Cairo , is the capital city of Egypt. It is the largest city in Egypt and Africa's most populous city. While Al-Qahirah is the official name of the city, in Egyptian Arabic it commonly shares the dialect's name for the country, transliteration: Masr. Inhabitants of Cairo are called Masraweya rather than Masri within Egypt.
Cairo was founded by the Fatimid caliphs as a royal enclosure, and replaced Fustat as the seat of the government. It later came under the Mamluks, ruled by the Ottomans 1517 to 1798, briefly occupied by Napoleon. Muhammad Ali of Egypt made Cairo the capital of his independent empire from 1805 to 1882, after which the British took control of it until Egypt attained independence in 1952.
Cairo has a population of about 7.7 million people, while its metropolitan area has a population of about 17.285 million people. Cairo is the sixteenth most populous metropolitan area in the world. It is also the most populous metropolitan area in Africa. Today, Greater Cairo encompasses various historic towns and modern districts into one of the most populous cities in the world. A journey through Cairo is a virtual time travel: from the Pyramids, Saladin's Citadel, the Virgin Mary's Tree, the Sphinx, and Heliopolis, to Al-Azhar, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-A'as, Saqqara, the Hanging Church, and the Cairo Tower. It is the Capital of Egypt, and indeed its history is intertwined with that of the country.
Today, Cairo's official name is Al-Qahira (Cairo), although the name informally used by most Egyptians is "Masr" (Egyptian Arabic name for Egypt), from the original name of Egypt's first Arab capital Fustat, Misr al-Fustat, "City of the Tents."
Geography & Climate
Cairo is located on the banks and islands of the Nile River in the north of Egypt, immediately south of the point where the river leaves its desert-bound valley and breaks into two branches into the low-lying Nile Delta region.
The oldest part of the city is east of the river. There, the city gradually spreads west, engulfing the agricultural lands next to the Nile. These western areas, built on the model of Paris by Ismail the Magnificent in the mid-19th century, are marked by wide boulevards, public gardens, and open spaces. The older eastern section of the city is very different: having grown up haphazardly over the centuries it is filled with small lanes and crowded tenements. While western Cairo is dominated by the government buildings and modern architecture, the eastern half is filled with hundreds of ancient mosques that act as landmarks.
Extensive water systems have also allowed the city to expand east into the desert. Bridges link the Nile islands of Gezira and Roda, where many government buildings are located and government officials live. Bridges also cross the Nile attaching the city to the suburbs of Giza and Imbabah (part of the Cairo conurbation).
West of Giza, in the desert, is part of the ancient necropolis of Memphis on the Giza plateau, with its three large pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza. Approximately 11 miles (18 km) to the south of modern Cairo is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis and adjoining necropolis of Saqqara. These cities were Cairo's ancient predecessors, when Cairo was still in this approximate geographical location.
In Cairo, and along the Nile River Valley, the climate is hot desert (BWh) according to the Köppen climate classification system, but often with high humidity due to the river valley's latent effects. Wind storms can be frequent, bringing Saharan dust into the city, during the months of March and April. High temperatures in winter range from the 15°C to the low 20s, while nighttime lows drop to below 10°C, often to 5°C. In Summer, the highs often surpass 40°C, and lows drop to about 20°C. Rainfall is sparse, but sudden showers do cause flooding.
Transportation in Cairo comprises an extensive road network, rail system, subway system and maritime services. Cairo is the centre of almost the entire Egyptian transportation network. The subway system, called 'The Metro' locally, is a fast and efficient way of getting around Cairo. It can get very crowded during rush hour. Two train cars (the fourth and fifth ones) are reserved for women only. 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 to almost every Cairo district. There are flyovers, and bridges such as the Sixth of October bridge that allows straight, fast and efficient 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 intersections, taking turns going, with police aiding in traffic control of some congested areas.
Over the ages, and as far back as seven thousand years, Egypt stood as the land where civilizations have always met. The Pharaohs together with the Greeks and the Romans have left their imprints here. Muslims from the Arab Peninsula, led by Amr ibn al-A'as, introduced Islam into Egypt. Khedive Mohammad Ali, with his Albanian family roots, put Egypt on the road to modernity. If anything, the cultural mix in this country is natural, given its heritage. Egypt can be likened to an open museum with monuments of the different historical periods on display everywhere.
