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Cairo Travel Guide

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa, with a name that means "the victorious city." It is located on both banks of the River Nile near the head of the river's delta in northern Egypt and has been settled for more than 6,000 years, serving as the capital of numerous Egyptian kingdoms. Cairo is known locally as "Misr," which is the Arabic name for Egypt, because of its centrality to Egyptian life.

 

Greater Cairo is spread across three of Egypt's administrative governorates. The northeastern part is known as Kaliobia Governorate, while the west bank is part of the governorate of Giza, and the eastern parts and southeastern parts are other governorates known as Cairo governorate. The three districts are collectively known as greater Cairo.

 

The city is marked by the traditions and influences of the East and the West, both the ancient and the modern. However, Cairo also reflects Egypt's growing poverty, and it struggles to cope with problems caused by massive population growth, urban sprawl, and deteriorating infrastructure and public services.

 

Cairo

 

The city of Cairo covers an area of more than 453 square kilometers (more than 175 square miles), although it is difficult to geographically measure and separate the city from some of its immediate suburbs. Bracketed by the desert to the east, south, and west and bounded by the fertile Nile delta to the north, Cairo sits astride the river, though it spreads farther on the east bank than the west.

 

Cairo also includes several river islands, which play an important role in the life of the city. As the region's principal commercial, administrative, and tourist center, Cairo contains many cultural institutions, business and corporate headquarters, governmental offices, universities, and hotels, which together create a busy stream of constant activity.

 

Pyramids of Giza

 

The center of downtown Cairo is in Tahrir Square, which is located along the east bank. A hub of tourist activity, the vast and open square contains numerous attractions, including the Egyptian Museum, the Arab League headquarters, and the modern Umar Makram Mosque. Cairo's main thoroughfare, Corniche, extends from north to south along the east bank of the Nile. Located nearby is the narrow strip of land known as Garden City, one of the city's newer residential areas. In the center of the city is the river island of Zamalek (also called Jezerah, meaning "the island"), which contains an upscale residential and commercial neighborhood also known as Zamalek, the Cairo Opera House (founded in 1869), and the Cairo Tower (1961). Three bridges link the island of Zamalek with both banks of the river. The island of Al-Rodah, located to the south, is linked to the mainland by two additional bridges, while another bridge to the north carries road and rail traffic across the Nile.

 

Outside the city's central area on the east bank are the neighborhoods of Islamic Cairo. These neighborhoods span from the northeast to the southeast of the city. These neighborhoods are known for their narrow streets, crowded markets (bazaars), and hundreds of mosques, many dating all the way back to the Medieval period. South of the Islamic district lies Old Cairo, where some of the city's oldest architectural monuments can be found and many tourists love to explore. Old Cairo is also the home of Cairo's Coptic Christian community, and the site of the Coptic Museum plus a large number of Coptic churches.

 

The efficient irrigation of Cairo's desert outskirts has allowed for the development of suburbs, such as Heliopolis, located to the northeast. Other modern suburbs are interspersed with recently created migrant neighborhoods that accommodate the city's growing population. Industrial areas further crowd the city, restricting its growth. An international airport serves Cairo, situated approximately 24 kilometers (about 15 miles) northeast of the city, while the Ramses railway station and the main bus terminal are also located near downtown Cairo.

 

Cairo is the chief commercial and industrial center of Egypt. Local industries manufacture cotton textiles, food products, construction supplies, motor vehicles, aircraft, and chemical fertilizers. Iron and steel are produced in the south, just outside the city. Cairo is also a center for government activities and service industries. Because of the city's warm climate and numerous historical and cultural attractions, tourism plays an important role in its economy. Cairo receives goods shipped on the Nile at the river port, located at the northern end of the city. From Cairo, products are sent by road, railroad, and waterway to the Mediterranean ports of Alexandria and Port Said. The city is connected by train service to other major cities. Traffic congestion is a growing problem in Cairo, but it is the only city in the Middle East and Africa that has a subway. This system opened in the city in 1987 for the first time carrying about 2 million passengers every day. Lately, a second line has been opened, this linked the old line with the western superb in the west bank (Giza), The third line is still under construction which will connect Cairo airport to the city center and finish in the busy suburb of Imbaba. 

 

Population 

In 1998 Cairo was estimated to have a population of 16 million. The people of Cairo are known as Cairenes and nearly all of them are Egyptian citizens with a small number of foreigners. The city is an important center of the Islamic faith, and Cairenes are predominantly Sunni Muslims, however, the city is also home to a sizable Coptic community, which traces its origins to the early Christians who populated Cairo in large numbers before the arrival of Islam. Cairo's population swells daily as workers flow into and out of the city from the surrounding area, clogging roads and rail lines every morning and evening. Many Cairenes are recent arrivals from villages and small cities along the Nile. These rural migrants arrive with few skills or resources and compound the existing problems of unemployment and housing shortages.

 

Education And Culture 

The most famous educational institution in Cairo is Al-Azhar University, which is the oldest university in the entire Islamic world. The institution has developed around the Al-Azhar Mosque, the oldest Mosque in Cairo. The Fatimid religious order founded both the university and Mosque in 970. Al-Azhar University is an authoritative voice throughout the Islamic world, and its positions on important issues are influential in Egypt and the Muslim world. Other institutions of higher education include Cairo University (founded in 1908) and Ain Shams University (1950), which together enrolls more than 100,000 students. The American University of Cairo, founded in 1919, where the children of Egypt's elite mingle with students and faculty from abroad, is also a key academic institution in the capital.

 

Egyptian history is displayed and preserved in the city's numerous Museum collections. The Egyptian Museum (Founded in 1902) contains hundreds of thousands of artifacts, including more than 1,700 pieces from the collection of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. The Museum of Islamic Arts (1881) contains a vast collection relating to early Islamic civilization, and the Coptic Museum (1910) traces the history of the Coptic community in Egypt. Other Cairo Museums maintain collections relating to more modern themes, ranging from the El-Gawhara Palace Museum, built in 1811 in the Ottoman style, to the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, founded in 1963, which contains works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Peter Paul Rubens, and other renowned European and Egyptian artists.

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