, pronounced [ælˈqɑːhɪɾɑ](listen)
: ϯⲕⲉϣⲣⲱⲙⲓ) is the capital
and largest city
. The Cairo metropolitan area
, with a population of 21.3 million,
is the largest metropolitan area in the Arab world
, the second largest in Africa
, and the sixth largest in the world
. Cairo is associated with ancient Egypt
, as the famous Giza pyramid complex
and the ancient city of Memphis
are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta
Cairo was founded in 969 AD during the Fatimid dynasty
, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of Ancient National Capitals
whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo
. Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life, and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets
" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture
. Cairo is considered a World City
with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC
Today, the Egyptian capital has the oldest and largest film
industries in the Arab world
, as well as the world's second-oldest institution of higher learning, Al-Azhar University
. Many international media, businesses, and organizations have regional headquarters in the city; the Arab League
has had its headquarters in Cairo for most of its existence.
With a population of over 9 million
spread over 453 km², Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt. An additional 9.5 million inhabitants live in close proximity to the city. Cairo, like many other megacities
, suffers from high levels of pollution and traffic. The Cairo Metro
is one of the only two metro systems
in Africa (the other
being in Algiers
), and ranks amongst the fifteen busiest in the world,
with over 1 billion
annual passenger rides. The economy of Cairo was ranked first in the Middle East in 2005,
and 43rd globally on Foreign Policy's
2010 Global Cities Index
Egyptians often refer to Cairo as Maṣr
; Egyptian Arabic
), the Egyptian Arabic
name for Egypt itself, emphasizing the city's importance for the country.
Its official name al-Qāhirah
) means "the Vanquisher" or "the Conqueror", supposedly due to the fact that the planet Mars
, an-Najm al-Qāhir
: النجم القاهر
, "the Conquering Star"), was rising at the time when the city was founded,
possibly also in reference to the much awaited arrival of the Fatimid
who reached Cairo in 973 from Mahdia
, the old Fatimid capital.
The location of the ancient city of Heliopolis
is the suburb of Ain Shams
: عين شمس
, "Eye of the Sun").
There are a few Coptic names of the city. (di
: (ϯ)ⲕⲁϣⲣⲱⲙⲓ) is attested as early as 1211
and is a calque which means "man breaker" ("ⲕⲁϣ-" – to break, "ⲣⲱⲙⲓ" – man) which is akin to Arabic al-Qāhirah
: ⲗⲓⲟⲩⲓ) or Elioui
: ⲉⲗⲓⲟⲩⲓ) is another name which is a corruption of Greek name of Heliopolis (Greek
Some argue that Mistram
: ⲙⲓⲥⲧⲣⲁⲙ) or Nistram
: ⲛⲓⲥⲧⲣⲁⲙ) is another Coptic name for Cairo, although others think that it's rather a name of an Abbasid capital Al-Askar
ⲕⲁϩⲓⲣⲏ (Kahire) is a popular modern rendering of an Arabic name (others being ⲭⲁⲓⲣⲟⲛ [Chairon] and ⲕⲁϩⲓⲣⲁ [Kahira]) which has a folk etymology "land of sun". Some argue that it was a name of an Egyptian settlement upon which Cairo was built, but it's rather doubtful as this name is not attested in any Hieroglyphic
source, although some researchers, like Paul Casanova, view it as a legitimate theory.
Cairo is also referred to as ⲭⲏⲙⲓ, which means Egypt in Coptic, the same way it's referred to in Egyptian Arabic.
A rendition of Fustat
from A. S. Rappoport's History of Egypt
The area around present-day Cairo, especially Memphis
, which was the old capital of Egypt, had long been a focal point of Ancient Egypt
due to its strategic location just upstream from the Nile Delta
. However, the origins of the modern city are generally traced back to a series of settlements in the first millennium. Around the turn of the 4th century,
as Memphis was continuing to decline in importance,
established a fortress town along the east bank of the Nile
. This fortress, known as Babylon
, was the nucleus of the Roman and then the Byzantine
city and is the oldest structure in the city today. It is also situated at the nucleus of the Coptic Orthodox
community, which separated from the Roman and Byzantine churches in the late 4th century. Many of Cairo's oldest Coptic churches, including the Hanging Church
, are located along the fortress walls in a section of the city known as Coptic Cairo
Following the Muslim conquest in AD 640, the conqueror Amr ibn As
settled to the north of the Babylon in an area that became known as al-Fustat
. Originally a tented camp (Fustat
signifies "City of Tents") Fustat became a permanent settlement and the first capital of Islamic Egypt.
In 750, following the overthrow of the Umayyad caliphate
by the Abbasids
, the new rulers created their own settlement to the northeast of Fustat which became their capital. This was known as al-Askar
(the city of sections, or cantonments
) as it was laid out like a military camp.
