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Finding the Calm of Cairo

With its suffocating traffic, swarms of pedestrians, vendors and sheep clogging the streets, plus the occasional protest rally in a public square, it’s all too tempting to think that Cairo is chaos cloaked in the patina of antiquity. Don’t get me wrong. Revolution or no revolution, Cairo is a fascinating city to visit. But it can get overwhelming, traipsing from one monument to the next – the list of things to do and see whilst in the Egyptian capital can be rather daunting. For starters, you have the Pyramids, which remain, sand-swept millennia after the next, a jaw-dropping marvel of ancient architecture. Then there’s the Citadel, the Coptic Church, the Khan-el-Khalili bazaar, the Egyptian Museum, and the Nile itself… There are pockets of calm, however, in this city of cacophony. One I discovered, on a recent trip to Egypt, thanks to Egypt Air, is a little jewel box of a hotel, tucked away deep in the heart of medieval Islamic Cairo. Le Riad, a boutique hotel with 17 private suites, is, forgive the cliché, an oasis of contemporary Oriental splendour. Each room is bathed in colour, yet the deep reds, burnt oranges, vivid purples and earthy ochres against exuberant, florid prints do not come across as an overdosing hippie’s nightmare; instead they manage to appear restrained, elegant and soothing. But the true gem of Le Riad is at the top – the lush rooftop garden terrace ushers a panoramic view that is simply sublime. The 1000 minarets of Cairo pierce the sky; the hills of Moqattam undulate below and beyond looms Mohammed Ali’s Citadel. For breakfast, afternoon tea or a cocktail at dusk, the rooftop garden terrace at Le Riad is sheer magic and pure peace. Le Riad Hotel de Charme, 114 Muiz Li Din Allah Street, Cairo, Egypt. +202-278-760-74/75 leriad-hoteldecharme.com   Text and images: Bambina Olivares Wise