Online Encyclopedia

CAIRO (Arabic Misr-al-Kahira, or simp...

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 957 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
CAIRO (Arabic Misr-al-Kahira, or simply Misr), the capital of modern Egypt and the rriost populous city in Africa, on the Nile, 1a m. S. of the apex of the Delta, in 300 3' N. and 31° 21' E. It is z3o m. S.E. of Alexandria, and 148 E. of Suez by rail, though only 84 m. from the last-named port by the overland route across the desert, in use before the opening of the Suez Canal. Cairo occupies a length of 5 M. On the east bank of the Nile, stretching north from the old Roman fortress of Babylon, and covers an area of about 8 sq. m. It is built partly on the alluvial plain of the Nile valley and partly on the rocky slopes of the Mokattam hills, which rise 550 ft. above the town. The citadel, which is built on a spur of the Mokattam hills, occupies the S.E. angle of the city. The prospect from the ramparts of this fortress is one of striking picturesqueness and beauty. Below lies the city with its ancient walls and lofty towers, its gardens and squares, its palaces and its mosques, with their delicately-carved domes and minarets covered with fantastic tracery, the port of Bulak, the gardens and palace of Shubra, the broad river studded with islands, the valley of the Nile dotted with groups of trees, with the pyramids on the north horizon, and on the east the barren cliffs, backed by a waste of sand. Since the middle of the 19th century the city has more than doubled in size and population. The newer quarters, situated near the river, are laid out in the fashion of French cities, but the eastern parts of the town retain, almost unimpaired, their Oriental aspect, and in scores of narrow, tortuous streets, and busy bazaars it is easy to forget that there has been any change from the Cairo of medieval times. Here the line of fortifications still marks the eastern limits of the city, though on the north large districts have grown up beyond the walls. Neither on the south nor towards the river are there any fortifications left. Principal Quarters and Modern Buildings.—From the citadel a straight road, the Sharia. Mehemet Ali, runs N. to the Ezbekia (Ezbekiyeh) Gardens, which cover over 20 acres, and form the central point of the foreign colony. North and west of the Ezbekia runs the Ismailia canal, and on the W. side of the canal, about half a mile N. of the Gardens, is the Central railway station, approached by a broad road, the Sharia Clot Bey. The Arab city and the quarters of the Copts and Jews lie E. of the two streets named. West of the Ismailia canal lies the Bulak quarter, the port or riverside district. At Bulak are the arsenal, foundry and railway works, a paper manufactory and the government printing press, founded by Mehemet Ali. A little distance S.E. of the Ezbekia is the Place Atabeh, the chief point of intersection of the electric tramways which serve the newer parts of the town. From the Place Atabeh a narrow street, the Muski, leads E. into the heart of the Arab city. Another street leads S.W. to the Nile, at the point where the Kasr en Nil or Great Nile bridge spans the river, leading to Gezira Bulak, an island whereon is a palace, now turned into a hotel, polo, cricket and tennis grounds, and a racecourse. The districts between the bridge, the Ezbekia and the Ismailia canal, are known as the Ismailia and Tewfikia quarters, after the khedives in whose reigns they were laid out. The district immediately south of the bridge is called the Kasr el-Dubara quarter. Abdin Square, which occupies a central position, is connected with Ezbekia Gardens by a straight road. The narrow canal, El Khalig, which branched from the Nile at Old Cairo and traversed the city from S.W. to N.E., was filled up in 1897, and an electric tramway runs along the road thus made. With the filling up of the channel the ancient festival of the cutting of the canal came to an end. The government offices and other modern public buildings are nearly all in the western half of the city. On the south side of the Ezbekia are the post office, the courts of the International Tribunals,and the opera house. On theeastsidearethebourseand the Credit Lyonnais, on the north the buildings of the American mission. On or near the west side of the gardens are most of the large and luxurious hotels which the city contains for the accommodation of Europeans. Facing the river immediately north of the Great Nile bridge are the large barracks, called Kasr-en-Nil, and the new museum of Egyptian antiquities (opened