A rebellion in 869 by Ahmad ibn Tulun
led to the abandonment of Al Askar and the building of another settlement, which became the seat of government. This was al-Qatta'i
("the Quarters"), to the north of Fustat and closer to the river. Al Qatta'i was centred around a palace and ceremonial mosque, now known as the Mosque of ibn Tulun
In 905, the Abbasids re-asserted control of the country and their governor returned to Fustat, razing al-Qatta'i to the ground.
Foundation and expansion
Fresco of Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim
In 969, the Fatimid empire ruled over Egypt
with an army of Kutamas
, and under the rule of Jawhar Al Saqili
, a new fortified city northeast of Fustat
was established. It took four years to build the city, initially known as al-Manṣūriyyah,
which was to serve as the new capital of the caliphate. During that time, the construction of the al-Azhar Mosque
was commissioned by order of the Caliph, which developed into the third-oldest university in the world. Cairo would eventually become a centre of learning, with the library of Cairo containing hundreds of thousands of books.
When Caliph al-Mu'izz li Din Allah
arrived from the old Fatimid capital of Mahdia
in 973, he gave the city its present name, Qāhirat al-Mu'izz
("The Vanquisher of al-Mu'izz").
For nearly 200 years after Cairo was established, the administrative centre of Egypt remained in Fustat
. However, in 1168 the Fatimid vizierShawar
set fire to Fustat to prevent its capture by Amalric
, the Crusader
king of Jerusalem
Egypt's capital was permanently moved to Cairo, which was eventually expanded to include the ruins of Fustat and the previous capitals of al-Askar
. As al Qahira expanded these earlier settlements were encompassed, and have since become part of the city of Cairo as it expanded and spread; they are now collectively known as "Old Cairo
While the Fustat fire successfully protected the city of Cairo, a continuing power struggle between Shawar, King Amalric I of Jerusalem
, and the Zengid
led to the downfall of the Fatimid establishment.
In 1169, Saladin
was appointed as the new vizier of Egypt by the Fatimids and two years later he seized power from the family of the last Fatimid caliph, al-'Āḍid
As the first Sultan of Egypt
, Saladin established the Ayyubid dynasty
, based in Cairo, and aligned Egypt with the Abbasids
, who were based in Baghdad
During his reign, Saladin constructed the Cairo Citadel
, which served as the seat of the Egyptian government until the mid-19th century.
The Cairo Citadel
, seen above in the late 19th century, was commissioned by Saladin
between 1176 and 1183.
In 1250, slave soldiers, known as the Mamluks
, seized control of Egypt and like many of their predecessors established Cairo as the capital of their new dynasty
. Continuing a practice started by the Ayyubids, much of the land occupied by former Fatimid palaces
was sold and replaced by newer buildings.
Construction projects initiated by the Mamluks pushed the city outward while also bringing new infrastructure to the centre of the city.
Meanwhile, Cairo flourished as a centre of Islamic scholarship
and a crossroads on the spice trade
route among the civilisations in Afro-Eurasia
. By 1340, Cairo had a population of close to half a million, making it the largest city west of China
When the traveller Ibn Battuta
first came to Cairo in 1326, he described it as the principal district of Egypt.:13
When he passed through the area again on his return journey in 1348 the Black Death
was ravaging most major cities. He cited reports of thousands of deaths per day in Cairo.:225
Illustration of Cairo in the 19th century.
Although Cairo avoided Europe
's stagnation during the Late Middle Ages
, it could not escape the Black Death
, which struck the city more than fifty times between 1348 and 1517.
During its initial, and most deadly waves, approximately 200,000 people were killed by the plague,
and, by the 15th century, Cairo's population had been reduced to between 150,000 and 300,000.
The city's status was further diminished after Vasco da Gama
discovered a sea route around the Cape of Good Hope
between 1497 and 1499, thereby allowing spice traders to avoid Cairo.
Cairo's political influence diminished significantly after the Ottomans
power over Egypt
in 1517. Ruling from Constantinople
, Sultan Selim I
relegated Egypt to a province
, with Cairo as its capital.
For this reason, the history of Cairo during Ottoman times is often described as inconsequential, especially in comparison to other time periods.
