Cairo is a city that is as fascinating as it is ancient. There is no shortage of world class draws in this magical metropolis.

Picture by Flickr’s ‘mshamma’

When you think of Egypt, you think of the Pyramids. Built by the ancients these structures have stood the test of time, ensuring that the Pharaohs who were entombed within. It is amazing to think how long ago these gigantic mausoleums were constructed – to give you an idea of the kind of the time-scale involved the difference in time between the construction of the Great Pyramid and the rule of Cleopatra is greater than the distance in time from Cleopatra to us!

For seeing the Pyramids, Cairo is very much the part of Egypt you want to be in. The most famous pyramids are those that are found at Giza, which is nearby to Cairo. These include the legendary Pyramid of Khufu. This is not only the largest of the pyramids it is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is also the only one still standing today.

As well as the pyramids Giza is also the site of the Sphinx. This is a truly massive sculpture, dating to around 2500 years before the time of Christ, of a beast with a lion’s body but the head of a human being. The mysterious statue has been the subject much debate among historical scholars. Nobody knows for sure who built the Sphinx, or indeed why. The name ‘Sphinx’ was applied to the statue by the ancient Greeks around 200 years after its construction.

The city of Cairo as it is today is fascinating in its own right. If you have not been there before nothing will prepare you for what you will find. This is a city of over 16 million people – and the heat, the dust and frequently the smell are overwhelming. You will soon adjust however and be able to soak in all that there is to see.

The history of Cairo is an exceptionally long one. There have been many colonial rulers over the millennia. The French, the British, the Greeks, the Turks, the Romans and the Arabs have all had their turn at ruling over Cairo. Each of these periods of rule has left its mark on Cairo. Find a good guide and they will be able to point out the buildings relics and influence on the architecture of later periods.

On the subject of finding a guide – expect to haggle over the price. The price of everything in Cairo is negotiable; it is simply the way of life to engage in protracted arguments over any purchase, no matter how small or how large. As a tourist remember that any price mentioned to you will in fact be eye-waveringly high. Nobody will be offended if you suggest that you should be paying less. You can also expect to be the subject of some, to put it politely, proactive, sales techniques. Don’t let this phase you, a firm “no” will usually be enough to signal your intentions if you are not interested in their wares.

Getting to the city should not be a drama however once you get to the airport however it is advised that you watch out for pickpockets and baggage thieves as they can be problematic at times. As can be the recent political squabble.