At the center of Africa’s largest metropolitan area, Cairo has almost 21 million inhabitants. (The city is not the country’s oldest; scholars date its development to the fourth century, when the Romans established the Babylon Fortress, the ruins of which still stand.) Nowadays, Cairo is congested and chaotic, but it rewards at least two days of exploration, plus another two days to tour the famous sites of the Giza Plateau, notably the pyramids. An ideal first-time visit to the city would include tours of the old Islamic Quarter; the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization; the graceful Muhammad Ali Mosque; the Cairo Citadel, a spectacular medieval hilltop fortress; Cairo’s Coptic Christian neighborhood; and the (often closed) Ben Ezra Synagogue, a testament to Cairo’s once-thriving Jewish community.

“Cairo’s complex history, like Jerusalem’s, is layered with the imprints of Jews, Christians and Muslims"

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