In case you did not know, Cairo is the capital and biggest city of Egypt. You may be aware that this city is associated with Ancient Egypt (because the Giza pyramids and two ancient cities fall into the city’s geographical area), but there’s a lot more to this metropolis.
There’s probably a lot that you don’t know about this city, but my aim is to change that, so please keep on reading…
Here are 10 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know About Cairo
1. As of 2023, the Cairo metropolitan area is inhabited by a population exceeding 22 million people. This figure represents a twofold increase in the area’s population compared to the numbers recorded in 1993.
2. The Greater Cairo Area holds several distinctions, as it ranks as the largest metropolitan area in Egypt, the most extensive urban area in Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world. Additionally, it claims the position of the sixth-largest metropolitan area globally.
3. Historic Cairo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cairo Citadel is an ancient fort from the Islamic era and was once home to the Egyptian rulers. It is one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities and is famous for its mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains.
UNESCO inscribed the whole old town of Cario on its World Heritage Site list with the description: “Founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century.”
4. Cairo holds the unique distinction of being the sole city where one of the ancient wonders of the world still stands. Among the famed Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia in Greece, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, only the Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo endures to this day.
5. Al-Azhar University in Cairo stands as one of the most ancient educational institutions globally. Back in 975 AD, if one aspired to pursue studies and secure a degree in Islamic law, logic, grammar, and rhetoric, their sole option was to enroll at Al-Azhar University, the lone institution providing such degrees during that era.
Remarkably, this university is a trailblazer in Egypt, functioning much like a modern educational institution in the contemporary world. Today, it continues to flourish, offering a spectrum of study programs spanning undergraduate, postgraduate, and graduate levels. Al-Azhar University currently ranks as the world’s second-largest institution of higher learning.
6. The Museum of Cairo, alternatively known as the Egyptian Museum or the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, ranks among the Middle East’s largest museums. It houses an extensive array of ancient Egyptian artifacts, boasting the world’s most extensive collection of such treasures.
Given the city’s numerous archaeological sites that were susceptible to plunder and looting, the establishment of this museum provided a secure repository for its remarkable collection of 120,000 artifacts.
7. The Babylon Fortress stands as the most ancient edifice in the city, and Cairo’s roots extend to settlements established in the early millennia. Positioned at the heart of the Coptic Orthodox community, this fortress once delineated the boundary between Lower and Middle Egypt.
Regarding its builders, historical perspectives diverge. One theory suggests that it was constructed by rebelling slaves who fortified their residential area in a defensive manner. Another school of thought proposes that it was erected during the reign of an Egyptian ruler in the 6th century BC.
8. At the heart of the Fatimid city, the Islamic district of Cairo, stands the Al-Azhar Mosque. Erected in 970 AD, it holds the distinction of being Cairo’s inaugural mosque. Over the years, Al-Azhar has undergone multiple expansions, resulting in a captivating blend of architectural styles. This historic mosque warmly welcomes visitors to explore its premises.
9. Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili stands as one of the premier shopping destinations globally. Within this Middle Eastern souq (bazaar), you can still hear the echoes of metalworkers and silversmiths at work. This labyrinthine network of narrow lanes has served as a retail hub since its inception in the year 1400 AD.
10. Naguib Mahfouz, born in Cairo and a lifelong resident of the city until his passing in 2006, holds the distinction of being the inaugural Arab writer to receive the Nobel Prize in the field of Literature.
He is widely regarded as one of the pioneering figures among contemporary Arab writers, with much of his literary output centering on themes of nationalism within his homeland. In recognition of his exceptional contributions to literature, Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1988.
11. Koshari, a renowned Egyptian dish, is a culinary delight you’ll frequently come across in Cairo and throughout Egypt’s cities.
This delectable dish is meatless, making it an ideal choice for vegetarians. Koshari showcases a delightful combination of macaroni and lentils served atop a bed of rice, garnished with chickpeas, crispy fried onions, and a zesty, spicy sauce. Practically every eatery and street food vendor in Cairo proudly offers this beloved national delicacy.
12. Until 1971, Cairo Tower held the distinction of being Africa’s tallest tower. Situated on Gezira Island, this iconic structure stands at a height of 187 meters (614 feet) and ranks second only to the Pyramids of Giza in terms of popularity. Its reign as Africa’s tallest tower came to an end in 1971 when it was surpassed in height by the Hillbrow Tower in Johannesburg.
13. Cairo’s Oasis holds the prestigious title of being the world’s largest food court, covering an expansive area of 41,000 square meters. Within this impressive space, you’ll discover 25 restaurants offering a diverse array of Egyptian cuisine, ranging from traditional main dishes to delectable Egyptian sweets and desserts.
With the capacity to cater to up to 4,200 guests daily, this culinary haven ensures ample dining opportunities. Additionally, the food court thoughtfully includes a dedicated kid’s zone, ensuring that children are entertained, allowing you to savor your meal without distractions.
14. Cairo experiences a straightforward climate characterized by two distinct seasons: Summer and Winter. The Summer season spans eight months, from January to August, while the remaining four months, from September to December, constitute the Winter season. Typically, the average outdoor temperature hovers around 19 degrees Celsius during Winter and rises to approximately 35 degrees Celsius in Summer.
15. Cairo boasts a unique advantage with its metro system, setting it apart from many other African nations. Notably, it claims the distinction of being the pioneer among the three metro networks on the African continent. Furthermore, it holds the honor of being the first rail transit system established in the Middle East. Since its inauguration in 1987, this metro system has remained operational, comprising three lines and an extensive network of 74 stations.
Well, there you have it, 15 interesting facts you might not have known about Cairo. If I’ve left out something important, feel free to comment below.
Check out the drone footage of Cairo below, to get an idea of the city’s look and feel:
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