Destinations: Cairo

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alex Martinez
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets," Cairo, Egypt, is a cultural jewel of the Nile River. Its history and culture can be found everywhere throughout its narrow streets and passageways, and radiates from the city's 6.8 million populous.

Located in an area known as Lower Egypt, Cairo is about 100 miles south of the Mediterranean Sea. It sits in an area where the Nile River leaves its desert valley and enters the area known as the Nile Delta. The river splits into two branches, the Rosetta and Damietta branches, which empty into the Mediterranean Sea.

The most iconic attractions of the area are the Pyramids of Giza. Interesting enough, photographs and tourist information about the area often depict the pyramids and the Great Sphinx as sitting in the middle of the Sahara Desert with small surrounding tent villages. However, this is certainly not the case. The site sits on the Giza Plateau in the city of Giza located next to Cairo. One would never guess that directly across the street, about 100 yards away from the face of the Sphinx, is a Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken. This is an example of the modernization of the area.

Aside from the urban sprawl around the site, the plateau is amazing. The pyramids are extremely large, constructed of truck-sized blocks of rock that tantalize visitors' imagination as to how ancient Egyptians were able to move them. The area includes the Pyramids of Khufu (455 ft.), Khafre (446 ft.), Menkaure (215 ft.), the three Pyramids of the Queens, the Great Sphinx, as well as various temples, tombs, cemeteries and subsidiary pyramids. Thousands of tourists visit the area every day, so the attractions can get crowded.

Visitors to the plateau are able to access the Khafre Pyramid, walk through its narrow passageways to observe a burial chamber deep within. The trek is not for the faint-hearted, meaning people who don't like confined spaces should not attempt it.

Located near the pyramids is the Great Sphinx. Although visitors can't get close enough to the Sphinx to touch it, the area offers very nice vantage points.

Another "must see" attraction of Cairo is the Egyptian Museum. With 107 halls, the impressive museum houses thousands of Ancient Egyptian artifacts including coffins, sarcophagi, large and small statues, mummies, jewels, artwork and the treasures of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Tutankhamen's solid gold coffin and sarcophagus are amazing to see in person. The museum, as with most areas of Cairo, is crowded with visitors. No cameras are allowed in the museum. More than 1.5 million tourists visit the museum annually.

The Saladin Citadel of Cairo is a fortified area that sits atop a hill in the city. It was built between 1176 and 1183 A.D. by the Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din to protect the area from crusaders. Inside the citadel is the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. From the walls of the citadel offer a spectacular view of the city.

Throughout Cairo, various bazaars and marketplaces sell souvenirs and other items for reasonable prices. Spices are also a very popular item, as well as Egyptian artwork made on papyrus paper.

The city is very busy and never sleeps. All day and throughout the night, the main roadways are jam packed with cars. Drivers use their horns for everything, so there's a constant hum of horns. The streets are packed with people late into the night. The large volume of cars on the streets and overwhelming amount of people cause problems for the city such as heavy air and land pollution. The dry climate also contributes to this problem, however, the pollution isn't anything that can't be overlooked when considering the astounding attractions the city has to offer.

There is so much to see in a city as large as Cairo; these are just a few of the city's attractions. From exploring the massive monuments of Ancient Egypt to walking the streets of modern day Egypt, Cairo is definitely an excellent city that's coming into its own as one of the most densely populated cities in the world.