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CAIRO Egypt’s bustling

CAIRO Egypt’s bustling capital is a treasure trove of ancient history, and those who linger are rewarded with a sensory journey through time like no other With a population of more than 19 million, Cairo is one of Africa’s largest cities. Situated between the Middle East, Africa and Europe, it has been the epicenter of political and cultural upheaval for centuries, with each new influence leaving its mark. Duck away from well-known sites, and you will soon find yourself weaving down narrow alleyways and through ancient gates to find Coptic churches and hidden palaces. Known as the “City of a Thousand Minarets,” Cairo is bursting at the seams with Islamic architecture. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the medieval Islamic quarter, where mosques and madrassas represent Islamic culture from around 900 AD to the present day. Kick off your journey with a visit to the top of Bab Zuweila, an 11th-century gate with breathtaking views of the city below. After admiring Mamlukera splendor, let the sounds and smells of Khan el-Khalili transport you back to the golden era of the Silk Road. Once you have gotten your heritage fix, sample a slice of Egypt’s future. Townhouse Gallery was the city’s first independent art space. Housed in a converted paper factory in downtown Cairo, it was instrumental in the redevelopment of the area, including the opening of the 150-seat Rawabet theater. If the shops downtown do not suit your fancy, head to one of the city’s up-and-coming new boutiques at Fair Trade Egypt in trendy Zamalek. Must-sees Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is home to the treasures of Tutankhamen’s tomb and a statue of Khufu, the builder of one of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Manial Palace’s Islamic glasswork, Turkish carpets and colonial interiors are a feast for the eyes, and offer insight into Cairo’s wealthy elite during the early 20th century. Take to the Nile the traditional way on a felucca—an Egyptian wooden Clockwise, from above: Decorative cupolas in the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha; mosaics at the Hanging Church; the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha in the Citadel; a carved panel in the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq 118 VIKING.COM EXPLORE MORE 2020

CITY GUIDE sailboat—and watch Cairo drift by at a gentle pace. Coptic Cairo is part of Old Cairo and home to some of the country’s oldest churches, including the Hanging Church. The Citadel of Salah el-Din is the best place to get a view of the whole city, sprawling out as far as Giza’s pyramids on a clear day. The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan is one of the city’s most spectacular mosques; take time to admire the marble panels and muqarnas (stalactite vaulting). Shopping Egyptians have been bargaining, buying, wheeling and dealing at the Khan el-Khalili souk since the 14th century. While here, keep an eye out for some of the marketplace’s beautiful cotton clothes and brassware, and be sure to go upstairs to the souk’s quieter levels. For fixed prices and superior quality, Souk al-Fustat near Coptic Cairo features artisan and coop pottery, recycled products, and Nefertari, a manufacturer of beautifully scented natural body care products. Eating Founded in 1908, Café Riche is a legendary watering hole just moments from Tahrir Square. Through revolutions and upheaval, it has hosted academics, politicians, spies and journalists; however, the food is not what it used to be, so soak up the history over a Turkish coffee. Worth a visit, Felfela prides itself on authentic cuisine and Egyptian decor. Upmarket Zamalek is the place to go for brunch, and Left Bank cooks up some of the city’s top eggs. Abou Tarek is a modest local haunt and one of the best places to sample kushari—a flavorful mix of rice, lentils, chickpeas and macaroni topped with cumin and onions. Go online: Watch a video of the Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary at vrc.com/videos EXPLORE MORE 2020 VIKING.COM 119