I have traveled to a good bunch of countries and hope to add more over time. Most of the time, that means I have visited their capital cities even if briefly. Rare is the case where I have not visited a capital city of a country I have been to. Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic come to mind. Tanzania does too, now that I think about it, since Dodoma -not Dar es Salaam- is its capital. I thought it would be cool to do a series of the capitals I have visited… Let’s start with the timeless!
The timeless capital cities
One cannot argue that there are cities that are timeless. Many are not capital cities. But as the theme is capital cities, I will pick three that are timeless fully aware that I am stating the obvious given the choices: Rome, Athens, and Cairo.
Just thinking about the “youngest” one of these goes back a couple of thousands of years. Mind boggling. )Of course, there are much younger capital cities that I could call timeless too.) Going to any of these can be daunting with all the possibilities to explore the ancient, the old, and the recent (say, last 200 hundred years??).
Athenas – Atenas – Athina
Athens may be the easiest to navigate in terms of this but it still requires time to learn all about it. It also merits exploring the “recent” not just the old or ancient. In any of these cities, one can get stuck just on the archeology or history “touring” and miss the vibrant cities they are now, their history notwithstanding.
Rome – Roma
Rome has such depth that one could just focus on the Roman Empire period, or just the food, or just the Catholic, or just the modern life – and spend weeks on any of the topics. A first visit to Rome can really consume one in the key sights to be seen – and that is OK, no reason to stress about it. But either carve out time for, or plan to return for, diving in to the other experiences. And don’t worry, Rome is eternal so it will all still be around for your next visit!
Cairo – El Cairo – La Caire – Al-Qaherah – القاهرة
About Cairo, what I can safely state is that it is one complex city! For someone not used to large cities in countries where one doesn’t speak the language or one is not familiar with the culture, it can be overwhelming. I felt that way on my first day there during my first visit. And then you start walking around, sensing the vibe, having contact with the friendly locals, and the city opens up differently than expected. Yes, there are key sights to be seen – the “musts,” but in Cairo, as in other places, the best part is the “experiencing,” not just the touring (I am not an anti-touring snob, just a proponent of experiencing!). I believe it totally change what Cairo is in our minds to become more immersed (to the extent one can in a one week visit…).
These cities are timeless for their longevity and history yet they could also be grouped into other categories in this series. I preferred placing them in the timeless group as they serve witness to the development of civilization, to the evolution of how we humans operate, and to the great achievements of the past while yet being alive in this modern world – not just being city-museums. So go and explore these timeless capitals!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these cities if you have visited – or how you envision them if you have not!