The heart of Egypt for more than 1000 years, Cairo demonstrates the dichotomy of all things Egyptian. It's in Cairo where the medieval world and the contemporary western world come together in a confusion of earthen houses and towering modern office buildings, of flashy cars and donkey-drawn carts. Nobody really knows how many people live in Cairo, but estimates put it at about 16 million, and the city's many squatter camps and slums alone accommodate around 5 million people. Housing shortages are terrible and the traffic is appalling, but the government has begun a campaign to ease these pressures, opening an underground metro system and constructing satellite suburbs.
An ancient tell of 1001 Nights, "He who have not seen Cairo, have not seen the world"
Islamic Cairo (which is no more Islamic than the rest of the city) is the old medieval quarter, and stepping into its neighborhoods is like moving back six or seven centuries. This is the most densely populated area of Egypt, and probably the whole Middle East. Districts like Darb al-Ahmar are full of tiny alleyways, mud-brick houses, food hawkers, and goats, camels and donkeys. The streets are lined with mosques and temples, and the air is filled with the pungent smells of turmeric and cumin, animals and squalor.