in 1902). South of the bridge are the Ismailia palace (a khedivial residence), the British consulate general, the palace of the khedive's mother, the medical school and the government hospital. Farther removed from the river are the offices of the ministries of public works and of war—a large building surrounded by gardens—and of justice and finance. On the east side of Abdin Square is Abdin palace, an unpretentious building used for official receptions. Adjoining the palace are barracks. N.E. of Abdin Square, in the Sharia Mehemet Ali, is the Arab museum and khedivial library. Near this building are the new courts of the native tribunals. Private houses in these western districts consist chiefly of residential flats, though in the Kasr el-Dubara quarter are many detached residences. The Oriental City.—The eastern half of Cairo is divided into many quarters. These quarters were formerly closed at night by massive gates. A few of these gates remain. In addition to the Mahommedan quarters, usually called after the trade of the inhabitants or some notable building, there are the Copt or Christian quarter, the Jews' quarter and the old " Frank " quarter. The last is the Muski district where, since the days of Saladin, " Frank " merchants have been permitted to live and trade. Some of the principal European shops are still to be found in this street. The Copt and Jewish quarters lie north of the Muski. The Coptic cathedral, dedicated to St Mark, is a modern building in the basilica style. The oldest Coptic church in Cairo is, probably, the Keniset-el-Adra, or Church of the Virgin, which is stated to preserve the original type of Coptic basilica. The Coptic churches in the city are not, however, of so much interest as those in Old Cairo (see below). In the Copt quarter are also Armenian, Syrian, Maronite, Greek and Roman Catholic churches. In the Copt and Jewish quarters the streets, as in the Arab quarters, are winding and narrow. In them the projecting upper stories of the houses nearly meet. Sebils or public fountains are numerous. These fountains are generally two-storeyed, the lower chamber enclosing a well, the upper room being often used for scholastic purposes. Many of the fountains are fine specimens of Arab architecture. While the houses of the poorer classes are mean and too often dirty, in marked contrast are the houses of the wealthier citizens, built generally in a style of elaborate arabesque, the windows shaded with projecting cornices of graceful woodwork (mushrebiya) and ornamented with stained glass. A winding passage leads through the ornamental doorway into the court, in the centre of which is a fountain shaded with palm-trees. The principal apartment is generally paved with marble; in the centre a decorated lantern is suspended over a fountain, while round the sides are richly inlaid cabinets and windows of stained glass; and in a recess is the divan, a low, narrow, cushioned seat. The basement storey is generally built of the soft calcareous stone of the neighbouring hills, and the upper storey, which contains the harem, of painted brick. The shops of the merchants are small and open to the street. The greater part of the trade isdone, however, in the bazaars or markets, which are held in large khans or storehouses, of two storeys and of considerable size. Access to them is gained from the narrow lanes which usually surround them. The khans often possess fine gateways. The principal bazaar, the Khan-el-Khalil, marks the site of the tombs of the Fatimite caliphs. The Citadel and the Mosques.—Besides the citadel, the principal edifices in the Arab quarters are the mosques and the ancient gates. The citadel or El-Kala was built by Saladin about 1166, but it has since undergone frequent alteration, and now contains a palace erected by Mehemet Ali, and a mosque of Oriental alabaster (based on the model of the mosques at Constantinople) founded by the same pasha on the site of " Joseph's Hall," so named after the prenomen of Saladin. The dome and the two slender minarets of this mosque form one of the most picturesque features of Cairo, and are visible from a great distance. In the centre is a well called Joseph's Well, sunk in the solid rock to the level of the Nile. There are four other mosques within the citadel walls, the chief being that of Ibn Kalaun, built in A.D. 1317 by Sultan Nasir ibn Kalaun. The dome has fallen in. After having been used as a prison, and, later, as a military storehouse, it has been cleared and its fine colonnades are again visible. The upper parts of the minarets are covered with green tiles. They