Cairo is the capital of Egypt and, with a total population of Greater Cairo metropolitan area in excess of 16 million people, one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (the regions which it conveniently straddles). It is also the 19th largest city in the world, and among the world's most densely populated cities.
On the Nile river, Cairo is famous for its own history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo — with historic Cairo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Egyptian Museum in the city centre is a must see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artefacts, as is shopping at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. No trip to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Giza Pyramids and to the nearby Saqqara Pyramid Complex, where visitors will see Egypt's first step pyramid built by the architect Imhotep for the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser.
Though firmly attached to the past, Cairo is also home to a vibrant modern society. The Midan Tahrir area situated in downtown Cairo, built in the 19th century under the rule of Khedive Ismail, has strived to be a "Paris on the Nile". There also are a number of more modern suburbs including Ma'adi and Heliopolis, while Zamalek is a quiet area on Gezira Island, with upmarket shopping. Cairo is best in the fall or spring, when the weather isn't so hot. A felucca ride on the Nile is a good way to escape from the busy city, as is a visit to Al-Azhar Park.
Since the revolution in 2011 and the ongoing counter-revolution, tourists have fled Cairo to a large extent. This has created an opportunity for unique experiences of Cairo's and Egypt's cultural treasures without the crowds. Finding yourself alone inside a pyramid is now a real possibility. Prices are also lower.
|POPULATION :||City: 10,230,350 / Metro: 20,439,541|
|FOUNDED :||969 AD|
|TIME ZONE :||EET (UTC+2)|
|LANGUAGE :||Arabic (official), English and French widely used by educated classes|
|RELIGION :||Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%|
|AREA :||630 km2 (240 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||23 m (75 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||30°3′N 31°14′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.22%
• Female: 49.78%
|ETHNIC :||Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4%|
|AREA CODE :||2|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||(+20) 2|
|WEBSITE :||official website|
Over the ages, and as far back as four thousand years, Egypt stood as the land where many civilizations have met. The Pharaohs together with the Greeks, Babylonians and the Romans have left their imprints here. Muslims from the Arabian 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. The cultural mixture in this city is only natural, considering its heritage. Egypt can be likened to an open museum with monuments of the different historical periods on display everywhere.
Cairo's highly nocturnal lifestyle is attributed not only to young people in nightclubs but also to the importance of cafés, which remain very active at night as social gathering places to smoke shisha, and even to the late-night public activeness of families with children.Cairo is also one of few cities in the Muslim world which has several casinos.
Citystars is Egypt's premier shopping mall and is quite comparable to a foreign mall. It offers most international brands and most international food chains. It offers a cinema and amusement park. Mall of Arabia is a brand new spacious shopping mall in the suburb of 6 October City. It is Cairo's other premier shopping destination, featuring many of the same American and European clothiers as Citystars.
See in Cairo:
Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. The only remaining monuments of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is the country's most famous tourist attraction.
Egyptian Museum (250 m north of Tahrir square), Located in the Midan Tahrir area and officially named Museum of Egyptian Antiquities but known by all as the Egyptian Museum, it hosts the world's premier collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Citadel and Mosque of Mohamed Ali Pasha, in Islamic Cairo. A grand castle built by Salah Al-Din. Also parts of the water pipes (Majra Al-Oyouon) are still there, these pipes used to carry the water from the Nile River to the citadel. Mohamed Ali is considered to be the founder of modern Egypt, the ancestor of the last King of Egypt, King Farouk.
Al-Azhar Mosque. One of the pillars of Islamic thought and home to the world's oldest university.
Ibn Tulun (Close to Sayida Zeinab). Arguably the oldest mosque in Cairo, built between 868-884.
The Coptic Museum, in Coptic Cairo.
The "Hanging Church" (Church of the Virgin Mary) in Zabaleen Area (District of Manshiet Nasser) below Mokkatam Hills, not far away from the Citadel
Cairo Tower (185 m./610 ft.) on Gezira Island offers a 360-view of Cairo, along with the Giza Pyramids off in the distance to the west.
Khan El Khalily. Cairo's souk area where visitors will find many merchants selling perfume, spices, Gold, Egyptian hand craft.
The Egyptian Tourist Authority http://www.touregypt.net has offices in Cairo City Center, 5 Adly Street, phone: 3913454, Pyramids, Pyramids Street, phone: 3838823, fax: 3838823, Rameses Railway Station, phone: 5790767, Giza Railway Station, phone: 5702233, El Manial, Manial Palace, phone: 5315587, Airport, phone: 2654760, fax: 4157475, New Airport, phone: 2652223, fax: 4164195 andCairo International, Airport' phone: 2914255 ext.2223.
In 968, the Fatimids were led by General Jawhar al-Siqilli with his Kutama army, to establish a new capital for the Fatimid dynasty. Egypt was conquered from their base in Ifriqiya and a new fortified city northeast of Fustat was established. It took four years for Jawhar to build the city, initially known as al-Manṣūriyyah, which was to serve as the new capital of the caliphate. During that time, Jawhar also commissioned the construction of al-Azhar Mosque, 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 finally arrived from the old Fatimid capital of Mahdia in Tunisia in 973, he gave the city its present name, al-Qahira ("The Victorious").
