by the never-ceasing symphony of car horns, this truly is the city that never sleeps.
Taxis are cheap and easily hailed on the street (typical in-town fare EGP 5-10). All the new white a/c-cabs have working meters.
Surprisingly speedy and efficient, the metro is the quickest way to zip around in the central city district (tickets are EGP 1 per journey).
As long as it’s not in the midday heat, the fascinating districts of Islamic Cairo and Downtown are best discovered on foot.
Hop on a river bus from Downtown’s Corniche to check out the city from the Nile. Boats head out at 8am, 2pm, and 9pm.