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Destination Details

Cairo, Egypt

 

The area around present-day Cairo, especially Memphis, 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 AD. Around the turn of the 4th century, as Memphis was continuing to decline in importance, the Romans established a fortress town along the east bank of the Nile. This fortress, known as Babylon, remains the oldest structure in the city. It is also situated at the nucleus of Egypt's Coptic Christian community, which separated from the Roman and Byzantine church 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. After the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641, Rashidun commander 'Amr ibn al-'As established Fustat just north of Coptic Cairo and Babylon. At Caliph Umar's request, the Egyptian capital was moved fromAlexandria to the new city. Fustat also became a regional center of Islam and home to the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the first mosque in Egypt. When the Abbasids usurped the Umayyads in 750, they moved the capital to al-Askar, which they had built just north of Fustat. In 868, under the Tulunids, Egypt's capital was moved further north to their own settlement, al-Qatta'i. However, neither al-Askar nor al-Qatta'i achieved the prominence of Fustat; al-Askar had become indistinguishable from Fustat by the end of the 9th century, and al-Qatta'i was destroyed by the Abbasids when they recaptured Egypt in 905. With the Abbasids' second conquest, Fustat once again became the capital of Egypt.
 
Foundation and expansion
 
In 969, led by General Gawhar al-Siqilli, the Fatimid Caliphate conquered Egypt and established a new fortified city northeast of Fustat. It took four years for Gawhar to build the city, initially known as al-Mansūriyyah, which was to serve as the new capital of the caliphate. During that time, Gawhar also commissioned the construction of al-Azhar Mosque, which developed into the second-oldest university in the world. Cairo would eventually become a center 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 973, the city was given its present name, al-Qahira ("The Victorious"), in reference to the caliph.  
 
  For nearly two hundred years after Cairo was established, the administrative center of Egypt remained inFustat. However, in 1168, the Fatamids, 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 eventually expanded to include the ruins of Fustat and the previous capitals of al-Askar and al-Qatta'i. While the Fustat fire successfully protected the city of Cairo, a continuing power struggle between Shawar, King Amalric I of Jerusalem, and Syrian general Shirkuh led to the downfall of the Fatimid establishment. In 1169, Saladin was appointed as the new vizier of Egypt and, two years later, he would seize power from the family of the last Fatimid caliph, Al-'Āḍid. As the first Sultan of Egypt, Saladin established theAyyubid dynasty, based in Cairo and Damascus, and aligned Egypt with the Abbasids, who were based inBaghdad. During his reign, Saladin also constructed the Citadel, which served as the seat of Egyptian government until the mid-19th century. In 1250, slave soldiers, known as the Mamluks, seized 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 center of the city. Meanwhile, Cairo flourished as a center of Islamic scholarship and a crossroads on thespice trade route between Europe and Asia. By 1340, Cairo had a population of close to half a million, making it the largest city west of China.
  
Stagnation and Ottoman rule
 
Although it avoided Europe's stagnation during the Late Middle Ages, Cairo 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, thereby allowing spice traders to avoid Cairo. Cairo's political influence diminished significantly after the Ottomans supplanted Mamluk power over Egyptin 1517. Ruling from Istanbul, 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. However, during the 16th and 17th centuries, Cairo remained an important economic and cultural center. Although no longer on the spice route, the city facilitated the transportation of Yemeni coffee and Indian textiles, primarily to Anatolia, North Africa, and the Balkans. Cairene merchants were instrumental in bringing goods to the barren Hejaz, especially during the annual hajj to Mecca. 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. 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 Istanbul, 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 Albaniancontingent, recaptured the country in 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 commanderand eventually, with the approval of the religious establishment, viceroy of Egypt in 1805.
 
Modern era
 
[caption id="attachment_298" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Today, high-rise buildings line the eastern edge of the Nile in central Cairo"][/caption] 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 modernization processes started by his grandfather. Drawing inspiration from Paris, Isma'il environs 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 neighboring settlements, by establishing a public works ministry, bringing gas and lighting to the city, and opening a theater and opera house.
Today, high-rise buildings line the eastern edge of the Nile in central Cairo
The immense debt resulting from Isma'il's projects provided a pretext for increasing European control, which culminated with the British invasion in 1882. The city's economic center 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. 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 Britishprotectorate. Nevertheless, while this led to Egypt's independence in 1922, British troops remained in the country until 1956. During this time, urban Cairo, spurred by new bridges and transport links, continued to in expand to include the upscale neighborhoods of Garden City, Zamalek, 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 1,000 hectares (10 km2; 4 sq mi) to 16,300 hectares (163 km2; 63 sq mi). 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 Nasserredeveloped Midan Tahrir and the Nile Corniche, and improved the city's network of bridges and highways. Meanwhile, additional controls of the Nile fostered development within the island of Gezira 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. Despite these efforts, 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 organizations, including the Arab League, operating out of the city.
 
Geography
 
 Cairo is located in northern Egypt, known as Lower Egypt, 165 kilometers (100 mi) south of theMediterranean Sea and 120 kilometers (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 214 square kilometers (83 sq mi). 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 Mokattamhighlands on which the city now stands. The land on which Cairo was established in 969 (present-dayIslamic 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 and Gezira. Land reclamation efforts by theMamluks and Ottomans further contributed to expansion on the east bank of the river. [caption id="attachment_300" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Islamic Cairo Street"][/caption] 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 center, 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 center. The Citadel is located east of the city center aroundIslamic 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, andIslamic 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 is just north of the Helwan Governorate, which was created in 2008 when some of Cairo's southern districts, including Maadi and New Cairo, were split off and annexed into the new governorate.  
 
