I l l l

Nile's better

Ancient wonders and modern life sit side by side in the busy metropolis that is CAIRO.

Words: Susanna Beaumont

Travellers’ tales take on mythical proportions when it comes to talking about Cairo. Tourists in fear of over-zealous taxi drivers hole up in their hotels for days, only coming up for air to catch a cruise down the Nile. Others bypass the Egyptian capital altogether, anticipating an unruly city with little to offer. It seems that, for many, the city once dubbed the 'mother of the world’ has little charm.

But think again, because Cairo doesn't deal in half measures. Africa's largest city sits proudly alongside the Nile, the world's longest river. In its sprawling streets car drivers blow their horns

compulsively, but once you’ve

thrown off an allegiance to the Green Cross Code, the city is extraordinarily seductive.

Shiny Mercedes share the road with men on bicycles balancing vast wooden trays of bread; over-lit,


Giza break: the pyramids

Formica fast-food joints sit cheek by jowl with flame- roasted sweetcorn vendors. Equipped with sensible shoes, patience and clothing (this is not a city for bikini tops and shorts), Cairo is the place to play the explorer. To the west of the city lie the pyramids. Evidence of Pharaonic might and rightly one of the wonders of the world, they are a monumental kick-off to Cairo's other sites and sounds. Let your eyes, as well as your feet, travel and you'll witness the legacy of numerous powers and people who came, saw, conquered and built. The Romans built Babylon to the south of the city;

later came Christians, the Arabs, the French and the British. The result is a wonderfully promiscuous city when it comes to architecture.

Cairo by night can be more memorable than Cairo by day. Not a city of 1,001 nightclubs, the best option is to stroll along the Corniche (as Cairene courting couples do) take a felucca - a large sail boat - and bob about on the Nile. From a watery vantage point, you can watch the sun go down and listen out for the muezzin who sing out their evening call to prayer from the many minarets.

i Stating the obvious i The Pyramids Though fast being

encircled by Cairo’s suburbs, the pyramids are a must. The story goes that the actress Shirley MacLaine hired one of the pyramids inner chambers for spiritual refuelling; for the time- pushed traveller, a morning’s jaunt should be sufficient.

Egyptian Museum A vast repository for Pharaonic treasures, including the famed contents of Tutankhamen’s tomb. The place reguires energy just to navigate around the many rooms, so don’t see a visit as a restful tourist ophon.

Coptic Museum Just a short journey on the Metro from central Cairo is what is dubbed Coptic (Christian) Cairo. Wonderful old churches and a fabulous museum reveal Egypt’s Coptic history. Khan Al Khalili Not only the obligatory sequinned belly-dancing outfits and

cuddly camels, but shops stuffed with old silver and cures for impotency fill the narrow streets. Negotiating powers are a must and a thirst for tea, which is offered by numerous shopkeepers, will help no end with transactions.

Fefalals Middle Eastern cuisine supposedly reached its zenith in Lebanon and died a death in Egypt. Disproving this is this downtown tourist haunt of a restaurant which offers delicacies such as stuffed vine leaves and clay-pot roasted pigeon.

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lbn Touloun Mosque One of Cairo’s oldest open-courtyard mosques is situated just below the Citadel. Quiet and staggerineg beautiful, a fine venue for contemplation.

Nilometer On the southern tip on the island of Rhoda stands the ancient Nilometer, once used to register the level of the Nile. A good place to catch

your breath and gaze at the waters.

The Windsor Hotel Five star hotels may offer gin and tonic in plush surroundings but air-con tends to drain out any character. The Windsor supplies faded grandeur rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. Stella is the

Star presence: cinema billboard in downtown Cairo

Time to make a New Year's reservation

AS flights bOOk up and Charttpagne stock) diminish, it seems the race is on to plan we party of the centurv This year, Sydney. has replaced the local pub as the most popular New Year's Eve venue, with those \\ ho can: make it Don n Under planning to cluster in another of the world's party capitals EveryOne \\ ants to be xx here the action is, but there is a lot to be said for escaping to SOmenhere a little less Crowded

India 'A $0uthern Indian \illage, set in a dusty landscape, may seem an unlikeiv choice for a New Year's celebration, but finding a guiet comer of the \\Ol|d is a siiie way of starting the N€\\ Year ixzth a ne\.\ perspective Eating thalis from banana leaves with a group of wide-eyed schoolchildren, drinking coffee laced with whisky mell, it is Next Year), \\l1il0 being SurrOunded by echoing greetings of Happy. New Year' in English and Hindi it's the type of Next Year Hilldl is guaranteed to stand out frOm tne rest iRose STA vael Oxford)

STA T'aie "aie " ."o' {20:

g":5 to Bonfca, "am 5:: Prague ‘The Czech Republic capitas, Prague, is fast becoming the cheap alternative city in Europe, great fOr students and those On a budget Keep the belon zero temperatures outwith a Budvar in the back street Clubs and bars \\'thh are springing up emrv week. Visit the opera for a fiver, eat out in restaurants without breaking the DallK, or just wander around this beautifully untOuched City' Ulm STA Travel, Nottinghaml

STA Traiie Q. to page "om Scorar‘c 2’: STA Travel con5ultants have travelled the world and, if y0u’re looking for the perfect destination to fulfil your millennium celebration, they’ll point yOu in the right direction One piece of advice if you're planning to head off to far anay shores ior even those closer to homel for the millennium, book now or get left behind local beer and is often accompanied by a Side-dish of chickpeas. It is best not to be seduced by locally made spirits,

Simonds Located on the Nile island of Zamalek, on the nOisy 26th July Street, this is the place to catch a coffee or a fresh jUice. Outside, numerous newspaper stands supply international glOSSy mags and local English language papers.

Downtown The pulse of the city. this is where Cairenes shop and promenade Here, glitzy shops display a stunning aray of glamorous footwear and Cinemas are submerged in vast painted billboards sporting voluptuous women and the token bad guy.

Getting there

STA Travel offer return fares to Cairo from Edinburgh (With Lufthansa) for £191 plus tax; and from Glasgow or Edinburgh (With Klel) from £220 plus tax.

STA Travel are at 184 Byres Road and The University of Strathclyde, 90 John Street Glasgow. Tel: 0141 338 6000

27 Forrest Road, Edinburgh. Tel 0131 226 7747 0 30 Upperkirkgate, Aberdeen. Tel 0122 465 8222 0 www.statravel.co.uk

102 THE LIST 9-23 Sep 1999