Well folks, we’ve seen three City Rumbles and we’ve had three amazing cities through to the final four. Today it’s the final quarter-final and either Cairo or New York City will join London, Seville and Tokyo in the first ever (and most likely only ever) City Rumble Semi-Finals!
To say that this City Rumble challenge has brought some incredibly different destinations up against each other is certainly quite an understatement. And this quarter-final brings us two contrasting cities again. But actually, in some ways they aren’t as different as you might initially think. For once we have two cities with somewhat similar populations – Cairo having 20.9 million in the greater city area and New York nearly matching it with 20.3 million. One things for sure, we are dealing with two seriously big places.
And places full of history and splendour. Places where you can get lost really quickly, and you know what, cities where getting lost is actually not a bad thing to do at all. Places where you can hop on a train for 45 minutes and be somewhere completely different – yet still in the same city.
Let’s start with Cairo, the capital of Egypt and one of the Middle East’s main cities. In the desert heat, the sand and the sun, rising from the haze Cairo strikes the first time visitor not only from the front and from behind, but pretty much any angle you can think of. The noise and pollution is really confronting, as is the sheer volume of people. And depending on the time of year, the heat as well because we are talking temperatures well into the 40s come summer time.
But scratch the surface and Middle Eastern cities are far more than what hits you in your first impressions. Cities that have stood for centuries – or longer. Because Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, is where you find the country’s most recognisable landmarks in the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. And yes, they are jaw-dropping incredible monoliths in the sand, but more to the point, they point to a civilisations that was around thousands of years ago. In fact, they are approximately (give or take a minute or two) 4,500 years old. And that’s pretty god damn old! That predates Christ for example by longer than it is since Christ was born. That predates also the Roman Empire, which is said to have been in operation from around 46 BC to the 5th century CE. They are freaking old, and there are few places on Earth where you can visit monuments or buildings that were built so long ago.
Of course, Cairo in general is not so old. There are modern buildings, albeit it dusty ones! You can take a lift up the tower for views of the river that not only gives life to Cairo, but Egypt, Sudan, and other countries further up stream. It’s a place to explore souks, buy a Fez (I admit it, I did – in fact I bought two!) enjoy Middle Eastern food including shawarma which honestly is pretty hard to beat, smoke a hookah pipe and so much more.
You can explore the Islamic side of the city too. The Muhammed Ali Pahsha Mosque dates back to the first half of the 19th century and is one of the more impressive mosques in the world. Set at a diagonal angle to it’s walls, it’s not to be missed. All in all the city is quite religious so be respectful!
But also you can check out the ancient treasures of the whole country in the Egyptian Museum, which apart from the Pyramids is the other thing you won’t want to pass by. I went in 1999 so perhaps it’s moved or has been expanded, but honestly it was like a large warehouse filled with the treasures of the ancients, from sarcophagi to ruins, bass reliefs pieced back together, and stuff found buried with the Pharoahs.
But wait, there are TWO cities in this quarter-final. What was the other one? Oh yes, New York City! And what can be said about New York City that hasn’t already been said? Not much I guess! It is THE city people want to visit when they think of the USA. The skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, the lights, Central Park… it oozes life like no other city on Earth.
Taking a lift up the Empire State Building and looking across Manhattan Island and beyond is a truly breathtaking thing to do. You see across one of man’s greatest achievements, skyscrapers built a hundred years ago! The city that realised they’d gone out as far as they could and decided to go up. A city with a Guggenheim Museum. The lights of Times Square (arguably one of the most disappointing places in many ways, many believe it doesn’t live up to expectations), Broadway! See a show! Or three 😊(they say the neon lights are bright there). Remember – if you can make it there, you’ll make it… anywhere!
Few cities across the globe give you a buzz, few cities excite you, like New York City does. Iconic in so many ways, famous for so many things and so many people. Beautiful buildings such as the New York State Library, or iconic and different buildings like the Chrysler Building. The new World Trade Center built on the site of the old one.
And Central Park, surround by tall Manhattan buildings on every side, this huge beautiful park in the centre of the world’s tallest city, it’s almost out of place yet somehow, perfectly in place! And I have to compare these two and pick a winner…
And I have. Because, despite the soul and hidden beauty, the pyramids, and the incredible Middle Eastern vibes of Cairo, today it just has to be New York City. A city once eliminated, will now face up against Tokyo for a spot in the GRAND FINAL. What do you think? Have I made the right call?
The Semi-finals will be –
London Vs Seville
Tokyo Vs New York City
May the best city win!
Thanks for joining me today. We’ll have a bit of a ‘City Rumble’ break for now and bring you the semi-finals in a month or so. Take care, and May the Journey Never End!