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Oum Kalthoum Museum, Cairo

See the Cairo Guide ›
Al-Malek Al-Salah Street
Roda Island
Egypt's insider take:

This lovingly curated shrine to the Egyptian diva sits on the southern tip of Roda Island next to the famous Nilometer, where for centuries priests and taxmen measured the Nile's annual rise. Oum Kalthoum was the daughter of a village imam who taught her to sing the Koran. Dressed in boys' clothing to preserve her honor, she became a star of Koranic recitation, which remains a popular form of Friday entertainment in pious Egyptian households (as well as a mainstay of taxicab Muzak). At the age of 19, Oum Kalthoum moved to Cairo, where her powerful voice and knowledge of traditional cadences, broadcast in the new media of radio and cinema, helped her become Egypt's Edith Piaf and Maria Callas rolled into one. Opened in 2001, the small museum has an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to hear some of her most famous songs. Vitrines hold her gowns and signature diamond-studded sunglasses. Next door, the terrace of the Manasterli Palace is one of the most serene places in Cairo; stop here for the southward Nile view.

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