Cairo (1 of 6)
This city has an energy, palpable even at three in the morning, like no other. It's the product of its 20 million inhabitants waging a battle against the desert and winning (mostly), of 20 million people simultaneously crushing the city's infrastructure under their collective weight and lifting the city's spirit up with their uncommon graciousness and humour.
One taxi ride can span millennia, from the resplendent mosques and mausoleums built at the pinnacle of the Islamic empire, to the 19th-century palaces and grand avenues (which earned the city the nickname 'Paris on the Nile'), to the brutal concrete blocks of the Nasser years - then all the way back to the days of the pharaohs, as the Pyramids of Giza hulk on the western edge of the city.
Cairo is not a Pharaonic city, though the presence of the Pyramids leads many to believe otherwise. At the time the Pyramids were built, the capital of ancient Egypt was Memphis, 20km southeast of the Giza Plateau. The core foundations of the city of Cairo were laid in AD 969 by the Fatimid dynasty.