Cairo is the capital of Egypt and, with a total population in excess of 16 million people, one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (which regions it conveniently straddles). Situated on the River Nile, Cairo is famous for its own history—preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and in Old Cairo—and for the ancient, Pharaonic history of Egypt as a whole. No trip to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Giza Pyramids, to nearby Saqqara, or to the Egyptian Museum in the center of town. Though firmly attached to the past, Cairo is also home to a vibrant modern society.
Hiring a private boat, called a felucca, for a ride down the Nile is a great way to relax and enjoy a night under the stars. Public boats with loud Arabic music and a giggling crowd are also available. Cairo remains one of the best cities in the world to sample the traditional coffee house culture of the region. Places vary from just a small affair—plastic chairs and tables put out on the street—to more elaborate cafes especially in upscale and tourist areas. For many, the sheesha, or water pipe, is the main attraction of any visit to a coffee house. It is usually available in at least two varieties, mu´assal, pure tobacco, and tofâh, apple-flavored.