Welcome to the Cairo city guide – our guest writer Rafael Diogo explores the famous Egyptian city not with his eyes, but with his ears, to give sonic tourists an idea of which sounds to listen out for when visiting Cairo. This is part of our ongoing series of city sound guides, highlighting the sounds that characterise some of the most beautiful cities on Earth.
Cairo city guide
1. Islamic neighbourhood
No part of the city captures the vibrancy of Cairo like the old Islamic neighbourhood. It’s the heart of the city, or in other words, “ the cultural spine of historic Cairo”. Nowhere else can you blend the sense of the historic with the modern so easily.
Compared with the inner peace of mosques and churches, the chaos of the old neighbourhood is unbearable and makes it obvious that a group of people at the bottom of society are neglected by society and deserve more attention. The Islamic neighbourhood hosts more than 75 mosques, madrasas, bayts, and other monuments worth of sonic exploration.
2. Al Moez Street, Islamic Cairo
Overburdened by the chaos of the older neighbourhoods, many residents are now moving to more modern and quieter compounds on the outskirts of the Islamic neighbourhood. They seek relief from congestion, traffic and, yes, noise – highways and flyovers now cut through historic neighbourhoods.
3. Eid ul-Fitr, Islamic Cairo
Eid ul-Fitr is one of the biggest celebrations in Egypt – in reality, it is a three day holiday in the country. The word Eid (from the Arabic language) suggests celebration, feast, and lifelong joy. If you were to mention Eid to any Egyptian, he would react with a sense of delight, musing a heart full of joy as if they were still a child. The best place to immerse yourself in the celebrations is to head to one of the three Fatimid gates that remain standing nowadays. Bab Zuwayla is the most dramatic, with its crowning fifteen-century minarets. It leads partygoers to a bazaar quarter that is as full of life today as it was in the Middle Ages.
4. Khan el-Khalili, Islamic Cairo
Located in the heart of Al-Qahira, the old walled city, Khan el-Khalili night bazaar is the place to stimulate your imagination and go hunting for treasures.
Unlike many other Middle Eastern street markets, this bazaar has always been a place that mixes the commercial, religious and domestic. Spending an evening in the labyrinthine streets of this night bazaar will give you a great insight into Cairo life – immerse yourself into the cacophony of deafening sounds that the city has to offer while sipping tea in a local cafe.
5. Tahrir Square
Egypt’s skateboarding and rollerblading enthusiasm was born out of lockdown tedium and quickly spread from city to city as one of the nation’s fastest-growing trends.
In Cairo, the rollerskating community has increased substantially over the last two years to raise awareness of the sport and show off the beauty of Egyptian venues such as Tahrir Square.
6. Old elevator
Do you have a claustrophobic fear of antique elevators?
Well, Cairo’s antique elevators can be more than one hundred years old and date from the era when European architects moulded Cairo’s streets. They are glorious and glitchy and can either be loved or feared – feel like stepping back in time?