Known by its inhabitants as the ‘Mother of all Cities’, Egypt’s capital, Cairo, is a chaotic and heady mix of sights, sounds and smells. It’s a city of contrasts – ancient monuments stand next to modern office blocks and the streets are packed as donkeys, mopeds, taxis and camels jostle and weave through the throng. When the hustle and bustle becomes too much, retreat to a café and relax in true Egyptian style – sit and sip a coffee while contemplating the smoke rings of a ‘hubbly bubbly’ water pipe.
Perhaps the best place to soak up Cairo’s unique atmosphere is in the Khan al-Khalili – one of the largest markets in the world. You’ll find it in Islamic Cairo, a World Heritage Site. Traders have been bargaining in these alleys since the 14th century and it is claimed that you can buy anything here, from exotic perfumes to a wife!
Another ‘must see’ is one of the most famous museums in the world, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which houses treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb among the 100,000 artefacts held in 107 rooms. Highlights include the statue of Khafre and the Royal Mummy Room, which contains mummies of some of the most powerful Pharaohs in Egypt dating from the 18th to the 20th Dynasties.
You’ve seen the mummies, now visit their homes at what is probably the world’s oldest tourist attraction! Be sure to explore the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the only remaining example of the seven ancient wonders of the world, and the Great Pyramid, thought to have taken 20 years to build and made of about two million blocks of limestone – it was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 40 centuries. The Sphinx, known as the Abu al-Hol (Father of Terror), stands guard over the Great Pyramid and is thought to be older than the pyramids themselves.
Down on the coast, the Red Sea is home to exquisite coral reefs and a bright and beautiful range of marine life, which lures divers and snorkellers from around the world. Besides excellent diving and snorkelling, the most developed of the Red Sea resorts, Sharm el-Sheikh, has shopping, nightlife and entertainment, as well as water sports, horse and camel riding, golf, desert safaris and health spas.
PDM verdict: Back in the fifth century BC, Herodotus wrote that “nowhere are there so many marvellous things…nor in the world besides are to be seen so many things of unspeakable greatness as in Egypt” – and the same could still be said today.
Each week, PDM Travel brings you inspiring destinations, the latest travel news and the chance to win.