are furnished with bulbous cupolas. The most magnificent of the city mosques is that of Sultan Hasan, standing in the immediate vicinity of the citadel. It dates from A.D. 1357, and is celebrated for the grandeur of its porch and cornice and the delicate stalactite vaulting which adorns them. The restoration of parts of the mosque which had fallen into decay was begun in 1904. Besides it there is the mosque of Tulun (c. A.D. 879) exhibiting very ancient specimens of the pointed arch; the mosque of Sultan El Hakim (A.D. 1003), the mosque el Azhar (the splendid), which dates from about A.D. 970, and is the seat of a Mahommedan university; and the mosque of Sultan Kalaun, which is attached to the hospital or madhouse (muristan) begun by Kalaun in A.D. 1285. The whole forms a large group of buildings, now partially in ruins, in a style resembling the contemporaneous medieval work in Europe, with pointed arches in several orders. Besides the mosque proper there is a second mosque containing the fine mausoleum of Kalaun. Adjacent to the muristan on the north is the tomb mosque of al Nasir, completed 1303, with a fine portal. East of the Khan-el-Khalil is the mosque of El Hasanen, which is invested with peculiar sanctity as containing relics of Hosain and Hasan, grandsons of the Prophet. This mosque was rebuilt in the 19th century and is of no architectural importance. In all Cairo contains over 26o mosques, and nearly as many zawias or chapels. Of the gates the finest are the Bab-en-Nasr, in the north wall of the city, and the Bab-ez-Zuwela, the only surviving part of the southern fortifications. Tombs of the Caliphs and Mamelukes.—Beyond the eastern wall of the city are the splendid mausolea erroneously known to Europeans as the tombs of the caliphs; they really are tombs of the Circassian or Burji Mamelukes, a race extinguished by Mehemet Ali. Their lofty gilt domes and fanciful network or arabesque tracery are partly in ruins, and the mosques attached to them are also partly ruined. The chief tomb mosques are those of Sultan Barkuk, with two domes and two minarets, completed A.D. 1410, and that of Kait Bey (c. 1470), with a slender minaret 135 ft. high. This mosque was carefully re-stored in 1898. South of the citadel is another group of tomb-mosques known as the tombs of the Mamelukes. They are architecturally of less interest than those of the " caliphs." Southwest of the Mameluke tombs is the much-venerated tomb-mosque of the Imam esh-Shafih or Shari, founder of one of the four orthodox sects of Islam. Near the imam's mosque is a family burial-place built by Mehemet Ali. Old Cairo: the Fortress of Babylon and the Nilometer.—About a mile south of the city is Masr-el-Atika, called by Europeans Old Cairo. Between Old Cairo and the newer city are large mounds of debris marking the site of Fostat (see below, History). The road to Old Cairo by the river leads past the monastery of the " Howling " Dervishes, and the head of the aqueduct which formerly supplied the citadel with water. Farther to the east is the mosque of Amr, a much-altered building dating from A.D. 643 and containing the tomb of the Arab conqueror of Egypt. Most important of the quarters of Masr-el-Atika is that of Kasr-esh-Shama (Castle of the Candle), built within the outer walls of the Roman fortress of Babylon. Several towers of this fortress remain, and in the south wall is a massive gateway, uncovered in 1901. In the quarter are five Coptic churches, a Greek convent and two churches, and a synagogue. The principal Coptic church is that of Abu Serga (St Sergius). The crypt dates from about the 6th century and is dedicated to Sitt Miriam (the Lady Mary), from a tradition that in the flight into Egypt the Virgin and Child rested at this spot. The upper church is basilican in form, the nave being, as customary in Coptic churches, divided into three sections by wooden screens, which are adorned by carvings in ivory and wood. The wall above the high altar is faced with beautiful mosaics of marbles, blue glass and mother-of-pearl. Of the other churches in Kasresh-Shama the most noteworthy is that of El Adra (the Virgin), also called El Moallaka, or The Suspended, being built in one of the towers of the Roman gateway. It contains fine wooden and ivory screens. The pulpit is supported on fifteen columns, which rest on a slab of white marble. The patriarch of the Copts was formerly consecrated in this church. The other buildings in Old Cairo, or among the mounds of rubbish which adjoin it, include several fort-like dens or convents. One, south of the Kasresh-Shama, is called Der