Most every Egyptian itinerary begins in Cairo, the center of Africa’s largest metropolitan area encompassing almost 21 million people. The city is not the country’s oldest; scholars date its development to the 4th century, when Romans established the Babylon Fortress (its ruins still stand). Nowadays, Cairo is congested and chaotic, but it rewards at least two days of exploration, plus another two days to tour the sites of Giza, notably the Pyramids and the immense new Grand Egyptian Museum. An ideal first-time visit to the city would include tours of the old Islamic Quarter, visiting the Bab al-Futuh city gate and the recently renovated Al-Suhaymi House; the labyrinthine Khan el-Khalili bazaar; the graceful Muhammad Ali Mosque; the Cairo Citadel, a spectacular medieval fortress crowning a hill; Cairo’s Coptic Christian neighborhood, to see the Babylon Fortress, the Church of St. Sergius and the “Hanging Church,” supported by only one column; and the Ben Ezra Synagogue, a testament to Cairo’s once-thriving Jewish community.

Join Andrew Harper today to continue reading our exclusive content.