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28 Tuesday , May, 2024
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 Cairo, the capital of Ard Al-Kinanah Egypt

 

 

 

  

Introduction

Cairo has been known by many nicknames “Qahirat El-Moez,” “Al-Madina Al-Mahrousa,” “Crown of the Wild,” “The City of all Cities, “and “The City of a Thousand Minarets.” All these names are given by historians to the ancient city of Cairo, whose history dates back to the dawn of human civilization.

 
Since the Pharaonic era, Cairo was the capital of Egypt under the name “Iunu City,” and it symbolized the unity of Northern and Southern Egypt. So, let’s find out more about the history of that fascinating city.

 

Cairo, the capital of Egypt and one of Africa’s largest cities, has always been famous for its heritage and cultural diversity. It is also one of the world’s most important political and religious centres, given its strategic location on the western bank of the Nile River. It is bounded on the north by Qalyubia city, on the east and south by the Zahir El-Sahrawi Villages, and on the west by the Nile River and Giza city.

 

Cairo is currently home to many government buildings and headquarters, such as the presidential palace, Egypt’s Cabinet and ministries, the House of Representatives, and the Central Bank. However, all these buildings will soon be relocated to the New Administrative Capital.

 

Moreover, it is considered a prefecture-level city. It is simultaneously a city and a province in its own right. Although Cairo is Egypt’s largest city, it is the smallest Egyptian province.

 

Cairo houses numerous monuments dating back to different eras, including Pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic, and Islamic.  There is no other place in the world that houses so many Islamic, modern, and military monuments, so it is no wonder that Cairo, as described by the famous Philosopher ibn Khaldun “wider than anyone has ever imagined.” 

 

 

 

Greater Cairo

In modern times, Cairo has expanded to be what is called “Greater Cairo,” a semi-official administrative entity including Giza province and some of its suburbs as well as Shubra El-Kheima of Qalyubia province.

 

 

Cairo’s Administrative Division

Cairo City consists of 4 areas divided into 38 districts:

*The north area divided into 8 Districts

*The east area divided into 9 Districts

*The west area divided into 9 Districts

*The south area divided into 12 Districts

Cairo has three new cities: New Cairo, El-Shorouq, and Badr City 

 

 

Cairo’s Population and Land area

Cairo has an estimated population of more than 10 million in 2022. Cairo’s total space is 3084.676 km2, and the inhabited area is 188.982 km2

 

  

Cairo celebrates its National Day on July 6th, the day on which General Jawhar al-Siqilli laid the foundation stone of Cairo in 969 AD.

 

Cairo Logo

The official logo of Cairo is Al-Azhar Mosque, Islam's minaret and platform in the Islamic world.

  

Cairo Governorate Headquarters

The building of the Cairo governorate headquarters was part of the Abdeen Palace, one of Cairo’s most famous presidential palaces built during the era of the Mohammad Ali Pasha dynasty.

 

In 1863 after ascending the throne, Khedive Ismail ordered the construction of the Abdeen Palace to transfer the official residence of the governor from the Salah El-Din Citadel, which remained the official residence since Salah El-Din established it in 1171, to the centre of the city.

It took ten years to build the palace, and it was named after Abdeen Bey, one of the military commanders of Mohammad Ali Pasha. Abdeen Bey owned a small mansion in the current place of Abdeen palace. Later, Khedive Ismail demolished the mansion and expanded its area to 24 acres after buying it from the widow of Abdeen Bey.

 

The palace was built by the French Engineer De Corel wel Rousseou along with several Egyptian, Italian, French, and Turkish workers and technicians. The palace’s construction cost 10 thousand pounds, while the furniture cost 2 million. 

 

Abdeen Palace remained the official royal residence and a symbol of power from 1873 to 1952.  It also witnessed many important historical events in Egypt’s modern history, such as the Orabi Revolution and the Egyptian army demonstration at Abdeen Square in front of the Abdeen Palace in 1881.