Bablun, thus preserving the name of the ancient fortress. In the Der Abu Sephin, to the north of Babylon, is a Coptic church of the loth century, possessing magnificent carved screens, a pulpit with fine mosaics and a semi-circle of marble steps. Opposite Old Cairo lies the island of Roda, where, according to Arab tradition, Pharaoh's daughter found Moses in the bulrushes. Two bridges, opened in 1908, connect Old Cairo with Roda, and a third bridge joins Roda to Giza on the west bank of the river. Roda Island contains a mosque built by Kait Bey, and at its southern extremity is the Nilometer, by which the Cairenes have for over a thousand years measured the rise of the river. It is a square well with an octagonal pillar marked in cubits in the centre. Northern and Western Suburbs.—Two miles N.E. of Cairo and on the edge of the desert is the suburb of Abbasia (named after the viceroy Abbas), connected with the city by a continuous line of houses. Abbasia is now largely a military colony, the cavalry barracks being the old palace of Abbas Pasha. In these barracks Arabi Pasha surrendered to the British on the 14th of September 1882, the day after the battle of Tel el-Kebir. Mataria, a village 3 M. farther to the N.E., is the site of the defeat of the Mamelukes by the Turks in 1517, and of the defeat of the Turks by the French under General Kleber in 1800. At Mataria was a sycamore-tree, the successor of a tree which decayed in 1665, venerated as being that beneath which the Holy Family, rested on their flight into Egypt. This tree was blown down in July 1906 and its place taken by a cutting made from the tree some years previously. Less than a mile N.E. of Mataria are the scanty remains of the ancient city of On or Heliopolis, The chief monument is an obelisk, about 66 ft. high, erected by Usertesen I. of the Nllth dynasty. A residential suburb, named Heliopolis, containing many fine buildings, was laid out between Mataria and Abbasia during 1905-10. On the west bank of the Nile, opposite the southern end of Roda Island, is the small town of Giza or Gizeh, a fortified place of considerable importance in the times of the Mamelukes. In the viceregal palace here the museum of Egyptian antiquities was housed for several years (1889-1902). The grounds of this palace have been converted into zoological gardens. A broad, tree-bordered, macadamized road, along which run electric trams, leads S.S.W. across the plain to the Pyramids of Giza, 5 m. distant, built on the edge of the desert. Helwan.—Fourteen miles S. of Cairo and connected with it by railway is the town of Helwan, built in the desert 3 M. E. of the Nile, and much frequented by invalids on account of its sulphur baths, which are owned by the Egyptian government. A khedivial astronomical observatory was built here in 1903-1904, to take the place of that at Abbasia, that site being no longer suitable in consequence of the northward extension of the city. The ruins of Memphis are on the E. bank of the Nile opposite Helwan. Inhabitants.—The inhabitants are of many diverse races, the various nationalities being frequently distinguishable by differences in dress as well as in physiognomy and colour. In the oriental quarters of the city the curious shops, the markets of different trades (the shops of each trade being generally congregated in one street or district), the easy merchant sitting before his shop, the musical and quaint street-cries of the picturesque vendors of fruit, sherbet, water, &c., with the ever-changing and many-coloured throng of passengers, all render the streets a delightful study for the lover of Arab life, nowhere else to be seen in such perfection, or with so fine a background of magnificent buildings. The Cairenes, or native citizens, differ from the fellahin in having a much larger mixture of Arab blood, and are at once keener witted and more conservative than the peasantry. The Arabic spoken by the middle and higher classes is generally inferior in grammatical correctness and pronunciation to that of the Bedouins of Arabia, but is purer than that of Syria or the dialect spoken by the Western Arabs. Besides the Cairenes proper, who are largely engaged in trade or handicrafts, the inhabitants include Arabs, numbers of Nubians and Negroes—mostly labourers or domestics in nominal slavery—and many Levantines, there being considerable colonies of Syrians and Armenians. The higher classes of native society are largely of Turkish or semi-Turkish descent. Of other races the most numerous are Greeks, Italians, British, French and Jews. Bedouins from the desert frequent the bazaars. At the beginning of the 19th century the population was estimated at about 200,000, made up of 120,000 Moslems, 6o,000 Copts, 4000 Jews and 16,000 Greeks, Armenians and " Franks." In 1882 the population had risen to 374,000, in 1897 to 570,062, and in 1907, including Helwan and Mataria, the total population was 654,476, of whom 46,507 were Europeans. Climate and Health.