Egypt / Cities and Towns /
'al-qāhira or masr
Capital of Egypt with 8.5 million (larger Cairo, including Giza has 15 million inhabitants) (2005 estimates). Larger Cairo may have passed 17 million now, but today's borders between cities and a high influx of people make such estimates difficult to assign.
Looking south from Cairo Tower on Gezira. Cairo centre to the left, Roda Island and across the Nile is Giza.
The Midan Talaat Harb, perhaps the most beautiful Paris-like quarter of Cairo.
Amr Mosque, one of the very first built in this region, and before Cairo itself was founded.
The infrastructure of Cairo is well developed, but it is designed for a population of about 2 million. Although the infrastructure is somewhat sophisticated, it can no longer cope with the growth of the city. Still, new projects have aided the city, both the subway, city tunnels and general improvements. Electricity, water, and public transportation work well within metropolitan Cairo. Pollution and poverty are reaching the extremes along the periphery.
Greater Cairo is made up of original Cairo, the city of Giza, the islands Gezira and ar-Ruda, and regions in Qalubiyya, north of Cairo proper. The main centre of Cairo is just across the bridges from Giza and Gezira. The most popular places to live are on Gezira, the less densely populated Giza, the southern centre of Maadi and the northern centre of Heliopolis.
The area has been populated for at least 6,000 years, and has even served as the capital of Ancient Egypt. Today Cairo covers almost 300 km². Industrial areas prevent further growth of the city in many directions.
The economic foundations of Cairo is diverse industrial and governmental activity. Cairo completely dominates Egyptian economic life.
There are also numerous embassies and administrative offices.
Cairo has more than 500 mosques, the most famous are the mosques of Ibn Tulun, Kalaun and sultan Hassan, but the one dominating the skyline is the marble mosque of Muhammad Ali in the citadel overlooking the city.
Cairo has the world's first university, al-Azhar, founded in 970, which serves as the most important centre of Islamic learning for the whole Sunni world. Another university is the American University, established in 1919.
There are also many excellent museums, of which the National Museum is among the foremost in the entire world.
Prior to its establishment, the area of Cairo had been the site of many cities. The Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis had been on the west bank a few km south. The eastern side was turned into an important power centre by the Iranians around 500 BCE, who named their fortified settlement Babylon.
640: Arabs take control of the area under the leadership of Amr ibn al-As. He took control of Babylon, and exercised power over the Christian and Jewish city of Fustat nearby.
969: Cairo is established by the Fatimids after their conquest of Egypt. The city is placed about 2 km north of the city of Fustat.