However, during the 16th and 17th centuries, Cairo remained an important economic and cultural centre. Although no longer on the spice route, the city facilitated the transportation of Yemeni coffee
, primarily to Anatolia
, North Africa
, and the Balkans
. Cairene merchants were instrumental in bringing goods to the barren Hejaz
, especially during the annual hajj
It was during this same period that al-Azhar University reached the predominance among Islamic schools that it continues to hold today;
pilgrims on their way to hajj often attested to the superiority of the institution, which had become associated with Egypt's body of Islamic scholars
By the 16th century, Cairo also had high-rise apartment buildings
where the two lower floors were for commercial and storage purposes and the multiple stories above them were rented
out to tenants
Under the Ottomans, Cairo expanded south and west from its nucleus around the Citadel
The city was the second-largest in the empire, behind Constantinople, and, although migration was not the primary source of Cairo's growth, twenty percent of its population at the end of the 18th century consisted of religious minorities and foreigners from around the Mediterranean
Still, when Napoleon
arrived in Cairo in 1798, the city's population was less than 300,000, forty percent lower than it was at the height of Mamluk—and Cairene—influence in the mid-14th century.
The French occupation
was short-lived as British
and Ottoman forces, including a sizeable Albanian
contingent, recaptured the country in 1801. Cairo itself was besieged
by a British and Ottoman force culminating with the French surrender on 22 June 1801.
The British vacated Egypt two years later, leaving the Ottomans, the Albanians, and the long-weakened Mamluks
jostling for control of the country.
Continued civil war allowed an Albanian named Muhammad Ali Pasha
to ascend to the role of commander
and eventually, with the approval of the religious establishment
, viceroy of Egypt in 1805.
Aerial view 1904 from a balloon where the Egyptian Museum
appears to the right side.
A panoramic view of Cairo, 1950's
Until his death in 1848, Muhammad Ali Pasha
instituted a number of social and economic reforms that earned him the title of founder of modern Egypt.
However, while Muhammad Ali initiated the construction of public buildings in the city,
those reforms had minimal effect on Cairo's landscape.
Bigger changes came to Cairo under Isma'il Pasha
(r. 1863–1879), who continued the modernisation processes started by his grandfather.
Drawing inspiration from Paris
, Isma'il envisioned a city of maidans
and wide avenues; due to financial constraints, only some of them, in the area now composing Downtown Cairo
, came to fruition.
Isma'il also sought to modernize the city, which was merging with neighbouring settlements, by establishing a public works
ministry, bringing gas
and lighting to the city, and opening a theatre and opera house.
The immense debt resulting from Isma'il's projects provided a pretext for increasing European control, which culminated with the British invasion
The city's economic centre quickly moved west toward the Nile
, away from the historic Islamic Cairo
section and toward the contemporary, European-style areas built by Isma'il.
Europeans accounted for five percent of Cairo's population at the end of the 19th century, by which point they held most top governmental positions.
1924 Cairo Quran
The King Fuad I Edition
of the Qur’an
was first published on 10 July 1924 in Cairo under the patronage of King Fuad
The goal of the government of the newly formed Kingdom of Egypt
was not to delegitimize the other variant Quranic texts ("qira'at
"), but to eliminate errors found in Qur’anic texts used in state schools. A committee of teachers chose to preserve a single one of the canonical qira’at "readings", namely that of the "Ḥafṣ
an 8th-century Kufic recitation
. This edition has become the standard for modern printings of the Quran
for much of the Islamic world.
The publication has been called a "terrific success", and the edition has been described as one "now widely seen as the official text of the Qur’an", so popular among both Sunni and Shi'a that the common belief among less well-informed Muslims is "that the Qur’an has a single, unambiguous reading". Minor amendments were made later in 1924 and in 1936 - the "Faruq edition" in honour of then ruler, King Faruq
British occupation until 1956
Everyday life in Cairo, 1950's
British troops remained in the country until 1956. During this time, urban Cairo, spurred by new bridges and transport links, continued to expand to include the upscale neighbourhoods of Garden City
, and Heliopolis
Between 1882 and 1937, the population of Cairo more than tripled—from 347,000 to 1.3 million
—and its area increased from 10 to 163 square kilometres (4 to 63 sq mi).
The city was devastated during the 1952 riots known as the Cairo Fire
or Black Saturday, which saw the destruction of nearly 700 shops, movie theatres, casinos and hotels in downtown Cairo.
The British departed Cairo following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952
, but the city's rapid growth showed no signs of abating. Seeking to accommodate the increasing population, President Gamal Abdel Nasser
redeveloped Maidan Tahrir
and the Nile Corniche
, and improved the city's network of bridges and highways.
Meanwhile, additional controls of the Nile fostered development within Gezira Island
and along the city's waterfront. The metropolis began to encroach on the fertile Nile Delta
, prompting the government to build desert satellite towns
and devise incentives for city-dwellers to move to them.
Cairo's population has doubled since the 1960s, reaching close to seven million (with an additional ten million in its urban area
). Concurrently, Cairo has established itself as a political and economic hub for North Africa
and the Arab world
, with many multinational businesses and organisations, including the Arab League
, operating out of the city.
In 1992, Cairo was hit by an earthquake
causing 545 deaths, injuring 6,512 and leaving around 50,000 people homeless.
