Cairo is the capital of Egypt, and one of the largest cities in Africa. Cairo has stood for more than 1,000 years on the same site on the banks of the Nile, primarily on the eastern shore, Cairo is the gateway to the Nile delta, where the lower Nile separates into the Rosetta and Damietta branches. Area governorate, 83 square miles (214 square km). Pop. (2006) governorate, 7,786,640; (2005 est.) urban agglom., 11,128,000.
Cairo is fan-shaped, narrowest in the south, where the river valley is wedged between desert escarpments, and widest in the north, where the valley blends into the delta. Over the centuries the city expanded westward, as a receding river channel left land flood-free. In response to heightened demand, however, the city also has been elongated to the north and south and has developed an expanding annex on the Nile’s western shore.
Cairo has only two seasons: approximately eight months of summer and four months of winter. In the hottest of the summer months—June, July, and August—the average daily maximum temperature is 95 °F (35 °C), and the average daily minimum is 70 °F (21 °C). The summer temperature has reached as high as 117 °F (47 °C). During winter the strong Tropic of Cancer sun makes for warm, dry days, but nights are cool and humid, often freshened by breezes from the Nile. The average daily maximum temperature in January–February is 67 °F (19 °C), and the average daily minimum is 47 °F (8.5 °C).
Cairo’s population, once both ethnically and religiously diverse, is now predominantly Muslim. A significant number of Egyptian Christians, the majority of whom observe the Coptic Orthodox faith, continue to dominate certain districts in the city. Remnants of the old Italian, Greek, Syrian, and Sudanese communities are still found in some locations. Differences of status within the Egyptian population depend largely on one’s place of origin (many residents of Cairo were born in rural Egypt), class, and degree of modernity. About half of the city’s population live in the city proper, while half live in the suburbs.
From its inception, Cairo’s economy has been based on governmental functions, commerce, trade, and industrial production. The modern productive sector has expanded dramatically since the middle of the 20th century. Since the 1952 revolution, large-scale industrialization has built upon previous developments in textiles (utilizing the long-staple cotton for which Egypt is famous) and food processing (which consists of canning and freezing the wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown in the fertile delta), as well as the processing of sugarcane grown in Upper Egypt. In addition to the production of iron and steel, consumer goods, particularly appliances, are manufactured in nearby factories.
Finance and other services
Cairo is the country’s primary center for economic production and financial control. It still contains many of Egypt’s important banks, hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, and cafés.
Egypt’s extensive transportation network, laid out by the British, connects most of the country’s urban centers with the capital. Within metropolitan Cairo, the transportation network is made up of both formal and informal sectors. The Public Transport Authority runs a bus network, which was introduced in the 1950s. In addition, a far-reaching system of authorized, licensed cabs operate in the city. Informal transportation services include minibusses and taxis, which sprang up in the late 1970s and ’80s; these continue to predominate, particularly in areas that serve the expanding informal neighborhoods. The Cairo Metro, a citywide subway system, began service in 1987 and has since been significantly expanded.
Traffic congestion is a serious problem in Cairo, particularly as both imports and local assembly plants have provided greater access to automobiles. To combat congestion and pollution, the Egyptian government built a substantial number of bypass highways and overpasses. Donkey-drawn carts, though technically outlawed, are also a common sight on Cairo’s streets, operating among the city’s automobiles, minibusses, buses, streetcars, and trolleys.
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