 

The Abdeen Square was built on top of El-Faraeen stagnant pond on a 9-acre area and beside the square was the barracks, which is currently the Cairo governorate headquarters.

 

Cairo Origins

Since its foundation thousand years ago, Cairo has been the main center of Arab-Islamic civilization. It is one of the Islamic world's unique cities known for its historical position and variety of monuments.

 

Cairo was home to most capitals of Egypt over the ages. Each one was the capital of a different era, such as the Iunu city “Heliopolis” in the Mataria neighborhood and the Islamic capitals of Egypt: The Fustat city, the Qata’i city, the Asker city, the Fatimid Cairo, and the Khedivial Cairo.

 

The Fustat City

It was founded by Amr ibn Al-Aas in 21 AH – 641 AD. It is also where Amr ibn Al-Aas built the first Mosque in Egypt and Africa, Amr ibn Al-Aas Mosque, following the Islamic traditions of establishing Islamic capitals.  

  

The word Fustat means a tent, which is derived from the Greek word fossaton, meaning a ditch. The Fustat city continued to be a center of movement and urbanization during the Rashidun Caliphs' eras and the Umayyad era.   

 

The Asker City

It was the second Islamic capital of Egypt. It was built during the Abbasid period in 331 AH- 571 AD. Al-Askar is an Arabic word that means the soldiers. This city was established in the north of Al Fustat city.

 

The Qata’i City

It was the third Islamic capital of Egypt, built by Ahmad ibn Tulun in 256 AH- 870 AD on high ground between Yashkur Mountain and Al-Mokattam Mountain Northeast of Askar city.

 

The Qata’i city was the first capital to follow artistic rules of city construction, similar to the Iraqi city of Samarra.

 

Ibn Tulun allocated a fief for each group of his army. He also built the famous Ibn Tulun Mosque, one of Cairo’s oldest mosques, for his soldiers, servants, and several ethnic groups such as Sudanese, Nubian, Greek, and Roman. Both cities of the Asker and the Qata’i were built during the Abbasid era.

 

  

Fatimid Cairo

By the foundation of Qahirat Al-Moez, a new chapter began in the history of Egypt’s capitals, one that never stopped developing.

 

“After the army of Alexander the Great, there were no bigger armies than Al-Moez. The Fatimid conquest of Egypt was not only replacing one city with another, but a huge leap in religious, cultural, social terms,” the Egyptian Historian Al-Maqrizi said.

 

The Leader Jawhar Al-Siqilli began to build the new city of the Fatimid State in 969 AD after he took orders from the Fatimid Caliph Al-Moez Le din Allah to build a political capital and named it Cairo. He fortified the city with eight gates, but only three remained (Bab El-Nasr- Bab Al-Futuh- Bab Zewila).  

 

 

Cairo, the Ayyubid Era

When the Ayyubids ruled Egypt and the seat of power transferred from Cairo to Salah EL-Din Citadel, Salah El-Din’s most significant defense project was to protect Cairo, the Fustat, and the area between them. So, he planned to surround those areas with one wall. 

 

He assigned Bahaa El-Din Qaraqosh to build the citadel (Qalaet Al-Gabal). Therefore, he began to construct the wall and dug a trench around it. He also restored Cairo’s Fatimid wall. Salah El-Din had two purposes. The first is to fortify the capital against the crusader attacks, and the second is to protect the sultan.  

 

Unfortunately, the project did not come out as Salah El-Din wanted, and he died before completing it. El-Malek El-Kamel was the first to move from Cairo to the Citadel in 604 AH/ 1207 AD.

 

After the seat of power transferred to the citadel, Cairo opened its door to elements who were banned from entering the city during the Fatimid era.