2011 Egyptian revolution
A protester holding an Egyptian flag during the protests
that started on 25 January 2011.
Cairo's Tahrir Square
was the focal point of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution
against former president Hosni Mubarak
Over 2 million protesters were at Cairo's Tahrir square. More than 50,000 protesters first occupied the square on 25 January, during which the area's wireless services were reported to be impaired.
In the following days Tahrir Square continued to be the primary destination for protests in Cairo
as it took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and continued until June 2013. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, and labour strikes. Millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Despite being predominantly peaceful in nature, the revolution was not without violent clashes between security forces and protesters, with at least 846 people killed and 6,000 injured. The uprising took place in Cairo, Alexandria, and in other cities in Egypt, following the Tunisian revolution
that resulted in the overthrow of the long-time Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
On 11 February, following weeks of determined popular protest and pressure, Hosni Mubarak resigned from office.
The river Nile
flows through Cairo, here contrasting ancient customs of daily life with the modern city of today.
Cairo is located in northern Egypt
, known as Lower Egypt
, 165 kilometres (100 mi) south of the Mediterranean Sea
and 120 kilometres (75 mi) west of the Gulf of Suez
and Suez Canal
The city lies along the Nile River
, immediately south of the point where the river leaves its desert-bound valley and branches into the low-lying Nile Delta
region. Although the Cairo metropolis extends away from the Nile in all directions, the city of Cairo resides only on the east bank of the river and two islands within it on a total area of 453 square kilometres (175 sq mi).
Geologically, Cairo lies on alluvium
and sand dunes
which date from the quaternary
Until the mid-19th century, when the river was tamed by dams, levees, and other controls, the Nile in the vicinity of Cairo was highly susceptible to changes in course and surface level. Over the years, the Nile gradually shifted westward, providing the site between the eastern edge of the river and the Mokattam
highlands on which the city now stands. The land on which Cairo was established in 969 (present-day Islamic Cairo
) was located underwater just over three hundred years earlier, when Fustat
was first built.
Low periods of the Nile during the 11th century continued to add to the landscape of Cairo; a new island, known as Geziret al-Fil
, first appeared in 1174, but eventually became connected to the mainland. Today, the site of Geziret al-Fil
is occupied by the Shubra
district. The low periods created another island at the turn of the 14th century that now composes Zamalek
. Land reclamation
efforts by the Mamluks
further contributed to expansion on the east bank of the river.
Because of the Nile's movement, the newer parts of the city—Garden City
, Downtown Cairo
, and Zamalek—are located closest to the riverbank.
The areas, which are home to most of Cairo's embassies
, are surrounded on the north, east, and south by the older parts of the city. Old Cairo
, located south of the centre, holds the remnants of Fustat
and the heart of Egypt's Coptic Christian
community, Coptic Cairo
. The Boulaq
district, which lies in the northern part of the city, was born out of a major 16th-century port and is now a major industrial centre. The Citadel
is located east of the city centre around Islamic Cairo
, which dates back to the Fatimid
era and the foundation of Cairo. While western Cairo is dominated by wide boulevards, open spaces, and modern architecture
of European influence, the eastern half, having grown haphazardly over the centuries, is dominated by small lanes, crowded tenements, and Islamic architecture
Northern and extreme eastern parts of Cairo, which include satellite towns
, are among the most recent additions to the city, as they developed in the late-20th and early-21st centuries to accommodate the city's rapid growth. The western bank of the Nile is commonly included within the urban area of Cairo, but it composes the city of Giza
and the Giza Governorate
. Giza has also undergone significant expansion over recent years, and today the city, although still a suburb of Cairo, has a population of 2.7 million.
The Cairo Governorate was just north of the Helwan Governorate
from 2008 when some Cairo's southern districts, including Maadi
and New Cairo
, were split off and annexed into the new governorate,
to 2011 when the Helwan Governorate was reincorporated into the Cairo Governorate.
In Cairo, and along the Nile River Valley, the climate is a hot desert climate
according to the Köppen climate classification
). Wind storms can be frequent, bringing Saharan dust
into the city, from March to May and the air often becomes uncomfortably dry. High temperatures in winter range from 14 to 22 °C (57 to 72 °F), while night-time lows drop to below 11 °C (52 °F), often to 5 °C (41 °F). In summer, the highs rarely surpass 40 °C (104 °F), and lows drop to about 20 °C (68 °F). Rainfall is sparse and only happens in the colder months, but sudden showers can cause severe flooding. The summer months have high humidity due to its coastal location. Snowfall is extremely rare; a small amount of graupel
, widely believed to be snow
, fell on Cairo's easternmost suburbs on 13 December 2013, the first time Cairo's area received this kind of precipitation in many decades.
