Sixteen million people are crammed into this city that stands at the crossroads of Arabia and Africa—covering all shades of ethnicity from both sides and sundry international hangers-on. Those with a sense of history and geography can’t miss the magic of Cairo. It’s the capital of the most populous country in the Arab world. Egypt also has the second-highest population in Africa after Nigeria. It’s a timeless city: ancient pharaonic relics, medieval Islamic monuments, colonial European-style buildings and, now, satellite townships, depressingly similar to Noida and Ghaziabad, where most of middle class lives. In this city, straight out of One Thousand and One Nights, cabbies have a suggestive opening line. "You make me happy, I make you happy," is the vague promise they hold out to the uninitiated who try to fix a price. At journey’s end, it’s a one-word request every Indian must understand, "baksheesh".
As Egypt gets nearly five million tourists a year, Cairo cabbies are great at spotting nationalities. An Indian man is flattered with "Amitabh Bachchan sir, you look just like him" or "Indian just like Egyptian". Chinese travellers are greeted with an enthusiastic "Jackie Chan, very good, no?"