Upon arrival, the choreographed chaos here hits you like a ton of bricks. It doesn’t take long, however, to acclimatise to Cairo’s wall of noise, snarl of traffic, cry of hawkers and blanket of smog, and get drawn into the hypnotising charm of this pulsating metropolis. Known to its nearly 20 million residents as Um ad-Dunya (Mother of the World), modern Cairo is a hotchpotch of recent growth barely superimposed on a dense bed of history. Wander down to Islamic Cairo and you’ll be sucked in through the looking glass to a bygone medieval era. Head out west to Giza’s famed pyramids and the time warp sets you back a full 4000 years. Meanwhile, the city’s main museum bursts at the seams with the priceless wealth of ancient Egypt’s antiquities. But the real allure of Cairo lies somewhere in the quiet moments in between: sipping a sugary shai or puffing leisurely on a sheesha while watching the life of the city whirl past as it has for eons.