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Cairo – The city of a thousand minarets

Cairo – The city of a thousand minarets

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Cairo is both the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world. The city is considered the political, economic, and cultural center of the Middle East.

It was baptized with its current name in 972 by the Fatimid dynasty. The Arabic name is Al-Qāhira, which means “the victorious one”.

And there is no doubt that this city deserves that name, as it has managed to survive invasions, wars, plagues, and revolutions over the centuries, without losing its magic.

The Egyptian government, parliament, and state and political authorities have their headquarters here.

Furthermore, Cairo is the most important traffic junction in Egypt and is home to numerous universities, museums, and monuments.

Since Cairo does not have to be registered, the population is estimated at around 30 million, which corresponds to almost a third of the population of Egypt.

Cairo is located in northeast Egypt on the right bank of the Nile and has an area of ​​around 214 km2.

Opposite the big city is Giza. The first housing developments arose between the Muqattam Mountain in the east and the Nile in the west. The city center can be found between these two borders.

The Nile Delta is north of the city and extends to the Mediterranean Sea. In the west rise the pyramids of Giza, which are part of the seven wonders of the world.

The city center is divided into a traditional and a modern part. Traditional Cairo, which mainly spans Islamic Cairo around the Azhar Mosque, is located in front of the Saladin Citadel and Muqattam Mountain.

Also, the residential areas north, east, and south of the Azhar Mosque are to be mentioned, such as El-Muski and Sayyida Zeinab.

Coptic Cairo, also known as Old Cairo, extends alongside the al-Fustat excavations.

Modern Cairo is constrained by Midan el-Tahrir, Midan el-Opera, Ramses train station, and the Nile.

Those places are characterized by a colonial-era architectural style. One of the most famous suburbs in northeastern Cairo in Heliopolis.

Because of its many villas and the associated gardens, Maadi is one of the wealthy residential areas. The city of Helwan is to the south and Schubra al-Khaimah to the north.

Furthermore, on the eastern side of the Nile is Nasr City and the City of May 15th. To the west extends the city of October 6th and Sadat City.


The origin of Cairo

In 116 B.C. the Romans established a fortress next to the source of the Nile Delta, very close to the present location of the city.

This first city was gradually inhabited by the Copts, the original Egyptians, who constructed numerous buildings that we can still see in the visit to the Coptic Quarter.


History of Cairo

Cairo’s roots lie in several settlements. Today’s urban area was once the Babylonian town of Cheri-aha, where, according to ancient Egyptian tales, the gods Horus and Seth fought against each other.

In the 1st century AD, the city “Babylon in Egypt” on the east bank was founded under the Romans in Trajan’s time and subsequently rebuilt into a fortress.

The first Copts began building churches and protective walls at the end of the 4th century. In AD 641, the Arabs conquered the fortress, where they will find 42 churches upon their arrival.

Amr Ibn al-As built the Fustat camp north of the mountain complex in 643, which over time became a small town.

Both places grew together to form today’s Old Cairo, which consists of the Coptic and the Islamic quarter. In contrast to the Fustat, the Islamic part,

After the end of the 9th century, the city was insignificant until the Tulunids conquered present-day Cairo and made Fustat their capital.

The Nilometer and the Ibn Tulun Mosque are the only remaining ones from that time. In 969, the Fatimids conquered Egypt under the rule of Jawhar as-Siqilli and founded a military camp 4 km northeast of Fustat.

In the new camp city, a palace was built in the spring of 973, which was inhabited by the Imam Caliph that same year.

On this occasion, the city was called in al-Qahira al-Muizziya, “The Victorious of Muizz”.

Today’s Al-Azhar Mosque was built by Dschauher at that time and was already considered Cairo’s main mosque at that time. The metropolis, which stretches from Morocco to the Middle East, became the political center.

Fustat became an international trading center thanks to the politically important neighboring city.

Under the rule of Saladin (1137-1193) many new mosques and schools were founded and the foundations of the citadel are still preserved today.

In 1250 the Mamluks made Cairo their capital again. To illustrate their power, they built many palaces and mosques.

At this time, Cairo was growing into the most important economic and cultural center in the Islamic world.

In 1517 the city was conquered by the Ottomans. Under their rule, which lasted until the end of the 18th century, Cairo lost much of its political importance.

French troops conquered Cairo on April 24, 1798, under Napoléon Bonaparte, but came back under the Ottoman rule in 1801.

