Cairo, Egypt is one of the great capital cities of the world, an absolute melting pot of cultures, ancient and new. Add to it, the illustrious history that the city has stood witness to and you have a heady place that is rich in charm, elegance, peppiness and aristocracy, all at the same time.
About Cairo’s Geography
Cairo, the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa, stands on the banks of the mighty river Nile in the northern part of the country. To be more precise, Cairo lies to the south of the place where the Nile branches out into the Nile Delta region.
Cairo is a popular tourist destination and if you have the destination in your itinerary, then it is always worthwhile to gather the facts about the best times to travel to the place. And in this context, you have to take into account the weather of the place. The hot and dry summers are definite no-nos when it comes to visiting Cairo. The cooler months between November and March are the times to travel to Cairo and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the city.
A Short History Of Cairo, Egypt
The roots of Cairo can be traced back to Memphis, established around 3100 B.C. and went on to become the erstwhile capital of Ancient Egypt. The capital of Egypt further changed locations with Heliopolis to the south of Thebes and later to Alexandria under the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Cairo, Egypt as it stands today, had its moorings in the Babylon Fort, a Roman fort built in and around AD 150, in the vicinity of a canal running from the river Nile to the Red Sea. The proximity to a water body and the security provided by the fortified structure lead to the establishment of a miniscule town, inhabited mostly by Coptic Christians, in the region.
This town was later occupied by the Arabs under the leadership of Amr Ibn Al-As in AD 642. Their garrisons eventually came to constitute the permanent base of the Arab forces in Egypt under the Umayyads and Abbasids. This predominantly military base also houses the first mosque in Africa.
Egypt had a new capital when in the year ad 972, the North African Shi'i Fatimid dynasty invaded the country and built their capital north of the old Arab garrison, at Al-Mansuriyyah.
Throughout its history, there has been no dearth of foreign invaders setting foot on the soil of Egypt and with them the fortunes of the country’s capitals have swayed. Thus in the mid-1100s, Cairo was taken over by the Seljuks and Saladin and his descendents brought about a massive expansion in the structural dimensions of the city.
Cairo, Egypt was brought under the aegis of the Ottoman Empire by Selim I in 1517, only to see the ruling Mameluks take over the reins in the capacity of vassals of the Ottoman Sultan. Henceforth, Cairo has been under the control of Napoleon, who took over Egypt in 1798 and General Kleber, who took upon the mantle of the ruler after defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Aboukir Bay in August 1798.
Ismail Pasha And The Fortunes Of Cairo
The prosperity and the progress of Cairo, as you witness it now, owes its origins to a certain visionary named Ismail Pasha. During his rule, Ismail Pasha wrought in radical changes in the city’s landscape with the construction of the Suez Canal in 1863. This, in turn opened up Cairo and Egypt, for that matter, to the world and had the westerners flocking to this exotic land.
It was also during the reign of Ismail Pasha that an extensive network of gas lighting was installed and the railway lines were expanded to bring in far-flung areas into the fold.
Westernization of Cairo in the true sense of the term took place with Ismail Pasha deciding to revamp Cairo in the lines of Haussmann, a booming European city that he was greatly impressed with. His grand dreams with the city were carried on by his successor Ali Pasha Mubarak.
Cairo: From The Perspective of The Tourist
Holidays in Cairo promise loads of fun and frolic by way of the hordes of historical remains and sites to visit, reveling in the eclectic culture of the region and of course, immersing oneself in the vibrancy and exuberance of the population.
Cairo is the chosen base of the countless millions of tourists who visit Egypt every year, lured by the magic and mystery of the Pyramid at Giza, the majesty of the sphinx and the fabulous tales that abound about the gods and goddesses of Egypt.
When you travel to Cairo, Egypt be sure to take the trip to its old (Coptic) and the medieval (Islamic) quarters to understand the influences that shaped the city. The Hanging Church and the Ben Ezra Synagogue (Egypt’s oldest synagogue) are the places to visit when you are wandering down the cobbled streets of the Coptic regions of the city.
The Islamic quarters of the city is home to the Ibn Tulun, one of the largest mosques in the world and the oldest university in the world, which is housed inside the Al-Azhar mosque. Besides, you can also roam about the colorful bazaars herein.
Other places worth a visit when you are in Cairo are the Egyptian Museum, that houses amongst other lavish and stunning exhibits, the exquisitely crafted solid gold mask belonging to Tutankhamen; Qarafa or the City of the Dead, a one-of-a-kind “living cemetery” and of course, the massive Citadel wherein you can also catch the Whirling Dervishes giving a soul-stirring and entrancing performance.
Cairo, Egypt presents a wonderful kaleidoscope of colors and motifs and there are not many cities in the world that can offer this exhilarating blend of sheer spiritual and sensorial pleasure.