Dew points in the hottest months range from 13.9 °C (57 °F) in June to 18.3 °C (65 °F) in August.
Cairo weather observations by French savants
6th of October City
, west of Cairo, and New Cairo
, east of Cairo, are major urban developments which have been built to accommodate additional growth and development of the Cairo area.
New development includes several high-end residential developments.
Planned new capital
In March 2015, plans were announced for a yet-unnamed planned city
to be built east of Cairo, in an undeveloped area of the Cairo Governorate, which would serve as the administrative and financial capital of Egypt.
Cairo, as well as neighbouring Giza, has been established as Egypt's main centre for medical treatment, and despite some exceptions, has the most advanced level of medical care
in the country. Cairo's hospitals include the JCI
-accredited As-Salaam International Hospital—Corniche El Nile, Maadi (Egypt's largest private hospital
with 350 beds), Ain Shams University
Hospital, Dar Al Fouad
, Nile Badrawi Hospital
, 57357 Hospital
, as well as Qasr El Eyni Hospital
Some of the International Schools found in Cairo:
Universities in Greater Cairo:
Façade of Terminal 3 at Cairo International Airport
Departures area of Cairo International Airport's Terminal 1
The subway system
, officially called "Metro (مترو)", is a fast and efficient way of getting around Cairo. Metro network covers Helwan
and other suburbs. It can get very crowded during rush hour
. Two train cars (the fourth and fifth ones) are reserved for women only, although women may ride in any car they want.
An extensive road network connects Cairo with other Egyptian cities and villages. There is a new Ring Road
that surrounds the outskirts of the city, with exits that reach outer Cairo districts. There are flyovers and bridges, such as the 6th October Bridge
that, when the traffic is not heavy, allow fast means of transportation
from one side of the city to the other.
Cairo traffic is known to be overwhelming and overcrowded.
Traffic moves at a relatively fluid pace. Drivers tend to be aggressive, but are more courteous at junctions, taking turns going, with police aiding in traffic control
of some congested areas.
Other forms of transport
is the most popular sport in Egypt, and Cairo has a number of sporting teams that compete in national and regional leagues. The best known teams are Al Ahly
, El Zamalek
. The annual match between Al Ahly
and El Zamalek
is one of the most watched sports events in Egypt as well as the African-Arab region. The teams form the major rivalry of Egyptian football, and are the first and the second champions in Africa and the Arab world
. They play their home games at Cairo International Stadium
or Naser Stadium, which is the second largest stadium in Egypt, as well as the largest in Cairo and one of the largest stadiums in the world.
The Cairo International Stadium was built in 1960 and its multi-purpose sports complex that houses the main football stadium, an indoor stadium, several satellite fields that held several regional, continental and global games, including the African Games
, U17 Football World Championship and was one of the stadiums scheduled that hosted the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations
which was played in January 2006. Egypt later won the competition and went on to win the next edition in Ghana (2008) making the Egyptian and Ghanaian national teams the only teams to win the African Nations Cup Back to back which resulted in Egypt winning the title for a record number of six times in the history of African Continental Competition. This was followed by a third consecutive win in Angola 2010, making Egypt the only country with a record 3-consecutive and 7-total Continental Football Competition winner. This achievement had also placed the Egyptian football team as the #9 best team in the world's FIFA rankings.
There are several other sports teams in the city that participate in several sports including el Gezira Sporting Club
, el Shams Club, el Seid Club, Heliopolis Club and several smaller clubs, but the biggest clubs in Egypt (not in area but in sports) are Al Ahly
and Al Zamalek
. They have the two biggest football teams in Egypt. There are new sports clubs in the area of New Cairo (one hour far from Cairo's down town), these are Al Zohour sporting club, Wadi Degla sporting club and Platinum Club.
In October 2008, the Egyptian Rugby Federation was officially formed and granted membership into the International Rugby Board
Egypt is internationally known for the excellence of its squash players who excel in both professional and junior divisions. Egypt has seven players in the top ten of the PSA men's world rankings, and three in the women's top ten. Mohamed El Shorbagy held the world number one position for more than a year before being overtaken by compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad, who is number two behind Gregory Gaultier of France. Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana are regarded as two of the most talented squash players in history. Shabana won the World Open title four times and Ashour twice, although his recent form has been hampered by injury. Egypt's Nour El Sherbini has won the Women's World Championship twice and has been women's world number one for 16 consecutive months. On 30 April 2016, she became the youngest woman to win the Women's World Championship which was held in Malaysia. In April 2017 she retained her title by winning the Women's World Championship which was held in the Egyptian resort of El Gouna.
Cairo Opera House, at the National Cultural Center, Zamalek
Khedivial Opera House, 1869.
