Despite a clever administrative move that technically separated the city of Cairo into four smaller cities in 2006, the fact remains that Cairo as the world knows it is one of the world’s largest cities with more than 18 million residents. This huge metropolis never sleeps, moves unimaginable amounts of traffic both day and night, and has some of the most colorful and fascinatingly distinct quarters of any city on earth.

Cairo is a combination of the very old, the very modern, the very traditional and the truly risque. It includes most of the Arab world’s greatest centers of learning, its most impressive museums and some of its finest centers of art and culture. Carefully Moslem to its core, there are huge and important sections of the city which are Christian, Jewish, animist and even Zen Buddhist. And while almost “anything goes” in Cairo’s late night discos and bars, traditional life styles remain sacrosanct, and the last two cars of every Cairo metro are reserved for women only.

The city is relatively young in terms of its mother Egypt, developed only intermittently until the British rule that began in 1922. But since then it has been the seat of government and the center of all Egyptian commerce and culture.

Tourists to Egypt often discount Cairo as a necessary passage to the Nile Cruise, but several days seems a bare minimum for visiting its awesome museums, majestic monuments (including the Giza pryamids), and colorful sometimes chaotic neighborhoods and souks.