History




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History Of Cairo

Introduction About The History of Cairo 

Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt, had been a significant centerpiece of attention from Ancient Egypt, due to its strategic location just upstream from the Nile Delta. The history of the new city is, however, usually traced back to several settlements in the first millennium.

At the turn of the 4th century, the Romans built a strong fortress along the east bank of the Nile when Memphis kept deteriorating in ranks.

Babylon, as this fortress was popularly known, was the core of the Roman, and next is the Byzantine city, which is the oldest building in the city today. It is situated at the center of the Coptic Orthodox community, which segregated from the Roman and Byzantine churches in the later part of the 4th century. A segment of the city called Coptic Cairo hosted many of the oldest Coptic churches in Cairo, including the Hanging Church, all along the fortress wall.

After the 640 AD’s Muslim conquest in Egypt, Amr ibn As who was the conqueror settled to the north of Babylon, an area that was popularly known as al-Fustat. Fustat, which means “City of Tents,” is primarily a camp of tents but later became a permanent settlement and the first Islamic-Egypt capital.

In 750 AD, the Ummayad caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasids, and the new rulers built their own settlement, which grown to be their capital to the northEast of Fustat. The city has a military camp layout design and was called al-Askar, which means “the city of Cantonments or Sections.”

Al Askar witnessed a rebellion in 869 AD by Ahmad ibn Tulun, which led to the building of another settlement called al-Qatta’i (“the Quarters”) which became the seat of government as al-Askar had to be abandoned when the Abbasids lost the power. “the Quarters was sited closer to the river and the north of Fustat. Al Qatta’i was built around a palace, and ceremonial Mosque now called the Mosque of Ibn Tulun.

The Abbasids later re-asserted control of the country, and their governor returned to Fustat In 905, after destroying al-Qatta’i. Cairo has been expanding towards the west Since the 1860s and is now called Midan Opera

Foundation and expansion 

In 968, General Jawhar al-Siqilli led the Fatimids to establish a new capital for the Fatimid dynasty. They conquered Egypt from their base in Ifriqiya and established a new fortified city to the northeast of Fustat.

The building process of the city lasted four years. It was first called al-Manṣūriyyah and was later named al-Qāhiratu (“The Victorious”) by Caliph al-Mu’izz li Din Allah when he came back from the Mahdia’s old Fatimid capital in Tunisia in 973. The city served as the new capital of the caliphate. At this period,  the construction of the al-Azhar Mosque was also commissioned by Jawhar by order of the Caliph. The Mosque developed into the world’s number3 oldest university hosting the library of Cairo that contains thousands of books, and Cairo eventually would become a center of learning.

About two centuries after the establishment of Cairo, the administrative center of Egypt still remained in Fustat. In 1168 however, the Fatimids created a fire around Fustat under the leadership of vizier Shawar to prevent the invaders from capturing Cairo. Al Qahira expanded, and the earlier settlements were encompassed, and have since become part of the city of Cairo, they are now collectively referred to as “Old Cairo.” Cairo became the permanent capital of Egypt, which was expanded to cover the previous capitals of al-Askar and al-Qatta’i and ruins of Fustat.

While the Fustat fire effectively defended the city of Cairo from invaders, a persistent struggle for power between King Amalric I of Jerusalem, the Zengid general, and ShirkuhJ led to the Fatimid establishment’s collapse.

In 1169, the Fatimids appointed Saladin as the new vizier of Egypt, who hijacked power two years later from the family of the last Fatimid Caliph, al-‘Āḍid.  As the first Sultan of Egypt, Saladin established the Ayyubid dynasty, which was based in Cairo, and united Egypt with the Abbasids that were based in Baghdad. He was able to construct the Cairo Citadel during his reign, which was the base of the Egyptian government until the mid-19th century. Saladin commissioned This Citadel between 1176 and 1183. The walled Citadel was occupied by a multi-domed mosque with a destroyed tomb and a single minaret in the front of it.

Citadel of Cairo

In 1250, the Mamluks, who are slave soldiers, hijacked control of Egypt and established Cairo as the capital of their new dynasty, like many of their predecessors. Much of the land occupied by former Fatimid palaces were sold and replaced by more modern buildings, just like the Ayyubids did.

The Mamluks launched Construction projects that propelled the city forward, also bringing new amenities to the heart of the city. Meanwhile, Cairo excelled as a base of Islamic scholarship and an intersection of Afro-Eurasian civilizations on the spice trade route. Cairo had a population of close to half a million by 1340, and it the largest city in the west of China.

