If you're looking for an Arab country to visit this year, your search is finally over it seems as BBC Travel declared 2020 as Cairo's year. The reason has partly to do with the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum by the end of the year, which will be the largest museum in the world dedicated to a single civilization. The museum, located 2km away from the Great Pyramids, will display the region's new and ancient history including occupations by Ottomans as well as the British.
But there are other, way more significant reasons why Cairo is a city not to be missed by tourists seeking wanderlust. Although the city is still recovering from an economic crisis and tourism decline over the past few years, Cairo is known for its hustle and bustle, combining different cultures and lifestyles all in one melting pot.
"I know that I will be able to see some amazing masterpieces for the first time in my life, as many have previously been kept in storage and now will be displayed at the new museum," Sayed Abed Al Razek, a local guide for Osiris Tours in Cairo, told BBC Travel.
"Locals like myself are also really looking forward to the opening as it will increase tourism, which in turn will aid the Egyptian economy."
Dublin Airport and Egyptair announced in January 2020 a new year-round direct route from Dublin to Cairo starting June 5, four times a week, with connecting options to Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific.
Cairo has a contagious, addictive and energetic pulse
Cairo, the largest city in the Arab world, holds a record population of 20 million people within its metropolitan area. The famous Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are less than 16km from the city center.
It's also the third city on Lonely Planet's Top 20 Cities to Visit in 2020.
Lauren K Clark, an American writer who has lived in Cairo since 2010, spoke to BBC Travel about what makes Cairo so charming. "You have the modern, upbeat, club side. You have the rural, green, lush pastures side. You have the side where you feel like you are in ancient times," she commented. "And the fascinating thing is that Cairo has managed to sustain all these different entities. This is the magic and wonder of the city," Clark added.
Indeed, many other visitors and expats speak of the same undeniable charisma that attracts them to the vibrant city and keeps them hooked.
As soon as you hit the streets, you're immediately taken aback by vans, motorcycles, and cars rushing through traffic; people chaotically crossing the road at all times; street vendors trying desperately to sell you whatever they can. It's probably this unexpected, baffling chaos that makes the Western audience so mesmerized by it.
"I love, love, love the accessibility to transportation. I love that I can stick my hand out to get a taxi, or take the bus, a tuk-tuk, train or Uber," the American writer emphasized.
While public transportation may seem too shabby for some, one can't help but notice how affordable it is compared to other countries. On average, monthly transportation is 250 percent lower than in London, according to price comparison site Expatistan.
One can't talk about Cairo without mentioning the food scene
Popular for its street food scene, a visit to Cairo is essential for a trip down memory lane to the region's most delicious traditional dishes, with koshari at the top of the list. Koshari, Egypt's national dish, is made up of spiced lentils, white rice, chickpeas, and elbow macaroni, all topped with fried onions and a distinct tomato sauce.
But it doesn't stop there. One ought to have falafel for breakfast, baleela and fseekh for lunch, and um ali for dessert; with a bit of luck (and Google maps), you'll find them scattered all along Road 9 in Maadi. Don't forget to wash it all down with a glass of tea.
"I call this street 'The street of culinary dreams,' because it is truly that," Clark continued.
Out of thousands of cities around the world, BBC Travel chose to highlight Cairo in 2020. It's a hub for all things crazy and chaotic; you'll truly make whatever you want out of it.
So, have we convinced you yet? If so, we've just made your trip there a whole lot easier. Check out our guides for Cairo's best cafés, breakfast spots, as well as spots to watch the sunset. Cairo has got places that have stood the test of time and other cultural areas empty of tourists but worth seeing.