Cultural tourism in Egypt
Cairo Opera House
inaugurated the new Cairo Opera House of the Egyptian National Cultural Centres on 10 October 1988, 17 years after the Royal Opera House had been destroyed by fire. The National Cultural Centre was built with the help of JICA
, the Japan International Co-operation Agency and stands as a prominent feature for the Japanese-Egyptian co-operation
and the friendship between the two nations.
Khedivial Opera House
The Khedivial Opera House
, or Royal Opera House, was the original opera house in Cairo. It was dedicated on 1 November 1869 and burned down on 28 October 1971. After the original opera house was destroyed, Cairo was without an opera house for nearly two decades until the opening of the new Cairo Opera House in 1988.
Cairo International Film Festival
Cairo held its first international film festival
16 August 1976, when the first Cairo International Film Festival
was launched by the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics, headed by Kamal El-Mallakh. The Association ran the festival for seven years until 1983.
This achievement lead to the President of the Festival again contacting the FIAPF
with the request that a competition should be included at the 1991 Festival. The request was granted.
In 1998, the Festival took place under the presidency of one of Egypt's leading actors, Hussein Fahmy
, who was appointed by the Minister of Culture
, Farouk Hosni
, after the death of Saad El-Din Wahba. Four years later, the journalist and writer Cherif El-Shoubashy became president.
Solomon Schechter studying documents from the Cairo Geniza, c. 1895.
The Cairo Geniza
is an accumulation of almost 200,000 Jewish manuscripts that were found in the genizah of the Ben Ezra
synagogue (built 882) of Fustat, Egypt (now Old Cairo), the Basatin cemetery east of Old Cairo, and a number of old documents that were bought in Cairo in the later 19th century. These documents were written from about 870 to 1880 AD and have been archived in various American and European libraries. The Taylor-Schechter collection in the University of Cambridge
runs to 140,000 manuscripts; a further 40,000 manuscripts are housed at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Places of worship
towers as viewed from the Nile.
Nile view from the Cairo Marriott Hotel.
Informal economy in Cairo
Cairo accounts for 11% of Egypt's population and 22% of its economy (PPP). The majority of the nation's commerce is generated there, or passes through the city. The great majority of publishing houses
and media outlets and nearly all film studios
are there, as are half of the nation's hospital beds and universities. This has fuelled rapid construction in the city—one building in five is less than 15 years old.
This growth until recently surged well ahead of city services
. Homes, roads, electricity, telephone and sewer services were all in short supply. Analysts trying to grasp the magnitude of the change coined terms like "hyper-urbanization".
Cairo's automobile assembler and manufacturer
Cityscape and landmarks
was founded during the mid 19th century with the establishment of modern downtown Cairo. It was first named Ismailia Square, after the 19th-century ruler Khedive Ismail
, who commissioned the new downtown district's 'Paris on the Nile' design. After the Egyptian Revolution of 1919
the square became widely known as Tahrir (Liberation) Square, though it was not officially renamed as such until after the 1952 Revolution
which eliminated the monarchy. Several notable buildings surround the square including, the American University in Cairo
's downtown campus, the Mogamma
governmental administrative Building, the headquarters of the Arab League
, the Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel, and the Egyptian Museum
. Being at the heart of Cairo, the square witnessed several major protests over the years. However, the most notable event in the square was being the focal point of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution
against former president Hosni Mubarak
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum, is home to the most extensive collection of ancient Egyptian
antiquities in the world. It has 136,000 items on display, with many more hundreds of thousands in its basement storerooms. Among its most famous collections on display are the finds from the tomb of Tutankhamun
Grand Egyptian Museum
Much of the collection of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, including the Tutankhamun collection, are slated to be moved to the new Grand Egyptian Museum
, under construction in Giza
and due to open by the end of 2020.
The Cairo Tower is a free-standing tower with a revolving restaurant at the top. It provides a bird's eye view of Cairo to the restaurant patrons. It stands in the Zamalek district on Gezira Island in the Nile River, in the city centre. At 187 metres (614 feet), it is 44 metres (144 feet) higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which stands some 15 kilometres (9 miles) to the southwest.
This area of Cairo is so-named as it contains the remains of the ancient Roman fortress of Babylon
and also overlaps the original site of Fustat
, the first Arab settlement in Egypt (7th century AD) and the predecessor of later Cairo. The area includes the Coptic Cairo
, which holds a high concentration of old Christian churches such as the Hanging Church
, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George
, and other Christian or Coptic buildings, most of which are located over the site of the ancient Roman fortress. It is also the location of the Coptic Museum
, which showcases the history of Coptic art
times, and of the Ben Ezra Synagogue
, the oldest and best-known synagogue
in Cairo, where the important collection of Geniza documents
were discovered in the 19th century.