Ibn Battuta was a renowned historic traveler who had journeyed through thousands of miles during his trek. Cairo was one of his destinations, and he made One significant comment that “Cairo was Egypt’s most important and most influential city” (Ibn Battuta, 2009). He as well recognized the significance of the river Nile to the whole of Egypt as he often traveled by boat to get to Cairo and to leave for the rest of his journey. Not only was the Nile a medium of transportation, but it was also the source of a multitude of other useful things. The most prominent attribute of the Nile was its capacity to support rich agricultural soil, which in turn served as a major food source, and a channel for trade. And Egypt, as it is today, wouldn’t have been the same without the Nile.

According to Ibn Battuta’s detailed accounts of Cairo, a plague that was very devastating known Today as the Bubonic Plague or the Black Death hit Egypt in 1347 and caused the deaths of between 1 and 20,000 people daily in Cairo (Ibn Battuta, 2009)(Berkeley ORIAS, 2018). The plague was said to have originated in Asia and spread through rodents such as rats and fleas (Berkeley ORIAS, 2018). The plague eventually spread to all of Eurasia and exterminated all society it came across. It was estimated somewhere that it killed between 75 and 200 million people in total.

Ottoman rule

19th century Cairo

During the Late Middle Ages, Cairo was able to escape Europe’s stagnation, but it could, however, could not escape the Black Death, which afflicted the city over fifty times between the years 1348 and 1517. Approximately 200,000 people were killed by the plague when it first came and was most deadly. And the population of Cairo had been reduced to between 150,000 and 300,000 by the 15th century.

Between 1497 and 1499, Vasco da Gama discovered a sea route around the Cape of Good Hope, thereby enabling spice traders to bypass Cairo, and this further reduced the status of the city. Cairo’s political dominance declined dramatically after Mamluk’s control over Egypt was supplanted by the Ottomans in 1517. Sultan Selim I ruled from Constantinople and reduced Egypt to a province, with Cairo as its capital. This is why Cairo’s history during Ottoman times is often portrayed as unimportant, particularly when compared to other periods. But Cairo remained a substantial economic and cultural base throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Though, Cairo was no longer on the spice route, the city promoted the shipment of Yemeni coffee and Indian textiles to Anatolia in particular, Balkans, and North Africa.

Cairene merchants, particularly during the annual hajj to Mecca, were helpful in bringing goods to the barren Hejaz. It was during this same time that al-Azhar University acquired the predominance of Islamic schools that it retains to this day; pilgrims on their way to hajj always attested to the supremacy of the university that had become interrelated with the Islamic Scholars Association of Egypt.

Cairo also had high-rise apartment buildings in the 16th-century structures, where the first two floors were for business and storage purposes, and the several other stories above them were rented out. 

Under the Ottomans, Cairo spread from its core around the Citadel to the south and west. The city was the second-largest in the empire, next to Constantinople. While migration was not the leading cause of development for Cairo, at the end of the 18th century, twenty percent of its population comprised of ethnic minorities and immigrants from all over the Mediterranean.

In 1798 however, when Napoleon arrived in Cairo, the city has a population less than 300000, forty percent lesser than it was at the pinnacle of Mamluk domination by the Cairo indigenes in the mid-14th century. The French takeover was short-termed as British and Ottoman troops, which includes a large Albanian contingent recaptured the land in 1801. The siege by a British and Ottoman force on Cairo itself ended with the French surrender on 22 June 1801.

The British left Egypt two years later, the Albanians, the Mamluks who had been long-weakened, and Ottomans were behind tussling for the country’s control. In 1805, the persisted civil war permitted Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian, to eventually move up to the rank of commander, with the authorization of the Viceroy of Egypt, which was religious establishment.

Muhammad Ali Pasha implemented a series of social and economic reforms that earned him the “Founder of Modern Egypt” title. However, the construction of the public buildings and other changes had little influence on the landscape of Cairo. He had died in the year 1848.

Isma’il Pasha, who is the grandson of Muhammad Ali Pasha (1863–1879), brought more significant improvements to Cairo. He continued the reform processes started by his grandfather. Inspired by Paris, Isma’il envisioned a city of maidans and broad avenues; but due to financial restrictions, only some of the visions could be realized in the area that now constitutes Downtown Cairo.

He also endeavored to modernize the city, which consolidated with settlements nearby, by setting up a ministry of public works, adding gas and lighting to the city, and launching a theatre and opera house.

The Europeans had pretext leverage to interfere in governance due to the huge debt resulting from the projects of Isma’il executed. Though the interference ended with the British invasion in 1882, the economic base of the city rapidly shifted west toward the Nile, away from the historic sector of Islamic Cairo and toward the contemporary areas of European architecture that Isma’il had developed. Areas designed by Isma’il are in European style.

