Cairo is one of the 28 governorates of Egypt and is the nowadays capital of Egypt. This governorate enjoys a deep-rooted history and heritage like all the governorates in the Nile Valley. Equally, its history extends as long back as the history of civilisation in Egypt.
Location of Cairo Governorate
Cairo governorate extends 25 km on the western bank of the Nile River in Egypt. Al-Qalyubiah governorate borders Cairo in the north, the Giza governorate in the south, the Suez governorate in the east and the Nile in the west.
History of Cairo Governorate
The ancient Egyptian constructed a city called Memphis. At that time, Memphis represented the capital of Egypt. Nowadays, this suburb we recognise as Mit Rahina, Giza Governorate.
Not significantly far from Memphis, the ancient Egyptian established another city on the eastern bank of the Nile River – Heliopolis. The ancient Egyptian called it “Iunu.” It was the capital of the 13th Nome of Lower Egypt and a major religious centre. Historically, this Heliopolite Nome existed in the area dedicated to the present Cairo. Further, Heliopolis rapidly expanded under the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The Ancient Egyptians built it where present-day Ayn Shams lies – a northeastern suburb in Cairo.
In Heliopolite Nome, the Romans established a fortress town along the eastern bank of the Nile. Babylon’s fortress was the nucleus of the Roman and Byzantine city. Presently, it defines the oldest structure in Cairo. Many of Cairo’s oldest Coptic churches, including the Hanging Church, exist along that fortress walls. Currently, this section of the city shapes Coptic Cairo.
After Arab Invasion
After the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641, Amr ibn Al-As built Al-Fustat, which became the capital of Egypt. At present days, it represents the southern part of the Cairo governorate.
Islamic Cairo comprised three main cities: Al-Fustat, Al-Askar, and Al-Qata’i, established during the Abbasid Era. In Cairo, you will find Al-Azhar Mosque and University, a fundamental Islamic monument founded by the Fatimid leader El -Mo’ez Ledin Allah.
Islamic Cairo remains one of the unique touristic places in Egypt and a witness to the foundation of the most exemplary Islamic architecture, such as the Citadel of Salah El-Din, Madrassa and Mausoleum of Sultan Barquq, Mosque and Mausoleum of Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay, Khan El Khalili, Al-Rifa’i Mosque and El-Hussein Mosque. So, with its splendid and rich ancient history, Cairo is one of the most historical and touristic destinations in Egypt and the Middle East.
Under the command of the Muslim Omayyad caliphate, the Abbasid overthrew Egypt in 750. Following this invasion, the new rulers developed their settlement to the northeast of Fustat. Later, this settlement became the new capital. They called this capital al-Askar “soldiers” because they laid it out like an armed camp.
A rebellion in 869 by Ahmad ibn Tulun led to the abandonment of Al Askar. He started the building of another settlement – Qatta’i. Once again, this new settlement became the capital of Egypt.
Later, in 905 AC., the Abbasid re-asserted control of the country. Then, their governor returned to Fustat, razing al-Qatta’i to the ground.
In 969, The Fatimid dynasty founded another capital that included all the ancient national capital towns inside its walls. Its remains are still visible in parts of Old Cairo.
Cairo was called the citadel or forte, i.e. stronghold. It looked like a square, 1200m2 in length and 1100m2 in width. El-Bahr El Azim (the great sea) surrounded it from the east, the gulf from the west, the north gardens extended to Mataria and the mount Gabal El-Guishi from the south.
When the Fatimid reign (969-1171) settled in Cairo under El Mo’ez Li-Dinellah, it was called “Cairo of El-Mo’ez”. It was the settlement of rulers and princes. They decorated its four suburbs with luxurious buildings, delightful spots and gardens. It increased its delightfulness and beauty.
El-Fustat city was big and vital due to plenty of buildings, many people, and many livelihoods, so Jawhar Al-Siqilly was keen on it. He established the fortified gates (Bab) and installed them in the four-sided wall. He built El-Qantara at Bab El-Shairia Street. Al-Siqilly also made a wall to surround the Palace quickly. However, this was eradicated.
Meaning and Origin
The Fatimids established Cairo under General Jawhar al-Siqilli. The latter took his orders from the Fatimid Caliph El-Mo’ez Ledin Allah to be the new capital for the Fatimid Dynasty. Cairo’s official name is al-Qāhirah which means “the Vanquisher”, “the Conqueror”, or “the Victorious”. First, it gained the name Al-Mansuriyyah, then it was changed to Al-Qahira “Cairo” after the conqueror Planet “Mars”, as it is known among historians. Cairo acquired many names, such as “City of a thousand minarets” for the abundance of its mosques and “Qahirat El-Mo’ez”.
Since the 1860s, Cairo expanded west as far as Midan Opera.
Anba Samaan El-Kharraz “Simon the tanner” Monastery
Anba Samaan, or Monastery of Saint Simon, the tanner in the heart of Fatimid Cairo, is a historic masterpiece manifesting the genius of the Egyptian architect who built this remarkable piece of architecture to become one of Masr Al-Qadims’s most exquisite landmarks.
Simon the Tanner
Samaan El-Kharraz, or Simon, the Tanner, is a saint of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and he was a good and righteous man who worked at leather tanning and repairing shoes.
In the reign of Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah, the fourth ruler of the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt, he had a minister named Yaqub ibn Killis, who was Jewish. He informed Al-Mu’izz that the Christian Gospel says, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Al-Mu’izz ordered Coptic Pope Abraham of Alexandria to move Mokattam Mountain. However, the saint asked Al-Mu’izz to give him some time. Abraham continuously fasted for three days until he fainted and saw the Virgin Mary in a dream, who told him that a man would help him move the mountain.