Climate
 
In Cairo, and along the Nile River Valley, the climate is a desert climate (BWh according to the system), but often with high humidity due to the river valley's 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 13°C to 19°C, while night-time lows drop to below 8°C, often to 5°C. In summer, the highs rarely surpass 40°C, and lows drop to about 20°C. Rainfall is sparse, but sudden showers do cause harsh flooding. In a city near Cairo called New Cairo, the temperatures often drop below zero during winter. New Cairo's weather is generally cooler than that of Cairo due to its higher altitude.  
A panorama of the Nile showing Cairo tower in the middle and two major bridges on the far right and left.
 
 
Health
 
See also: List of hospitals in 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 As-Salam International Hospital- Corniche El Nile; Maadi (Egypt's largest private hospital with 350 beds), Ain Shams University Hospital, Dar El Fouad Hospital, as well as Qasr El Ainy General Hospital.
 
Education
 
 Cairo has long been the hub of education and educational services not only for Egypt but also for the whole Arab world. Today, Cairo is the center for many government offices governing the Egyptian educational system, has the largest number of educational schools, and higher learning institutes among other cities and governorates of Egypt.  
    
Transportation
 
Transportation in Cairo comprises an extensive road network, rail system, subway system, and maritime services. Road transport is facilitated by personal vehicles, taxi cabs, privately-owned public buses, andmicrobuses. Cairo, specifically Ramses Square, is the center of almost the entire Egyptian transportation network.
 
The subway system, officially called "Metro", 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, 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 Sixth of October bridge that, when it doesn't experience heavy traffic, allows 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 intersections, taking turns going, with police aiding intraffic control of some congested areas.      
 
Sports
 
 Football 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 and El Zamalek, whose annual football tournament is perhaps the most watched sports event in Egypt as well as the African and Arabian World. Both teams are known as the "rivals" of Egyptian football, and are the first and the second champions in the African continent and the Arab World. Both teams play their home games at Cairo International Stadium or Naser Stadium , which is Cairo's largest stadium 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 African Nations Cup 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 cup of nations Back to back which resulted in Egypt winning the title for a record number of six times in African Continental Competition's history. Cairo failed at the applicant stage when bidding for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, which was hosted in Beijing, China. However, Cairo will host the Pan-Arab Games this year and next year. There are several other sports teams in the city that participate in several sports including el GeziraSporting 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 Zamalek & Al Ahly. They have the two biggest football teams in Egypt. Most of the sports federations of the country are also located in the city suburbs, including the Egyptian Football Association. The headquarters of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was previously located in Cairo, before relocating to its new headquarters in 6 October City, a small city away from Cairo's crowded districts. On October 2008, the Egyptian Rugby Federation was officially formed and granted membership into theInternational Rugby Board.
 
Culture
 
Over the ages, and as far back as four 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 Arabian Peninsula, led by Amr ibn al-A'as, introduced Islam into Egypt. KhediveMohammad 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 Opera House
 
President Mubarak inaugurated the new Cairo Opera House of the Egyptian National Cultural Centers 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 friendship between these two nations. Egypt is proud to be the only state in the region which built two opera houses within 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 poetLawrence Durrell to film producer Cecil B. de Mille. Since the silent movies Hollywood has been capitalizing 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 -decoration: underline ;">Tawfiq al-Hakim to Nobel Laureate, novelistNaguib 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 leads 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, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Alicia Silverstone 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.  
 
Cairo Geniza
 
  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 Cambridgeruns to 140,000 manuscripts; there are a further 40,000 manuscripts at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.     Al-Azhar Park
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.
 
Azhar Park overviewing the Cairo Citadel
 
  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 defence 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.  
Media
 
Egyptian Media Production City in Cairo
 
The 6th of October city-based Media Production city ( MPC) is the biggest ever built information and media complex, which, together with the Egyptian media satellites "Nilesat 101", "Nilesat 102", will allow Egypt to step into the new world of the 21st century. Thereby, Cairo will be well-qualified and well-equipped to maintain its pioneering role in the field of satellite television
  Old buildings in Downtown Cairo. In the center is the statue ofTalaat Pasha Harb, the father of the modern Egyptian economy  
 
  Cairo is also in every respect the center of Egypt, as it has been almost since its founding in 969 AD. 15% of all Egyptians live there. 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. This astonishing growth until recently surged well ahead of city services. Homes, roads, electricity, telephone and sewer services were all suddenly in short supply. Analysts trying to grasp the magnitude of the change coined terms like "hyper-urbanization".  
 
The Egyptian Museum
 
Main entrance of 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
 
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.
Old Cairo
 
Cairo Cafe
 
  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.
  
Cairo Tower
 
The Cairo Tower is a free-standing concrete TV tower in Cairo. It stands in the Zamalek district on Gezira Island in the Nile River, in the city centre. At 187 meters, it is 43 meters higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which stands some 15 km to the southwest. 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. 20,000 buses have also been commissioned to the city to improve congestion levels, which are very high. The city also suffers from a high level of land pollution. Cairo produces 10,000 tons of rubbish each day, 4,000 tons of which is not collected or managed. This once again 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 rubbish; however, they also work with the Zabbaleen (orZabaleen), a community that has been collecting and recycling Cairo's rubbish 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 rubbish as possible within the city limits, though it remains a pressing problem. The city also suffers from water pollution 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. There is also more concern about environmental issues among Egyptians than before. There is now general awareness and some projects are laid down to help make the public aware of the importance of clean environment.
 
 

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