Islamic Cairo (1979)

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United Nations (Geneva) 2005. Islamic Cairo.

Tucked away amid the modern urban area of Cairo lies one of the world's oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains. Founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century. 

  • United Nations (Geneva) 2005. Islamic Cairo. 

Cairo [Arabic Al Qahira, meaning “the Victorious”], is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa. Located on both banks of the Nile River near the head of the river's delta in northern Egypt, the site has been settled for more than 6000 years and has served as the capital of numerous Egyptian civilizations. Cairo is known locally as Misr, the Arabic name for Egypt itself, because of its centrality in Egyptian life. Cairo is marked by the traditions and influences of the East and the West, the ancient and the modern. 

Other than Islamic Cairo, the districts of Cairo are: Agouza, Abbassia, Ain Shams, Bulag, Dokki, Downtown Cairo, El-Manial, El Marg, El-Quba, El-Tagamu, El Khames, Embada, Garden City, Giza, Haram, Heliopolis, Kerdasa, Maadi, Mataria, Mohandessin, Muqatam, Nasr City, Old Cairo, Rhoda, Shoubra, Shubra el Khiema, Zaitun, Zamalek. 

Further one will find the Pharaonic Cairo, the Coptic Cairo, and the Jewish Quarter. 

Islamic Cairo is part of central Cairo, overlooked by the Citadel, often visited by tourists because of its high proportion of historically important mosques and other Islamic monuments. 

  • Egypt 1914. The Citadel overlooking Islamic Cairo. 

Egypt 1914. The Citadel overlooking Islamic Cairo.

Outside the city's central area on the east bank, spanning from the northeast to the southeast, are the neighborhoods of Islamic Cairo. These neighborhoods are known for their narrow streets, crowded suqs (bazaars), and hundreds of mosques, many dating back to the medieval period. South of the Islamic district is Old Cairo, where some of the city's oldest architectural monuments can be found. Old Cairo is the home of Cairo's Coptic Christian community, and the site of the Coptic Museum and a number of Coptic churches. 

Egypt 1969. Fountain of the Sultan Hassan Mosque, Cairo.

Egypt 2004. Old street lamp in Islamic Cairo. From the series "Egyptian Treasures".

Egypt 1969. El Fetouh Gate, Cairo.

The most famous educational institution in Cairo is the Al Azhar University, the oldest in the Islamic world. The institution has grown up around the Al Azhar Mosque, which was founded in 970 by the Fatimids, eighteen years before the university. 

Al Azhar University is an authoritative voice throughout the Islamic world, and its positions on important issues are influential in Egypt and the Arab world. 

Other institutions of higher education include Cairo University (founded in 1908) and Ain Shams University (1950), which together enroll more than 100,000 students; and the American University in Cairo, founded in 1919, where the children of Egypt's elite mingle with students from abroad.

Egypt 1957. Millennium of Al Azhar University.

  • Egypt 1957. Millennium of Al Azhar University. 
  • Egypt 1982. Sheetlet. Al Azhar Mosque.  

Egypt 1982. Sheetlet. Al Azhar Mosque.

Egypt 2004. Tutankhamun.

Egyptian history is displayed and preserved in the city's numerous museum collections. Founded in 1902, the Egyptian Museum contains hundreds of thousands of works, including more than 1700 pieces from the collection of Tutankhamun. 

Egypt 1969. Sculptures from the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

  • Egypt 2004. Tutankhamun. From the series "Egyptian Treasures". 

  • Egypt 1969. Sculptures from the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. 

The Museum of Islamic Arts (1881) contains a vast collection relating to early Islamic civilization; and the Coptic Museum (1910) traces the history of the Coptic community in Egypt. 

Egypt 1969. Cairo Millennium. Art works at the Museum of Islamic Arts.

  • Egypt 1969. Cairo Millennium. Art works at the Museum of Islamic Arts. 

  • Egypt 2004. Centenary of the Islamic Art Museum. Gold bowl.  

Other Cairo museums maintain collections relating to more modern themes; these range from the Al Gawhara Palace Museum, built in 1811 in the Ottoman style, to the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, founded in 1963, which contains works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Peter Paul Rubens, and other European and Egyptian painters of renown. 

Cairo's rich cultural life is further enhanced by local theater, cinema, dance, and music, in addition to the city's vibrant community of journalists and fiction writers; Cairo residents take great pride in the work of Nobel Prize-winning author and Cairo native Naguib Mahfouz, whose fiction has provided a chronicle of the city. 

Zambia 2002. Egyptian Nobel Laureate in Literature 1988, Naguib Mahfouz.

Egypt 1994. Souvenir sheet. Stage performance of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aïda.  

The origins of the site of present-day Cairo can be traced back to the Egyptian capital of Memphis, which is believed to have been founded in the early 4th millennium BC near the head of the Nile delta, south of the present city. The city spread to the north along the east bank of the Nile, and its location has commanded political power ever since. It was there that the Romans constructed their city called Babylon. The site was later called Al Fustat by Muslim Arabs who immigrated there from the Arabian Peninsula in AD 641. The below three stamps are all from the series "Egyptian Treasures".  

Egypt 2004. Mosque of Al Azhar, Cairo. Egypt 2004. Minaret in Cairo. Egypt 2004. Mosque of Mohammad Ali and the Citadel, Cairo.

When a dissident branch of Muslims known as the Fatimids conquered Egypt in 969, they established their headquarters in the city and called it Al Qahira (Cairo). In the 12th century Christian Crusaders attacked Cairo, but they were defeated by a Muslim army from Syria, led by Saladin, who founded the Ayyubid dynasty in the city. The Mamluks established their capital in Cairo in the 13th century, and the city became renowned throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. Cairo declined after the mid-14th century, however, when the epidemic of bubonic plague known as the Black Death struck the city, decimating its population. 

Many new residential, commercial, and governmental structures have changed the city's landscape. Tourist facilities have proven an important source of foreign revenue for Egypt, and have thus drawn heavy investment from the government. 

Cairo has also benefited from Egypt's growing international prominence. The founding of the Arab League in 1945 made Cairo a political capital, as has Egypt's ongoing participation in the Middle East peace process. 

However, in 1981 the city witnessed a tragic event when Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated at a military parade by Islamic fundamentalists within the Egyptian army. In 1992 the city was shaken by an earthquake that killed more than 500 people and injured about 6500 others.

  • Zaire 2002. President Anwar Sadat. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1978. 

Zaire 2002. President Anwar Sadat. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1978.

The United Nations' third International Conference on Population and Development, which brought an estimated 20,000 government officials, activists, and journalists to Cairo in September 1994, was considered a high point in the city's efforts to strengthen its economy. At the same time, the conference addressed many of the issues that trouble Cairo, particularly poverty and rapid growth rates. While the city has maintained its status within Egypt and the Arab world, many of its residents lack fundamental goods and services. Cairo's rapidly expanding population has also taxed the city's infrastructure. Leaks in Cairo's pipes and sewers have caused the water table to rise, destabilizing the ground underneath the city, and causing a number of structures to collapse under their own weight. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in the Egypt (on this site). Inactive links are not described on postage stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Egypt section, for further information on the individual properties. 

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Revised 20 jul 2006  
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