Cairo: “Um al-Dunya,” - “Mother of the World.”

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Cairo has a population of 16 million people. It sits on the banks of the Nile in the northern part of Egypt. The oldest part of the city is east of the Nile and to the west are the agricultural areas. The western part of the city has wide boulevards, beautiful public gardens and open areas. The eastern half of the old city is a mixture of crowded tenements with small lanes and random buildings.

There are hundred of old mosques in the eastern half of the city and the western half is filled with modern architecture and government buildings.

Bridges link Cairo to Giza and west of Giza is the ancient necropolis of Memphis, which sits on the Giza plateau. The pyramids are approximately 11 miles from Cairo.

Modern Cairo is soon 150 years old. It was projected with Paris in mind. As Haussmann had drawn wide boulevards through the old and narrow streets of central Paris, so wanted the ruler of Egypt, Khedive Ismail. The occasion was the opening of the Suez Canal: he wanted to impress kings and politicians of Europe.

To large extent, he succeeded. Modern Cairo can remind of Paris, but due to the difference of economical strength between the two countries, many of the houses of modern Cairo is often in bad need of repair. Also, exhaust is today the most common paint in use here.

From Gezira island, overlooking the Nile in direction south. Roda Island, Giza to the right, Cairo proper to the left. Just in front, the the Opera House and the Gezira Sheraton Hotel.

The citadel

The Citadel was for 700 years the strategic stronghold for Cairo, overlooking the city, and easy to defend. It was first occupied in 810 by the governor, who built his Dome of the Wind pavillion. But it was first in 1176 that Saladin turned it into a fortress, much inspired by the fortresses of Syria and Palestine, used by the armies during the Crusades.

The outer walls of the Citadel seem from the (now closed) Azab gate. The Muhammad Ali Mosque in the background.

The back of the Citadel, here dominated by the Burg el-Muqattam, near the Gabal gate. The minaret of Mosque of Sultan al-Nasir in the back.

The two grand mosques are the 14th century Sultan Hassan to the left, and the 19th to 20th century Rifai to the right. In front of them, the smaller 16th century Akhur Mosque. Cairo, Egypt.

Mosque of Muhammad Ali at the top of the Citadel. Cairo, Egypt.

Al-Azhar Mosque. It was founded in the late 10th century, but nothing remains of the original mosque in cairo.

Egyptians refer to Cairo as “Um al-Dunya,” or “Mother of the World.” Culturally and politically, it is at the heart of the Arab world.
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