—In consequence of its insanitary condition, Cairo used to have a heavy death-rate. Since the British occupation in 1882 much has been done to better this state of things, notably by a good water-supply and a proper system of drainage. The death-rate of the native population is about 35 per 'coo. The climate of the city is generally healthy, with a mean temperature of about 68° F. Though rain seldom falls, exhalations from the river, especially when the flood has begun to subside, render the districts near the Nile damp during September, October and November, and in winter early morning fogs are not uncommon. The prevalent north wind and the rise of the water tend to keep the air cool in summer. Commerce.—The commerce of Cairo, of considerable extent and variety, consists mainly in the transit of goods. Gum, ivory, hides, and ostrich feathers from the Sudan, cotton and sugar from Upper Egypt, indigo and shawls from India and Persia, sheep and tobacco from Asiatic Turkey, and European manufactures, such as machinery, hardware, cutlery, glass, and cotton and woollen goods, are the more important articles. The traffic in slaves ceased in 1877. In Bulak are several factories founded by Mehemet Ali for spinning, weaving and printing cotton, and a paper-mill established by the khedive Ismail in 187o. .Various kinds of paper are manufactured, and especially a fine quality for use in the government offices. In the Island of Roda there is a sugar-refinery of considerable extent, founded in 1859, and principally managed by Englishmen. Silk goods, saltpetre, gunpowder, leather, &c., are also manufactured. An octroi duty of 9 % ad valorem formerly levied on all food stuffs entering the city was abolished in 1903. It used to produce about 150,000 per annum. Mahommedan Architecture.—Architecturally considered Cairo is still the most remarkable and characteristic of Arab cities. The edifices raised by the Moorish kings of Spain and the Moslem rulers of India may have been more splendid in their materials, and more elaborate in their details; the houses of the great men of Damascus may be more costly than were those of the Mameluke beys; but for purity of taste and elegance of design both are far excelled by many of the mosques and houses of Cairo. These mosques have suffered much in the beauty of their appearance from the effects of time and neglect; but their colour has been often thus softened, and their outlines rendered the more picturesque. What is most to be admired in their style of architecture is its extraordinary freedom from restraint, shown in the wonderful variety of its forms, and the skill in design which has made the most intricate details to harmonize with grand outlines. Here the student may best learn the history of Arab art. Like its contemporary Gothic, it has three great periods, those of growth, maturity and decline. Of the first, the mosque of Ahmed Ibn-Tulun in the southern part of Cairo, and the three great gates of the city, the Bab-en-Naar, Bab-el-Futuh and Bab-Zuwela, are splendid examples. The design of these entrance gateways is extremely simple and massive, depending for their effect on the fine ashlar masonry in which they are built, the decoration being more or less confined to ornamental disks. The mosque of Tulun was built entirely in brick, and is the earliest instance of the employment of the pointed arch in Egypt. The curve of the arch turns in slightly below the springing, giving a horse-shoe shape. Built in brick, it was found necessary to give a more monumental appearance to the walls by a casing of stucco, which remains in fair preservation to the present day. This led to the enrichment of the archivolts and imposts with that peculiar type of conventional foliage which characterizes Mahommedan work, and which in this case was carried out by Coptic craftsmen. The attached angle-shafts of piers are found here for the first time, and their capitals are enriched, as also the frieze surmounting the walls, with other conventional patterns. The second. period passes from the highest point to which this art attained to a luxuriance promising decay. The mosque of sultan Hasan, below the citadel, those of Muayyad and Kalaun, with the Barkukiya and the mosque