At the end of the 19th century, Europeans accounted for 5 percent of Cairo’s population, at which stage they occupied most of the highest positions in government.

In 1919, five years after Egypt had been proclaimed a British protectorate Revolutionaries staged large-scale demonstrations in Cairo because British occupation lasted longer than expected; it continued well into the 20th century but was supposed to be temporary. This resulted in the independence of Egypt in 1922, while British forces stayed in the region until 1956.

Between 1882 and 1937, the population of Cairo increased from 347,000 to 1.3 million, and its area increased from 10 to 163 square kilometers (4 to 63 sq mi). Cairo expanded to include Zamalek, the upscale neighborhoods of Garden City, and Heliopolis while new bridges and transport links continued to spring.

1952 featured a riot named the Cairo Fire or Black Saturday, which caused the destruction of movie theatres, casinos, hotels, and about 700 shops in Downtown Cairo.

The British left Cairo after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, but there was no sign of a downturn in the rapid development of the city. In an attempt to satisfy the growing population, President Gamal Abdel Nasser has redeveloped Maidan Tahrir and the Nile Corniche and strengthened the bridge and highway network of the city.

In the meantime, increased Nile controls nurtured growth within Gezira Island along the coastline of the city. The capital city started to penetrate the fertile Nile Delta, causing the government to create satellite desert towns and providing opportunities for urban residents to migrate to them.

Since the 1960s, the population of Cairo has doubled, amounting up to nearly seven million, while the urban area was having approximately ten million in addition.

At the same time, Cairo has developed itself as a political and economic center for the Arab world and North Africa, with several multinational companies and institutions like the Arab League working outside the city.

In 1992, an earthquake hit Cairo, killed 545 people, injured 6,512, and left 50,000 people homeless.

It is fair to say Cairo still holds prominence importance as it serves as the national capital of Egypt in the present day.

Presently, most Cairenes now live in building apartments, and it implies that Cairo has taken a big step towards urbanization.

Lone standing houses are difficult to find because of the increasing immigration of residents in the area, and apartment complexes cater for a small space and multitude of inhabitants. Houses standing alone are symbols of wealth

Just as in the United States, Cairo arranged twelve years of formal education program, as education has become vital in the city.  Cairenes also undergo a similar exam to S.A.T., to help them pursue higher education and get admitted into higher institutions. Many kids decided to join the workforce and take up a trade without completing school education. 

Cairo has also been influenced by modern western culture. It’s not uncommon to come across McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Arby’s, Subway, and Kentucky Fried Chicken as one passes through present-day Cairo. There are also major western restaurants, such as Chile and T.G.I. Friday’s. Most restaurants definitely offer Egyptian and Middle Eastern meals, but the truth remains that certain elements of Western culture crossed the Atlantic and entered Cairo.

Unfortunately, Egypt is one of the poor Middle East countries, with approximately half the population surviving on less than $2 per day (Hartman, 2011). Nonetheless, much of the profits the country makes is from Cairo, since most of the country’s industrial headquarters are based there.

Cairo today has grown distinctly after Ibn Battuta made his way through the ancestral city. Cairo, in certain facets of everyday life, has made advancement and has made backward strides in others. Even with that, Cairo still remains one of Egypt’s most prominent cities.

2011 Egyptian Revolution

In 2011, Over 2 million protesters gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the Egyptian Revolution against former president Hosni Mubarak. The square was first flooded by more than 50,000 protesters on 25 January, after which wireless services in the area were allegedly disrupted. In the subsequent days, Tahrir Square remained the main demonstration venue in Cairo, following a widespread revolt that started on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, and continues through February 2012.

The protest was a non-violent civil resistance campaign, which involved demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, marches, and labor strikes.  Numerous demonstrators from different religious and socio-economic backgrounds requested that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime be overthrown.

Initially, the protest was violence-free, but the demonstrations were not without violent clashes between the protesters and security forces as it progressed, 846 deaths were at least recorded, and 6,000 were said to be injured. The protest held in Alexandria, Cairo, and other cities in Egypt. It was after the revolution in Tunisia against the long-standing president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was eventually overthrown.

On 11 February, Hosni Mubarak resigned from office after weeks of concerted public protest and pressure.

Post-Revolutionary Cairo

In March 2015, under the rule of President el-Sisi, plans to build a new city towards the far east of the New Cairo Satelite town were publicized. The intended city is not named yet and is intended to be the new capital of Egypt.

Updated on April 25, 2020