Ismail Pasha (1863-1879) built many structures and opened the Suez Canal in 1869 to present the lively city to a European power. However, he indebted the state of Egypt by building the Suez Canal.

It was largely financed by Great Britain. Under Ismail Pasha, the state in the west was enlarged and the Zamalek and Muhandisin housing estates were built.

The entire city was restored by European architects, some of the buildings in the city center can still be seen today.

Cairo is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the city that never sleeps.

Cairo is usually the city where a truly rare experience is found of everything where ancient monuments meet modernity today.

Beyond the modern scene, you’ll find centuries of history from an ancient civilization.

Old Cairo and Coptic Cairo refer to the oldest settlement areas before the founding of Cairo and the arrival of Islam in Egypt.

Islamic Cairo is the historic core of the city, built in the 10th century as the capital of the Fatimid Caliphate, and filled with beautiful medieval Islamic architecture.

Downtown Cairo is the youngest neighborhood in the city. It was built in the second half of the 19th century when the city expanded and was modeled on the major cities of Europe. It is the heart of modern Cairo.


Caliph and their legacy

Around 640 AD, the Arabs invaded Egypt. General Amr ibn al-As, who brought Islam to Egypt, built a settlement near the Roman fortress, called Al-Fustat (“The Camp”), which he later fortified.

That first city was the administrative center and the place where taxes were collected. It was also the site of Egypt’s first mosque.

The subsequent dynasties (Abbasid, Fatimid, and Ayyubid), founded successive fortresses that gradually displaced the previous ones as the administrative center.

In 750 the Fatimid emperor Suleiman built the fortress Al-Askar (“The Army”) next to Fustat. The only surviving building from this period is one of the jewels of Muslim architecture, the Ahmad Ibn Tulun Mosque.

The Fatimid Caliph Jawhar al-Qaid founded the palatial city of al-Qahira in 969. This sultan was also responsible for the construction of the Al-Azhar Mosque, the second oldest Islamic university in the world.

Saladin, one of the best-known sultans of the Ayyubid dynasty, built the Citadel, an impressive architectural complex that is now a World Heritage Site.
Within its walls were Al Qahira and the neighboring Fustat, which was destroyed by fire in 1168.


Mamluk government – Ottoman Empire – British hegemony

In 1250 the Mamluks invaded Egypt and established the Ottoman Empire.

The growth of Al-Qahira, declared the capital of Egypt, with hundreds of new mosques, markets, public baths, and houses, made it one of the most important urban centers in the country.

Around 1340 Cairo was the most important city in Africa. But the battles against the Mongols and the Crusaders, the plague of 1348, and the decline of the international trade port ended up weakening the dynasty, which fell definitively in 1517.

After the invasion of the Ottomans, Egypt became a province of the Empire.

Cairo became a provincial capital, although it remained an important commercial center and Al-Azhar University maintained its status as the most important university in the Islamic world.

Ottoman rule was maintained for three centuries until Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 and for a brief period.

That same year he was defeated by the English troops at the Battle of Abukir.

The Ottomans regained control by sending Muhammad ‘Ali, considered the modernizer of Egypt.

This sultan and his successors, who ruled until 1952, promoted the construction of factories on the outskirts of Cairo, expanded the urbanization towards the Nile with public buildings (such as the opera house) and housing, and built the Suez Canal, which began operating in 1867.

The population increased by 250 percent in the suburban areas, while the center of Al-Qahira was populated by the poorer sections of the population.

Economic interests in the Suez Canal caused the United Kingdom to occupy Egypt in 1822. The modernization of Cairo continued even under British rule.


From the independence of Egypt to the present day.

The British occupation provoked discontent and revolts that continued even during World War I. In 1922, Egypt gained its independence. Fuad I, who had ruled Egypt as a sultan since 1917, adopted the title of king for himself and his successors. Cairo became the capital of the country.

During World War II the city was used as a base of operations by the British army.

Cairo was the scene of several political and social upheavals, such as the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 by a group of military men under the command of Gamal Abdel Nasser (who later became president of the country) and the abolition of the monarchy in 1953.

Among the most recent events are the bloody Egyptian Revolution in 2011, which killed hundreds of people and culminated in the resignation of President Mubarak; and the massive demonstrations against President Morsi in 2013, which led by Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Egypt’s current president.

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