of Barkuk in the cemetery of Kait Bey, are instances of the second and more matured style of the period. The simple plain ashlar masonry still predominates, but the wall surface is broken up with sunk panels, sometimes with geometrical patterns in them. The principal characteristics of this second period are the magnificent portals, rising sometimes, as in the mosque of sultan Hasan, to 8o or 90 ft., with elaborate stalactite vaulting at the top, and the deep stalactite cornices which crown the summit of the building. The decoration of the interior consists of the casing of the walls with marble with enriched borders, and (about 20 ft. above the ground) friezes 3 to 5 ft. in height ig whichthe precepts of the Koran are carved in relief, with a background of conventional foliage. Of the last style of this period the Ghuriya and the mosque of Kait Bey in his cemetery are beautiful specimens. They show an elongation of forms and an excess of decoration in which the florid qualities predominate. Of the age of decline the finest monument is the mosque of Mahommad Bey Abu-Dahab. The forms are now poor, though not lacking in grandeur, and the details are not as well adjusted as before, with a want of mastery of the most suitable decoration. The usual plan of a congregational mosque is a large, square, open court, surrounded by arcades of which the chief, often several bays deep, and known as the Manksura, or prayer-chamber, faces Mecca. (eastward), and has inside its outer wall a decorated niche to mark the direction of prayer. In the centre of the court is a fountain for ablutions, often surmounted by a dome, and in the prayer-chamber a pulpit and a desk for readers. When a mosque is also the founder's tomb, it has a richly ornamented sepulchral chamber always covered by a dome (see further MOSQUE, which contains plans of the mosques of Amr and sultan Hasan, and of the tomb mosque of Kait Bey). After centuries of neglect efforts are now made to preserve the monuments of Arabic art, a commission with that object having been appointed in 1881. To this commission the government makes an annual grant of £4000. The careful and syste-matic work- accomplished by this commission has preserved much of interest and beauty which would otherwise have gone utterly to ruin. Arrangements were made in 1902 for the systematic repair and preservation of Coptic monuments. Museumsand Library.—The museum of Egyptian antiquities was founded at Bulak in 1863, being then housed in a mosque, by the French savant Auguste Mariette. In 1889 the collection was transferred to the Giza (Ghezireh) palace, and in 1902 was removed to its present quarters, erected at a cost of over £250,000. A statue of Mariette was unveiled in 1904. The museum is entirely devoted to antiquities of Pharaonic times, and, except in historical papyri, in which it is excelled by the British Museum, is the most valuable collection of such antiquities in existence. The Arab museum and khedivial library are housed in a building erected for the purpose, at a cost of £66,000, and opened in 1903. In the museum are preserved treasures of Saracenic art, including many objects removed from the mosques for their better security. The khedivial library contains some 64,000 volumes, over two-thirds being books and MSS. in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Amharic and Syriac. The Arabic section includes a unique collection of 2677 korans. The Persian section is rich in illuminated MSS. The numismatic collection, as regards the period of the caliphs and later dynasties, is one of the richest in the world. History.—Before the Arab conquest of Egypt the site of Cairo appears to have been open country. Memphis was some 12 m. higher up on the opposite side of the Nile, and Heliopolis was 5 or 6 m. distant on the N.E. The most ancient known settlement in the immediate neighbourhood of the present city was the town called Babylon. From its situation it may have been a north suburb of Memphis, which was still inhabited in the 7th century A.D. Babylon is said by Strabo to have been founded by emigrants from the ancient city of the same name in 525 B.C., i.e. at the time of the Persian conquest of Egypt. Here the Romans built a fortress and made it the headquarters of one of the three legions which garrisoned the country. The church of Babylon mentioned in x Peter v. 13 has been thought by some writers to refer to this town—an improbable supposition. Amr, the conqueror of Egypt for the caliph Omar, after taking the town besieged the fortress for the greater part of a year, the garrison surrendering in April