Cairo: One of The Most Amazing Cities in the Arab World
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer
Cairo (al-Qahira, القاهرة), Egypt’s capital, and the largest city in Africa never ceases to amaze tourists or its own citizens! With a population of over 30 million, the mega city harbors most of Ancient Egypt’s fascinations as well as modern ones. From entertainment to religious sites, Cairo’s diverse environment makes it feel like home to any type of tourist. Cairo has long been a center of the region’s political and cultural life and is titled “the city of a thousand minarets” for its prevalent Islamic architecture. Cairo has the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab world.
Cairo’s Al Azhar University is the most famous for Islamic studies is one of the oldest universities in the world, after the University of Karueein in Fez, Morocco. One of the oldest historic sites in Cairo is the citadel which is under UNESCO’s list of heritage sites and is highly protected. From ancient Egyptians to the Romans, Copts, Umayyad caliphate, Abbasids, Fatimids, the Crusaders, Ayyubids dynasty, Mamluks, Ottomans, to the Khedives up until the British occupation, Egyptian army generals to the modern-day rulers like overthrown President Hosni Mubarak, Ex-President Mohammed Morsi, and current President Sisi. It seems everyone wanted a piece of Cairo.
Before you go any further..! Watch this beautiful time-lapse of Cairo!
A Brief History
Present-day Cairo was known as Memphis to Ancient Egyptians as a strategic place for upstream of the Nile Delta. As years passed by, around the 4th century, Romans started to settle in. As a result of religious separation, Copts had established residency there away from Roman Orthodox Christianity. Later on, came the Muslim conquest in which Amr ibn As settled around 640 AD. Ibn As established the first Islamic capital of Egypt called “Fustat” or City of Tents.
Between 750 and 968 AD, the Umayyads and the Abbasids had back and forth control over the capital city. By 969, the Fatimids conquered Egypt and began the construction of al-Azhar mosque. This became the learning hub of Islam and the third oldest university. When Caliph al-Mu’izz li Din Allah arrived from the old Fatimid capital of Mahdia in Tunisia in 973. He gave the city its present name, al-Qāhiratu or the Victorious. In 1168, the crusaders had aimed their sights on the city of Cairo, taking it from the Fatimids.
Foreign occupation then began to take its toll right after. From the Ottomans to the French and then the British, and right until the Egyptians took control of the country by 1922 for independence. The complete departure of the British was established in the 1952 Revolution and Presidencies of Army generals followed. Under Gamal Abdel Nasser and leaders alike, the Tahrir square was developed, and the creation of a desert metropolitan ensued. Cairo also became the main pivot for the Arab League’s headquarters. Throughout the years and until the last 20 years, Egypt went through a series of political changes. Including overthrowing, presidential assassinations, and resignations. The 2011 Egyptian Revolution began in the Tahir square. Where more than 100,000 protesters flooded the city squares and main streets to overthrow Ex-President Hosni Mubarak on January 25th.
Modern Day Cairo
Today, the city keeps modern etiquette while still retaining its old heritage. Places like Old Cairo, Citadel, bazaars, Egypt’s oldest mosques, and of course, the Egyptian Pyramids are still intact. On the other hand, new places are emerging to highlight the city’s modernity and technological age. Like the Grand Museum of Egypt due to open later this year as well as the controversial new capital.
Misfortunes of a beautiful place
The beauty of Cairo comes with a price. However, as the city’s pollution reached over 10 times higher than the recommended safety level established by the World Health Organization. A battle with the civil rights movement for women in Cairo has been ongoing for many years now with little to no improvement. According to a 2013 United Nations study, says Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll, “a whopping 99.3 percent of the women studied report having been sexually harassed.” In addition, most Egyptians live in poverty with as little as $1.90 a day. This leaves no space for a middle class to rise. Leaving a huge economic gap that modern-day presidents have constantly tried to change. Although, when you do meet locals, they rarely speak of their own financial situation and are always there to help others in need.
What is there to Enjoy?
Listen to Guinness World Record holder and Egyptian singer Amr Diab’s “Cairo” ft. renown Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir.
The beauty of Cairo is unmatched like no other. From ancient times, numerous civilizations have attempted to own the capital of the Mother of the World, Um al Dunia, but to no success. The city combines the ruins of an ancient world with the advancement. And procurement of modern-day, globalized cities of the West. Levels of entertainment include concerts from famous record-holders like Amr Diab, Tamer Hosny, and Mohamed Mounir. The Cairo International Film Festival is also the main event when it comes to films and short movies in the Arab World and the West.
The Opera House in the Zamalek district is the sanction for opera and classical music. In addition, Koshary (street food made of pasta, lentils, rice, and onions with tomato and hot sauce). Om Ali (milk and nuts puff pastry), and Hamam Mahshi (stuffed pigeon) are comfort foods for the fanatics. Football is the city’s main sport where it houses famous Egyptian league clubs like Al-Ahly and Zamalek. A person may never be too immersed in history books when it comes to Cairo. And the modern-day Arab world can never coexist without Cairo’s cultural essence.
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Introduction: Take a look at the largest city in the Arab world, filled with rich history, diverse culture, and a vast entertainment hub. Cairo has a reputation of the “Mother of the World”, or Um Al Dunya, in Arab Culture. Cairo is a spectacular city, with almost a population of 9.5 million people, it harbors a great deal of Arab culture, tradition, art, and food. Explore the breath-taking Cairo through the lenses of Arab America Contributing Writer, Noureldin Mohamed.