To the north of this Coptic enclave is the Amr ibn al-'As Mosque
, the first mosque in Egypt and the most important religious centre of what was formerly Fustat
, founded in 642 AD right after the Arab conquest
but rebuilt many times since.
Cairo holds one of the greatest concentrations of historical monuments of Islamic architecture
in the world.
The areas around the old walled
city and around the Citadel
are characterized by hundreds of mosques
, tombs, madrasas
, mansions, caravanserais
, and fortifications dating from the Islamic era and are often referred to as "Islamic Cairo
", especially in English travel literature.
It is also the location of several important religious shrines such as the al-Hussein Mosque
(whose shrine is believed to hold the head of Husayn ibn Ali
), the Mausoleum of Imam al-Shafi'i
(founder of the Shafi'imadhhab
, one of the primary schools of thought in Sunni
), the Tomb of Sayyida Ruqayya
, the Mosque of Sayyida Nafisa
, and others.
The first mosque in Egypt was the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As
in what was formerly Fustat
, the first Arab-Muslim settlement in the area. However, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun
is the oldest mosque that still retains its original form and is a rare example of Abbasid
architecture from the classical period of Islamic civilization
. It was built in 876–879 AD in a style inspired by the Abbasid capital of Samarra
It is one of the largest mosques in Cairo and is often cited as one of the most beautiful.
Another Abbasid construction, the Nilometer
on Rhoda Island
, is the oldest original structure in Cairo, built in 862 AD. It was designed to measure the level of the Nile
, which was important for agricultural and administrative purposes.
The settlement that was formally named Cairo (Arabic: al-Qahira
) was founded to the northeast of Fustat in 959 AD by the victorious Fatimid
army. The Fatimids built it as a separate palatial city which contained their palaces
and institutions of government. It was enclosed by a circuit of walls, which were rebuilt in stone in the late 11th century AD by the vizir Badr al-Gamali
parts of which survive today at Bab Zuwayla
in the south and Bab al-Futuh
and Bab al-Nasr
in the north.
One of the most important and lasting institutions founded in the Fatimid period was the Mosque of al-Azhar
, founded in 970 AD, which competes with the Qarawiyyin
for the title of oldest university in the world.
Today, al-Azhar University
is the foremost Center of Islamic learning in the world and one of Egypt's largest universities with campuses across the country.
The mosque itself retains significant Fatimid elements but has been added to and expanded in subsequent centuries, notably by the Mamluk
and by Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda in the 18th century.
The most prominent architectural heritage of medieval Cairo, however, dates from the Mamluk period
, from 1250 to 1517 AD. The Mamluk sultans and elites were eager patrons of religious and scholarly life, commonly building religious or funerary complexes whose functions could include a mosque, madrasa
), a sabil
(water dispensary), and a mausoleum for themselves and their families.
Among the best-known examples of Mamluk monuments in Cairo are the huge Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hasan
, the Mosque of Amir al-Maridani
, the Mosque of Sultan al-Mu'ayyad
(whose twin minarets were built above the gate of Bab Zuwayla
), the Sultan Al-Ghuri complex
, the funerary complex of Sultan Qaytbay
in the Northern Cemetery
, and the trio of monuments in the Bayn al-Qasrayn
area comprising the complex of Sultan al-Mansur Qalawun
, the Madrasa of al-Nasir Muhammad
, and the Madrasa of Sultan Barquq
. Some mosques include spolia
(often columns or capitals
) from earlier buildings built by the Romans
, or Copts
The Mamluks, and the later Ottomans
, also built wikala
s or caravanserais
to house merchants and goods due to the important role of trade and commerce in Cairo's economy.
The most famous example still intact today is the Wikala al-Ghuri
, which nowadays also hosts regular performances by the Al-Tannoura
Egyptian Heritage Dance Troupe.
The famous Khan al-Khalili
is a commercial hub which also integrated caravanserais (also known as khan
Citadel of Cairo
is an ancient bazaar
, or marketplace adjacent to the Al-Hussein Mosque
. It dates back to 1385, when Amir Jarkas el-Khalili built a large caravanserai, or khan. (A caravanserai is a hotel for traders, and usually the focal point for any surrounding area.) This original carvanserai building was demolished by Sultan al-Ghuri
, who rebuilt it as a new commercial complex in the early 16th century, forming the basis for the network of souqs
Many medieval elements remain today, including the ornate Mamluk
Today, the Khan el-Khalili is a major tourist attraction and popular stop for tour groups.
Today, Cairo is heavily urbanized
and most Cairenes now live in apartment buildings. Because of the influx of people into the city, lone standing houses are rare, and apartment buildings accommodate for the limited space and abundance of people. Single detached houses are symbolic of the wealthy.
Formal education has also become very important. There are twelve years of standard formal education. Cairenes can take a standardized test similar to the SAT
to be accepted to an institution of higher learning but most children do not finish school and opt to pick up a trade to enter the work force.
