The crowds in Cairo may make Manhattan look like a ghost town, but it’s a small price to pay to experience the energy of the city Egyptians know as Umm ad Dunya – the Mother of the World. Use our guide to discover modern Egypt as you’ve never seen it before.
A short drive to the city side of the Giza Plateau, on the west bank of the Nile, takes you to the feet of the Sphinx, a symbol of Ancient Egypt. The mysterious structure – with a lion’s body and a human’s head – has been looming over Giza for thousands of years, now guarding the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World. It has inspired emperors, poets, artists, scholars and travellers for centuries and remains an enigmatic feature of Cairo.
This 1mi (0.6km) stretch of Cairo is the oldest settlement in the region, and combines Islamic, Christian and Jewish histories. Take in the warren of narrow streets to find yourself at a cultural and religious crossroads. Discover the Amr Mosque, the first mosque built in Cairo; the Ben Ezra Synagogue, dating back to the ninth century; and some of the oldest churches in the world, such as the fourth-century Church of St Sergius or the third-century Hanging Church of the Virgin Mary.
Built on the ruins of two old towers from the Fortress of Babylon, this rustic church has heavy doors inlaid with ebony and ivory, and marble pillars. It was once the residence of the Coptic patriarchs of Alexandria, as well as the place to host synods that determined when Easter should be celebrated.