A.D. 641. The town of Babylon disappeared, but the strong walls of the fortress in part remain, and the name survived, " Babylon of Egypt," or " Babylon " simply, being frequently used in medieval writings as synonymous with Cairo or as denoting the successive Mahommedan dynasties of Egypt. Cairo itself is the fourth Moslem capital of Egypt; the site of one of those that had preceded it is, for the most part, included within its walls, while the other two were a little to the south. Amr founded El-Fostat, the oldest of these, close to the fortress which he had besieged. Fostat signifies " the tent," the town being built where Amr had pitched his tent. The new town speedily became a place of importance, and was the residence of the albs, or lieutenants, appointed by the orthodox and Omayyad caliphs. It received the name of Masr, properly Misr, which was also applied by the Arabs to Memphis and to Cairo, and is to-day, with the Roman town which preceded it, represented by Masr el-Atika, or " Old Cairo." Shortly after the overthrow of the Omayyad dynasty, and the establishment of the Abbasids, the city of El-'Askar was founded (A.D. 750) by Suleiman, the general who subjugated the country, and became the capital and the residence of the successive lieutenants of the Abbasid caliphs. El-'Askar was a small town N.E. of and adjacent to El-Fostat, of which it was a kind of-suburb. Its site is now entirely desolate. The third capital, El-Katai, was founded about A.D. 873 by Ahmed Ibn Tulun, as his capital. It continued the royal residence of his successors; but was sacked not long after the fall of the dynasty and rapidly decayed. A part of the present Cairo occupies its site and contains its great mosque, that of Ahmed Ibn Tulun. Jauhar (Gohar) el-Kaid, the conqueror of Egypt for the Fatimite caliph El-Moizz, founded a new capital, A.D. 968, which was named El-Kahira, that is, " the Victorious," a name corrupted into Cairo. The new city, like that founded by Amr, was originally the camp of the conqueror. This town occupied about a fourth part, the north-eastern, of the present metropolis. By degrees it became greater than El-Fos-tat, and took from it the name of Misr, or Masr, which is applied to it by the modern Egyptians. With its rise Fostat, which had been little affected by the establishment of Askar and Katai, declined. It continually increased so as to include the site of El-Katai to the south. In A.D. 1176 Cairo was unsuccessfully attacked by the Crusaders; shortly afterwards Saladin built the citadel on the lowest point of the mountains to the east, which immediately overlooked El-Katai, and he partly walled round the towns and large gardens within the space now called Cairo. Under the prosperous rule of the Mameluke sultans this great tract was filled with habitations; a large suburb to the north, the Hoseynia, was added; and the town of Bulak was founded. After the Turkish conquest (A.D. 1517) the metropolis decayed, but its limits were the same. In 1798 the city was captured by the French, who were driven out in 18or by the Turkish and English forces; the city being handed over to the Turks. Mehemet All, originally the Turkish viceroy, by his massacre of the Mamelukes in 1811, in a narrow street leading to the citadel, made himself master of the country, and Cairo again became the capital of a virtually independent kingdom. Under Mehemet and his successors all the western part of the city has grown up. The khedive Ismail, in making the straight road from the citadel to the Ezbekia gardens, destroyed many of the finest houses of the old town. In 1882 Cairo was occupied by the British, and British troops continue to garrison the citadel. a historical and architectural survey of the Moslem city; E. Reynolds-Ball, Cairo: the City of the Caliphs (Boston, U.S.A., 1897) ; Prisse d'Avennes, L'Art arabe d'apres les monuments du Caire (Paris, 1847) ; P. Ravaisse, L'Histoire et la topographie du Caire d'apres Makrizi (Paris, 1887) ; E. W. Lane, Cairo Fifty Years Ago (London, 1896), presents a picture of the city as it was before the era of European ` improvements," and gives extracts from the Khitat of Maqrizi, written in 1417, the chief original authority on the antiquities of Cairo; Murray's and Baedeker's Guides, and A. and C. Black's Cairo of To-day (1905), contain much useful and accurate information about Cairo. For the fortress of Babylon and its churches consult A. J. Butler, Ancient Coptic Churches in Egypt (Oxford, 1884).
End of Article: CAIRO (Arabic Misr-al-Kahira, or simply Misr)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.