few other countries are so dominated by their capital： cairo is egypt. for egyptians to speak of one is to speak of the other. the 'mother of the world' nurtures more than 16 million egyptians， arabs， africans and sundry（各式各样的）international hangers-on in a collision of east and west， old and new， african and arabic. she's overburdened with one of the world's highest population densities， which makes for a seething （原意为沸腾）mass of people， buildings and cacophonous（发音不和谐的）traffic.
cairo has been the heart of egypt for more than 1000 years. here the medieval world and the contemporary western world clash in a confusion of mud-brick houses and towering modern office buildings， of flashy cars and donkey-drawn carts（驴车）。 cairenes see nothing strange in this. they aren't driven by the western obsession to update and upgrade. the resulting pervasive sense of timelessness is one of the city's great charms. at the end of the day， it's a city travelers either loveor hate； few come away indifferent.
finding your way about cairo's vast sprawl is not as difficult as it may seem. midan tahrir is at the center. northeast of tahrir and centered on sharia talaat harb is downtown， a bustling commercial district. the city's main train station at midan ramses marks downtown's northernmost extent. heading east， downtown ends at midan ataba and the old medieval heart of the city known as islamic cairo takes over.