First, the drawbacks: Cairo’s crowds make Manhattan look like a ghost town, papyrus sellers hound you at every turn, and your snot will run black from the smog.
But it’s a small price to pay to tap into the energy of the place Egyptians call Umm ad-Dunya – the Mother of the World. This urban buzz is a product of 20-or-so million inhabitants simultaneously crushing the city’s infrastructure under their collective weight and lifting its spirit up with their exceptional charm and humour. One taxi ride can pass resplendent mosques built at the pinnacle of the Islamic empire, grand avenues, and 19th-century palaces. The Pyramids of Giza hulk on the western edge, past Nasser-era concrete towers. A caked-on layer of beige sand unifies the mix of eras and styles.
Blow your nose, crack a joke and look through the dirt to see the city’s true colours. If you love Cairo, it will love you back.