When the Iraqi football team won the 2007 Asian Cup, cafes, restaurant terraces, and parking lots were filled with Iraqis, Palestinians and Egyptians celebrating the Mesopotamian nation’s victory over Saudi Arabia; the scene of celebration was not in Baghdad, however, but in Egypt’s 6 October city.
Known as “October”-- a name that commemorates the Arab victory in the 1973 war against Israel -- the city is one of Egypt’s new urban communities that was first inhabited by Egyptians in the early 90s.
After around a decade it became an Arab-friendly town hosting thousands of Middle Eastern nationals from Palestine, Iraq and recently Syria; its current population is 1.5 million people.
Around 28km or 40 minutes by car from the centre of Cairo, the 26 July highway takes you away from the capital to the greenery of the 480-square kilometre city which includes thirteen housing districts – built by the government for medium and low income citizens -- and some upper-class houses and villas that were privately constructed.
The city's smaller population compared with central Cairo means its streets are less traffic-clogged, and its residents like to think of 26 July as a relief road that carries them away from the crowds and the noise.
Lunch in Syria Street
A walk in October city will allow you to explore various oriental cuisines, among them Egyptian classics like foul, falafel and koshary, as well as Iraqi kebabs and Syrian bakery products.
Al-Hosary Mosque Square is the city’s busiest area due to the proximity of 6 October University, the country's first private university, and the resulting flocks of students. The campus area is surrounded with restaurants, cafes, internet cafes, stationery shops, and gyms.
Beside the mosque there is a public library that is a part of the Al-Hosary religious and cultural complex, and opposite there is “Syria Street”, filled on both sides with Syrian vendors, many recent arrivals, touting their wares.
Food is very affordable as most of the customers are students; for instance, you can have a decent lunch of two shawerma-and-fries sandwiches served in the popular Syrian saj bread for around EGP 20 ($2.25).
Away from the delicious savoury smells of Syria Street, there are other commercial areas that are dominated by other Arab expats, such as the first and second districts, where you can learn about famous deserts, snacks and crackers from the Arab peninsula.
Families settled in the city usually spend their evenings strolling in its wide green parks, mostly in the seventh district and around the 6 October Club and the city's authority headquarters.
To move inside the city and between its different areas, microbuses are widely available, and fares range between EGP 1 and EGP 2 per person You can also find taxis easily.
The city is also among Greater Cairo’s top shopping and entertainment destinations, home to several big malls such the massive Mall of Arabia, which also has a cinema, and is located near the 26 July highway into the city.
There are also cheaper options in the city's industrial zone, where you can find the Outlet Mall selling lots of world-famous brands at much-reduced prices.
The city is something of an educational hub as well; in addition to 6 October University, there are around eight private universities and institutes that draw in both local students and those from other parts of the Arab world.
The city's Motamayez district is also home to the headquarters of the Confederation of African Football.