 

Moreover, commercial and crafts activities began to seep into the city and spread around Cairo’s most vibrant and fascinating street, El-Moez Street. These economic and social changes led to the reshaping of the city’s urban fabric and the emergence of new patterns of buildings that replaced most of the Fatimid palaces in the Ben El-Qasreen neighborhood, such as the Dome of El-Saleh Negm El-Din Ayoub in 648 AH/ 1250 AD.       

 

The Ayyubid era was characterized by military architecture represented in citadels, fortifications, and walls to fortify the city against crusader attacks, and Islamic architecture as the Ayyubids introduced a new kind of educational institution; madrasas. They built them to teach the Sunni Creeds and confront the Shiite Creeds, such as ​Al-Madrasah Al-Kamilia, built by Sultan El-Malek El-Kamel Mohammad in Cairo in 622 AH/ 1225 AD.

 

 

Cairo, The Mamluk Era

The Mamluk ruled Egypt in 648 AH/ 1250 AD, and the Salah El-Din Citadel (Qalaet Al-Gabal) remained the seat of power as an actual fortified city inside its walls and towers. The citadel was the most important inheritance of the Ayyubids.

 

During the Mamluk era, Cairo witnessed unprecedented expansion that had not happened in the history of Islamic Cairo. This expansion was attributed to Sultan El-Naser Mohammad ibn Qalawun during his reign (709 -741 AH/ 1309-1341 AD), which was a turning point in the history of Cairo.

 

Cairo expanded to include the surroundings of the Fatimid remnants, El-Husseinia Alley, Bab Al-Futuh, passing through the Ridaniya area (Now Abbasia Neighbourhood), Taht El-Rabae Street, Darb Al-Ahmar Street, Qanater El-Sebae (Now Al-Sayeda Zeinab Neighbourhood), as well as emerging neighbourhoods in the West mainland of the gulf to Meniat El-Serg (Now Shubra Neighbourhood), and Bab El-Louq neighbourhood.

 

Sultan El-Naser ibn Qalawun also completed the Magra El-Oyoun Fence construction and built the waterwheels that raised water to the fence to reach the Salah El-Din Citadel.  

The Mamluks built many mosques, palaces, and houses in that area by order of Sultan Qalawun, such as Qawson Mosque on Al-Qalaa Street (730 AH/1330 AD), Beshtak Mosque on Darb El-Gamamiz Street 736 AH/ 1336 AD), Al-Tinbugha Al-Maridani Mosque on Tabanna Street (739 AH/ 1340 AD), and the jewel of the Islamic Architecture Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrassa (757-764 AH/ 1356-1363 AD).  

 

Despite the damage that Cairo suffered from because of famine and deterioration of economic conditions during the Mamluk era, Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay (873-901 AH/ 1467-1496 AD) and Sultan Al-Ashraf Qanswa Al-Ghory worked on the reconstruction of Cairo, including the renovation of Salah El-Din Citadel buildings. 

During the Mamluk reign, Cairo was no longer a fortified city and merged with the Mamluk districts. Moreover, El-Moez Street became not only a trade artery but also a venue for the royal procession and a spiritual and political center. It was also home to many Mamluk madrasas like Al-Madrasa Al-Salehia, Madrasa of El-Zaher Baybars, and Al-Ghory Complex. 

 

 

Cairo, the Ottoman Era

After the fall of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria in 923 AH- 1517 AD and the rise of the Ottomans, although Cairo lost its position as the capital of the Mamluk state, it had a special status during the Ottoman era as it was the second city after Istanbul.

 

Cairo also maintained its position since the Fatimid era as a trade hub, and it was also the place that sent Kiswat Al-Kabaa (the cover of the Kabaa) to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in a huge ceremony, which contributed to the development of the commercial centres around the heart of Fatimid Cairo.

 

Cairo continued to be a center of cultural and religious center thanks to the Al-Azhar Mosque, which served as a major Islamic university in many places during the Ottoman era.

 

During the Ottoman era, Cairo expanded more, and urbanization spread through the city. The Aristocratic class of pashas, noblemen, and princes lived in it.