Cairo Tourist Sites
Cairo Opera House:
President Mubarak inaugurated the new Cairo Opera House of the Egyptian National Cultural Center on October 10, 1988, seventeen years after the Royal Opera House had been destroyed by fire. The National Cultural Center 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 deep-rooted friendship between these two nations. Thus, the joint efforts of Japanese and Egyptians has given rise to a unique landmark which celebrates the rich and diverse cultural life not only of Egypt but of neighboring nations in Africa and the Middle East as well. Egypt is proud to be the only state in the region which built two opera houses within a bit more than a century.
Khedivial Opera House:
The Khedivial Opera House or Royal Opera House was the original opera house in Cairo, Egypt. It was dedicated on November 1, 1869 and burned down on October 28, 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:
Egypt's love of the arts in general can be traced back to the rich heritage bequeathed by the Pharaohs. In modern times, Egypt has enjoyed a strong cinematic tradition since the art of filmmaking was first developed, early in the 20th century. A natural progression from the active theatre scene of the time, cinema rapidly evolved into a vast motion picture industry. This together with the much older music tradition, raised Egypt to become the cultural capital of the Arab world.
For more than 500 years of recorded history, Egypt has fascinated the West and inspired its creative talents from play writer William Shakespeare, poet and dramatist John Dryden, and novelist and poet Lawrence Durrell to film producer Cecil B. de Mille. Since the silent movies Hollywood has been capitalising on the box-office returns that come from combining Egyptian stories with visual effects. Egypt has also been a fount of Arabic literature, producing some of the 20th century's greatest Arab writers such as Taha Hussein and Tawfiq al-Hakim to Nobel Laureate, novelist Naguib Mahfouz. Each of them has written for the cinema.
With these credentials, it was clear that Cairo should aim to hold an international film festival. This dream came true on Monday August 16, 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.
For 29 years, the home of the Pyramids and Nile has hosted international superstars like Nicolas Cage , John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Bud Spencer, Gina Lollobrigida, Ornella Mutti, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Victoria Abril, Elizabeth Taylor, Shashi Kapoor, Alain Delon, Greta Scacchi, Catherine Deneuve, Peter O'toole, Christopher Lee, Irene Pappas, Marcello Mastroianni and Omar Sharif, as well as great directors like Robert Wise, Elia Kazan, Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Stone, Roland Joffe, Carlos Saura, Ismail Merchant and Michel Angelo Antonioni, in an annual celebration and examination of the state of cinema in the world today.
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 Fostat, 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 as late as 1880 AD and have now been archived in various American and European libraries. The Taylor-Schechter collection in the University of Cambridge runs to 140,000 manuscripts; there are a further 40,000 manuscripts at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
The Wagh El-Birket ("The Berka") was, into the first half of the 20th century, the entertainment district (or red-light district) of Cairo, Egypt. It features prominently in several novels by Naguib Mahfouz, particularly his Cairo Trilogy. It is a little north of Azbakeya. Later, during the Second World War, the British military set up brothels run by the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Inaugurated in May 2005, Al-Azhar Park is located adjacent to Cairo's Darb al-Ahmar district. The Park was created by the Historic Cities Support Programme (HCSP) of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), an entity of the Aga Khan Development Network, and was a gift to Cairo from His Highness the Aga Khan. It is interesting to note that the city of Cairo was founded in the year 969 by the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs who were ancestors of the Aga Khan. During the development of the park, a part of the 12th century Ayyubid wall was discovered and subsequently restored. The wall had originally been built by Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi as a defense against the crusaders. The discovery prompted additional research into the nearby historic neighborhood of Darb al-Ahmar, and eventually led to a major project encompassing the restoration of several mosques, palaces and historic houses. The HCSP also established social and economic programs to provide a wide range of assistance for local residents.
The Egyptian Museum:
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.
Khan el-Khalili is for many the most entertaining part of Cairo. It is an ancient shopping area, nothing less, but some of the shops have also their own little factories or workshops. The suq (which is the Arabic name for bazaar, or market) dates back to 1382, when Emir Djaharks el-Khalili built a big caravanserai (or khan) right here. A caravanserai was a sort of hotel for traders, and usually the focal point for economic activity for any surrounding area. This caravanserai is still there, you just ask for the narrow street of Sikka Khan el-Khalili and Badestan.
The part of Cairo that contains Coptic Cairo and Fostat, which contains the Coptic Museum, Babylon Fortress, Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George, many other Coptic churches, the Ben Ezra Synagogue and Amr ibn al-'As Mosque.
The Cairo Tower is free-standing concrete TV tower in Cairo. It stands in the Zamalek district on Gezira Island in the River Nile, in the city centre. At 187 metres, it is 43 metres higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which stands some 15 km to the southwest.