For nearly 200 years after Cairo was established, the administrative centre of Egypt remained in Fustat. However, in 1168 the Fatimids under the leadership of Vizier Shawar set fire to Fustat to prevent Cairo's capture by the Crusaders. 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 and al-Qatta'i.
In 1169 Saladin was appointed as the new vizier of Egypt by the Fatimids and two years later he would seize power from the family of the last Fatimid caliph.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 also constructed the Cairo Citadel, which served as the seat of the Egyptian government until the mid-19th century.
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.By 1340, Cairo had a population of close to half a million, making it the largest city west of China.
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 supplanted Mamluk power over Egypt in 1517. Ruling from Constantinople, Sultan Selim I relegated Egypt to a mere 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.Under the Ottomans, Cairo expanded south and west from its nucleus around the Citadel.The city was the second-largest in the empire, behind only 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 sizable Albanian contingent, recaptured the country in 1801.
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.
The British occupation was intended to be temporary, but it lasted well into the 20th century. Nationalists staged large-scale demonstrations in Cairo in 1919, five years after Egypt had been declared a British protectorate.Nevertheless, while this led to Egypt's independence in 1922, British troops remained in the country until 1956.
Cairo's Tahrir Square was the focal point of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution against former president Hosni Mubarak. On 11 February, following weeks of determined popular protest and pressure, Hosni Mubarak resigned from office.
In Cairo, and along the Nile River Valley, the climate is a hot desert climate but often with high humidity as it is not very far from the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile Delta.
Wind storms can be frequent, bringing Saharan dust into the city, sometimes from March to May and the air often becomes uncomfortably dry.
High temperatures in winter range from 19 to 29 °C (66 to 84 °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).
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 is 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).
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.
Cairo accounts for 11% of Egypt's population and 22 % of her economy (PPP).
Cairo is also in every respect the centre of Egypt, as it has been almost since its founding in 969 AD. 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 fueled rapid construction in the city—one building in five is less than 15 years old.
Greater Cairo is vast; with more than 17 million people, it's the largest metropolitan area in Africa and the Middle East. It is centered at Tahrir Square.
Midan El Tahrir is the very centre of the modern city: big hotels, transport nexus and the Egyptian Museum, with downtown extending through Midan Talaat Harb up to Midan Ataba. Midan Tahrir (literally, "Liberation Square") is famous for the massive 2011 protests that ousted president Mubarak. Massive political rallies still occur on this square.
Contains Cairo's main railway station and a burgeoning retail and accommodation zone.
A district close to the city centre and the Corniche el-Nil, a good option for centred accommodation.
The centre of historic Cairo, located east of downtown; contains the Citadel, Mohamed Ali Mosque, Khan el Khalili (the main bazaar or souq), historic mosques and medieval architecture, as well as some of Cairo's Turkish baths or Hammams.
Located south of downtown, includes Coptic Cairo, Fustat (Cairo's historical kernel) and Rhoda Island.
Dokki and Mohandeseen (Giza)
Located on the west bank of the Nile, with upscale restaurants, shopping, and accommodation.
Gezira and Zamalek
Upmarket district on the Gezira island in the Nile, with the Cairo Tower, the Opera House, as well as some nice shopping, restaurants, cafés, and accommodation. The Gezira Sporting Club is located here.
The name Giza commonly refers to the district or the city by the same name, not the actual location of the pyramids. It is west of the metropolitan area overlooking the Nile where the Giza Zoo is located as well as a few other attractions. Giza city includes Haram (pyramid) district where the Giza Pyramids are located, also includes Dokki and Mohandeseen.
Heliopolis and Nasr City
The two of them are actually completely distinct areas. Heliopolis is an older district where well-to-do Egyptians and higher class people live, built by a Belgian architect. Nasr City is newer, and contains City Stars, Cairo's biggest and most modern shopping mall, and retail social complex. The airport is actually located a bit further east of this area out in the desert near Masaken Sheraton
A more quiet residential district catering to many foreign expatriates, located southeast of Cairo, where upper-class Egyptians live.
The main post office of Cairo is on Midan Ataba (open 7AM-7PM Sa - Th, 7AM-12 noon Fr and holidays). The poste restante office is to be found along the side street to the right of the main entrance to the post office and through the last door (open 8AM-6PM Sat - Th, 10AM-12 noon Fr and holidays) - mail will be held for 3 weeks.There are two kind of mail boxes for international and domestic use. They are typically found on the street in pairs, colored green and yellow. It is said that your mail will be delivered no matter which one you use.
The Internet is rapidly growing in Cairo as in many other Egyptian and Middle Eastern cities. There is now a profusion of established internet cafés and venues, with many more opening for business each month. A growing number of cafés including Cilantro and Beanos provide wifi for free, and if all else fails, you can always drop into a McDonalds and try their network. Luxury hotels often provide WiFi at a premium. Also, mobile providers offer relatively high speed internet access via a USB dongle.
In Egypt, cell phone are a way of life. Walking down any street, or on a crowded bus, it seems that most Egyptians are addicted to cell phones (similar to what you may find in Japan or Korea). Instead of using your phone from your home country (which often tend to carry very high roaming fees), consider obtaining an Egyptian SIM card or cheap unlocked phone. The 2 main carriers in Egypt are Mobinil and Vodafone Egypt.