He helped to move the mountain from the Ramses area. After the transfer of Mokattam, Saint Samaan disappeared into one of the mountain’s caves. Later, a monastery was built in the same place.
The most distinctive feature of Saint Simon Monastery is that it is carved into the rocks of Al-Mokattam Mountain. At first glance, it seems like part of the mountain of Al-Mokattam. The idea of building Saint Simon Monastery came up after discovering the cave where Saint Simon was buried in February 1974 during an expedition of Coptic archaeologists to find Saint Simon’s possessions. They could see a tomb with a skeleton inside, which is believed to be Saint Simon, the tanner’s corpse. The discovered tomb also drew the patriarch and a bald man filling two water jars. So, the scientists assumed that this bald man was Saint Simon because he distributed water to poor people’s houses.
So, when the Monastery was built, it housed all the discovered Saint Simon relics and beautiful paintings carved into the rocks. It was built gradually with the help of the Zabbaleen district’s residents in the Al-Mokattam area, who transferred more than two million and a half stones to construct the Monastery. It was built on approximately 1000 m2 in the heart of Al-Mokattam mountain.
Moreover, it consists of four churches: Cathedral of Virgin Mary and St. Samaan El-Kharraz, Anba Abraham Church, St. Marcos Church, and St. Samaan El-Kharraz’s hall with a capacity of 2000 people, and Anba Paula Church. Many tourists visit the Monastery and see the mountain that moved miraculously.
Virgin Mary and St. Samaan El-Kharraz Cathedral
It was named in honour of the Virgin Mary and St. Samaan to commemorate the memory of the miracle of Al-Mokattam Mountain moving.
The Cathedral was built in two phases. The first phase was a small cave with a one-meter ceiling frequented by church servants for prayer meetings. Then an altar was added. While in the second phase, fixed step-like seats were constructed in November 1994 to accommodate many people. It is the largest church in the Monastery.
Anba Abraam Church
It acquired this name in honour of the patriarch, who happened during his reign. He was the one who introduced the three-day fast, which the church fasted before the miracle, and it also preceded the Nativity Fast. So, it became 43 days rather than 40 days of fasting.
The Church of St. Marcos and St. Samaan El-Kharraz Hall
This place was discovered in 1974. The big glass window overlooking the area had only one extremely steep entrance. However, it had huge stones above the cave’s ceiling, which now houses St. Mark Church and St. Samaan El-Kharraz’s hall. In 1991, the rocks were removed from the cave to start the construction of the church and the hall.
The church of St. Marcos was established in 1992, and the dome of the church was decorated with three marvellous paintings made of mosaic pieces. The paintings depict actual events from the Bible, such as the Crucifixion, the resurrection, and the Ascension.
St. Samaan Hall has several exquisite paintings showing spiritual events from the Bible. The most distinctive artwork is Jesus Christ opening his arms, waiting for all who come to him.
- Cairo International Stadium
- Qasr El-Nil Bridge
- The Military Academy
- Opera House
- International Airport
- Cairo’s Historic Complexes
- Famous Hammams are “public bathhouses.”
- Famous Sabils
- Besides, Madrasahs
The Church of Anba Paula Awal Al-Sawah
This cave was discovered in 1986 during some construction works in the area. It acquired its name after Anba Paula Awal Al-Sawah, who had an ascetic life and isolated himself in a cave in Al-Mokattam Mountain to worship God for 70 years. The first holy Mass prayer held in the church was in 1991.
Cairo’s National Day
Cairo celebrates its National Day on the 6th of July, the day on which General Jawhar al-Siqilli laid the foundation stone of Cairo in 969 AD.
Al-Azhar Mosque Islam’s minaret and platform worldwide is the official logo of Cairo.
The total area is 3048.676 Km2. The inhabited space is 188.982 Km2
According to the latest statistics on 1/7/2019, Cairo’s population is 9.840591.
Cairo is famous for its historical monuments. Many tourists visit it annually to enjoy sightseeing. For history and culture, trips head from Cairo and Giza to various tourist destinations. Also, these trips arrive from Hurghada, Safaga, and Marsa Alam to the place. Moreover, Cairo gets flight trips and tours of Sharm El-Sheik and Luxor.
Accordingly, here is a comprehensive list of the activities and things to do in Cairo, Egypt. For convenience, we have grouped these entries into the following five basic categories:
- History Related/Sightseeing in Cairo.
- Also, Fun and Entertainment in Cairo.
History-Related and Sightseeing Activities
Cairo lies 456 km from Luxor and 7 km from Giza. This unique location eventually increases the possibility of doing several history-related activities and sightseeing tours. Also, it enables tourists to visit the monuments and attractions in the cities of Beni Suef, El-Minya, El-Minya, and Alexandria.
The following presents a list of the activities tourists can choose. This list provides both the destination and the means of transportation to get to the place:
Administrative Divisions of Cairo Governorate
The Egyptian authorities divided the Cairo governorate into the following administrative sections:
- The 15th of May City.
- El Darb El Ahmar.
- Also, Ain Shams.
- El Basatin.
- Additionally, El Gamaliya.
- El Khalifa.
- El Marg.
- El Masara.
- Besides, El Matareya.
- El Mokattam.
- Rod El Farag.
- El Muski.
- New Cairo.
- El Weili.
- And El Nozha.
- El Sharabiya.
- El Shorouk.
- And El Sahil.
- El Salam.
- Old Cairo.
- El Sayeda Zeinab.
- And El Tebbin.
- El Zaher.
- And, El Zawya El Hamra.
- And Bab El Sharia.
- Dar El Salam.
- Hada’iq El Qobbah.
- And Nasr City.
- Manshiyat Naser.
- Also, Qasr El Nil.