About Cairo, Egypt
Cairo, Arabic Al-Qāhirah (“The Victorious”), city, capital of Egypt, and one of the largest cities in Africa. Cairo has stood for more than 1,000 years on the same site on the banks of the Nile, primarily on the eastern shore, some 500 miles (800 km) downstream from the Aswān High Dam.
Located in the northeast of the country, Cairo is the gateway to the Nile delta, where the lower Nile separates into the Rosetta and Damietta branches. Metropolitan Cairo is made up of the Cairo muḥāfazah(governorate), as well as other districts, some of which belong to neighbouring governorates such as Al-Jīzah and Qalūbiyyah. Area governorate, 83 square miles (214 square km). Pop. (2006) governorate, 7,786,640; (2005 est.) urban agglom., 11,128,000.
Character of the city
Cairo is a place of physical contrast. Along the well-irrigated shoreline, lush vegetation shares the landscape with tall skyscrapers. In the older inland quarters to the east, however, beneath the foothills of the Eastern Desert and the rocky promontories of the Muqaṭṭam Hills and the Al-Jabal al-Aḥmar (Arabic: Red Mountain), browns and ochres are the dominant hues of land and buildings.
The city juxtaposes ancient and new, East and West. The Pyramids of Giza, near Memphis, stand at the southwestern edge of the metropolis, and an obelisk in the northeast marks the site of Heliopolis, where Platoonce studied; modern landmarks of Western-style high-rise hotels and apartment buildings overlook the Nile River. Between these extremes are other architectural monuments, dating from Roman, Arab, and Turkish times. In addition to department stores, cinemas, hotels, and town houses, Cairo contains a large functioning bazaar and an extensive, semi-walled medieval city endowed with more than 400 registered historic monuments—including mosques, mausoleums, and massive stone gates—dating to 130 CE.
Cairo has only two seasons: approximately eight months of summer and four months of winter. In the hottest of the summer months—June, July, and August—the average daily maximum temperature is 95 °F (35 °C), and the average daily minimum is 70 °F (21 °C). The summer temperature has reached as high as 117 °F (47 °C). During winter the strong Tropic of Cancer sun makes for warm, dry days, but nights are cool and humid, often freshened by breezes from the Nile. The average daily maximum temperature in January–February is 67 °F (19 °C), and the average daily minimum is 47 °F (8.5 °C).
Cairo’s population, once both ethnically and religiously diverse, is now predominantly Muslim. A significant number of Egyptian Christians, the majority of whom observe the Coptic Orthodox faith, continue to dominate certain districts in the city. Remnants of the old Italian, Greek, Syrian, and Sudanese communities are still found in some locations. Differences of status within the Egyptian population depend largely on one’s place of origin (many residents of Cairo were born in rural Egypt), class, and degree of modernity. About half of the city’s population live in the city proper, while half live in the suburbs.
Cairo has long been a cultural capital of the Middle East, as well as the region’s chief mass media centre. For many centuries it was also the site of the region’s major religious and cultural institutions. During the 19th century a number of European cultural institutions, such as theatres, were introduced. The original Baroque Opera House, situated on Opera Square in downtown Cairo, was destroyed by fire in 1971; it was replaced by a modern structure on the southern tip of Jazīrah, completed in 1988.
Egypt has long been known for its musical and dramatic talent and as the site of a renaissance in Arab theatre. The majority of Arabic films are produced by Egyptian companies in Cairo, and leading cinema stars and many popular musical entertainers of the Arab world make Cairo their headquarters. Egyptian radio and television series are broadcast throughout the Arab world, and a number of important newspapers are published in Cairo. Among the oldest and most widely circulated of these is Al-Ahrām, established in 1875, although other dailies headquartered in the city—including Al-Jumhūriyyah, Al-Akhbār, and Al-Masāʾ—enjoy large readerships as well.
Cairene and Egyptian heritage are represented in the collections of the city’s rich series of museums. Located on Al-Taḥrīr Square, the Egyptian Museum displays a vast collection of antiquities, among them the treasures of Tutankhamen; the Coptic Museum in Miṣr al-Qadīmah specializes in pre-Islamic icons, textiles, and stones, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Bāb al-Khalq displays Mamlūk Qurʾāns and objects of wood, brass, inlay, and glass. The War Museum, located at the Citadel, is also in Cairo, and the Turkish-style Manyāl Palace Museum stands on the island of Al-Rawḍah. The mosques of Cairo themselves often offer as rich a historical store as the city’s museums.
The Cairo Zoological Gardens, in Al-Jīzah, contain extensive collections of rare tropical animals in a garden setting. In addition to the sporting facilities on Jazīrah, including racetracks, swimming clubs, and gardens, there is a racetrack at Heliopolis. Naṣr City is the site of the Cairo Stadium and has numerous playing fields. Other recreation and entertainment options include sailboat trips up the Nile, as well as numerous riverfront cafés, restaurant boats, and nightclubs.