Egypt still struggles with poverty
, with almost half the population living on $2 or less a day.
The civil rights movement for women in Cairo and Egypt has been a long battle for years. Women are reported to face constant discrimination, sexual harassment, and abuse throughout Cairo. A 2013 UN
study found that over 99% of Egyptian women
reported experiencing sexual harassment at some point in their lives.
The problem has persisted in spite of new national laws since 2014 defining and criminalizing sexual harassment.
The situation is so severe that in 2017 Cairo was named by one poll as the most dangerous megacity
for women in the world.
In 2020, the social media account "Assault Police" began to name and shame perpetrators of violence against women.
The account was founded by student Nadeen Ashraf
, who is credited for instigating an iteration of the #MeToo movement
The air pollution
in Cairo is a matter of serious concern. Greater Cairo's volatile aromatic hydrocarbon
levels are higher than many other similar cities.
Air quality measurements in Cairo have also been recording dangerous levels of lead
, carbon dioxide
, sulphur dioxide
, and suspended particulate matter
concentrations due to decades of unregulated vehicle emissions
, urban industrial operations, and chaff and trash burning. There are over 4,500,000 cars on the streets of Cairo, 60% of which are over 10 years old, and therefore lack modern emission cutting features. Cairo has a very poor dispersion factor because of its lack of rain and its layout of tall buildings and narrow streets, which create a bowl effect.
Smog in Cairo
In recent years, a black cloud (as Egyptians refer to it) of smog
has appeared over Cairo every autumn due to temperature inversion
. Smog causes serious respiratory diseases and eye irritations for the city's citizens. Tourists who are not familiar with such high levels of pollution must take extra care.
Cairo also has many unregistered lead and copper smelters
which heavily pollute the city. The results of this has been a permanent haze over the city with particulate matter
in the air reaching over three times normal levels. It is estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 people a year in Cairo die due to air pollution-related diseases. Lead has been shown to cause harm to the central nervous system
and neurotoxicity particularly in children.
In 1995, the first environmental acts were introduced and the situation has seen some improvement with 36 air monitoring stations and emissions tests
on cars. Twenty thousand buses have also been commissioned to the city to improve congestion levels, which are very high.
Traffic in Cairo
The city also suffers from a high level of land pollution. Cairo produces 10,000 tons of waste material each day, 4,000 tons of which is not collected
. This is a huge health hazard, and the Egyptian Government is looking for ways to combat this. The Cairo Cleaning and Beautification Agency was founded to collect and recycle the waste; they work with the Zabbaleen
community that has been collecting and recycling Cairo's waste since the turn of the 20th century and live in an area known locally as Manshiyat naser
Both are working together to pick up as much waste as possible within the city limits, though it remains a pressing problem.
is also a serious problem in the city as the sewer system
tends to fail and overflow. On occasion, sewage
has escaped onto the streets to create a health hazard. This problem is hoped to be solved by a new sewer system funded by the European Union
, which could cope with the demand of the city. The dangerously high levels of mercury
in the city's water system has global health
officials concerned over related health risks.
Twin towns – sister cities
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Amman, Jordan
- Baghdad, Iraq
- Beijing, China
- Damascus, Syria
- East Jerusalem, Palestine
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Kairouan, Tunisia
- Khartoum, Sudan
- Muscat, Oman
- Oran, Algeria
- Palermo Province, Italy
- Rabat, Morocco
- Sanaa, Yemen
- Seoul, South Korea
- Stuttgart, Germany
- Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- Tbilisi, Georgia
- Tokyo, Japan
- Tripoli, Libya
- Gamal Aziz, also known as Gamal Mohammed Abdelaziz, former president and chief operating officer of Wynn Resorts, and former CEO of MGM Resorts International, indicted as part of the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal
- Abu Sa'id al-Afif, 15th-century Samaritan
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1922–2016), former Secretary-General of the United Nations
- Avi Cohen (1956–2010), Israeli international footballer
- Dalida (1933–1987), Italian-Egyptian singer who lived most of her life in France, received 55 golden records and was the first singer to receive a diamond disc
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- Yakub Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (1889–1974), Turkish novelist
- Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006), novelist, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988
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- Gaafar Nimeiry (1930–2009), President of Sudan
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- Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (15 January 1918 – 28 September 1970) was an Egyptian politician who served as the second President of Egypt from 1954 until his death in 1970.
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- Cairo's belle époque architects 1900–1950, by Samir Raafat.
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- Jörg Armbruster, Suleman Taufiq (Eds.) مدينتي القاهرة (MYCAI – My Cairo Mein Kairo), text by different authors, photos by Barbara Armbruster and Hala Elkoussy, edition esefeld & traub, Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-9809887-8-0.
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