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Destination: CAIRO.

Not only because it is home to the oldest and best known of all the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Great Pyramid at Giza, for myriad reasons, the Egyptian capital is a must-see destination on the itineraries of all serious travellers. The government's successful initiative to boost Egypt's economic standing in the global community has led to an increase in the number of business visitors in recent years, resulting in even more choice and diversity of places to go and things to do in an urban area that has had more than 10,000 years to develop and grow.

Cairo, like New York, never sleeps. The traffic, most notably the endless cacophony of car horns, provides the soundtrack to a 24-hour production staged by around 20 million Cairenes going about their daily business in the streets, shops and offices of this throbbing, insistent, city on the banks of the Nile.

High-rise hotels and offices dominate a skyline that towers above centuries-old mosques, the shabby chic elegance of faded French colonial-style apartment blocks, graceful museums celebrating the historic and contemporary culture and heritage of this ancient land, and the occasional serendipitous green space. There is something of interest to be found in most cities of the world if one looks hard enough, but in Cairo fascination is everywhere: in the eager faces of shopkeepers and street vendors around the Khan El Khalili; in the concentration of the mule driver negotiating his cart load of sugar cane through three lanes of traffic on an arterial highway; in the smells of delicious local dishes emanating from the restaurants and cafes that spill onto every sidewalk. Cairo's attractions are eternal, her charms may be faded but they remain myriad, indeed if there is a city more colourful, more vibrant and vivacious than this perpetual daughter of the Nile, I have yet to experience it.

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MUST SEE:

THE GREAT PYRAMID AT GIZA--one of more than 90 pyramids in Egypt, built around 2,500 BC and near neighbour of the Sphinx.

THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM--home to more than 120,000 treasures (not all on display) including some contents from the tomb of King Tutankhamun, among them the famous gold mask.

THE CAIRO OPERA HOUSE--inaugurated in 1988, this venue boasts the most comprehensive technical stage facilities in the Middle East to showcase local and foreign culture.

THE NILE--the river which is the lifeblood of Egypt runs through the capital and is best seen from a boat.

KHAN EL KHALILI--this souq dates back to the 14th century and continues to provide a cornucopia of coffee houses, food vendors, textiles, ceramics and knick-knacks for local and foreign visitors.

MUST READ:

MIDAQ ALLEY BY NAGUIB MAI-IFOUZ (1947)

A timeless story based in an area, teeming with life, in the Islamic area of Cairo close to Khan El Khalili, which won the author the Nobel Prize for Literature.

PHOTOGRAPHY AND EGYPT BY MARIA GOLIA (2010)

A photographic and written history of Cairo that will inform and delight the reader.

MUST TRY:

UMM ALI--an Egyptian bread pudding, which has as many special 'secret' ingredients to bring out its true flavour as it has cooks, but nevertheless remains the eternal Egyptian dessert.

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Title Annotation:TRAVELOG: CAIRO
Publication:The Middle East
Article Type:City overview
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Nov 1, 2010
Words:534
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