 

The Ottomans left many landmarks, including sabils, palaces, mosques, madrasas, hammams, gardens, and ponds like the Sabil of Khesro Pasha, the Sabil of Abdel Rahman katkhuda, the Mosque of Mohammad Bey Abu Al-Dahb, and El- Suhaymi House.

 

Cairo during Mohammad Ali Era

When Mohammad Ali Pasha ascended the throne of Egypt in 1805, it was a turning point not only in Egyptian history but also in Cairo’s history. He gave orders to clean and sweep streets, which reflected in public health. So, diseases and pandemics became less spreading. 

 

He also demolished old buildings and rebuilt them, in addition to reconstructing wastelands across Cairo like the current Garden City area.

 

Furthermore, Mohammad Ali renovated the Salah El-Din Citadel’s gates and built inside the citadel the Jawhara Palace and the Mohammad Ali Mosque. The mosque was built in the Ottoman architectural style and later became one of Cairo’s fascinating landmarks.

Mohammad Ali Pasha’s era also witnessed a flourish in education as he built the school of medicine and other schools.

 

As for trade and industry, the Boulaq area became a trade and industrial center embracing workers and artisans. That in addition to making more expansions and constructing new roads inside and outside the city.

 

Khedive Ismail Era

During that era, Cairo witnessed unprecedented development and quantum leap. Its space has doubled and included more neighborhoods with new characteristics.   

 

Since khedive Ismail ascended the throne of Egypt, he decided to prove to the world that his country was not only part of Africa but Europe as well. So, he built the Ismailia district (now Abdeen neighborhood, Downtown) and Al-Faggala district in the European style.

 

Khedive Ismail also ordered the construction of the Abdeen Palace and made it the seat of government in Egypt instead of the Salah El-Din Citadel until 1952 AD. He developed Cairo to be similar to European cities, and it became the capital of Egypt.

 

Khedive Ismail was the one who laid the foundation of modern Egypt as he had an integrated vision to turn Cairo from a medieval city into “Paris of the East.”

   

The invention of modern transportation and the automobile in 1903 was the main reason for the rapid change of the road network of Cairo’s new streets and neighbourhoods, the increase of the cobblestone streets, and the growth of the city’s suburbs. 

Modernization continued in Cairo, and new bridges were built over the Nile River in the first decade of the 20th century, such as the Boulaq Abu El-Ella Bridge (1908-1912 AD).  

 

Additionally, new neighborhoods emerged as well as public institutions with the beginning of the parliamentary life in Egypt in 1866 such as the ministry of public works in 1880 and the ministry of endowments in 1899.  In 1923 the first parliament building was established after the adoption of Egypt’s first constitution.

 

 

 

 Contemporary Cairo

After the Cairo fire on 26 January and the 23rd July Revolution in1952, Cairo began a new phase of development and growth as new roads were established to widen Cairo’s streets, such as the Salah Salem Road in 1985 as well as the Maspero building and the Cairo Stadium. It also expanded to include new neighbourhoods like Madinet Nasr and Alf Maskn.

Moreover, Cairo was the first African city to install a metro system in 1987.

 

Thus, Cairo has remained the capital of Egypt and the centre of power from the Fatimid era until the present, and it continued to expand north and west year after year.

 

In each era, Cairo experienced periods of prosperity and development socially and politically. It also went through periods of economic slump and political instability, which naturally impacted the social and cultural situation. But each time, Cairo overcame challenges and obstacles to regain prosperity and stability to prove the world its greatness.

 

Cairo is currently implementing several mega development projects which aim to eradicate informal settlements and restore the capital’s aesthetic appearance such as The Fustat Development Project.

 

Furthermore, Cairo is witnessing several other important projects, such as the Monorail project and the electric LRT train Project turning Cairo into a leading political, cultural, and economic center in the Middle East and Africa by creating a flourishing economic environment and achieving sustainable development.

 

Last update: 2024