Egypt is one of the most notable nations globally. The North African nation of Egypt is well known for arguably having the earliest form of human civilization, the kingship programs, as well as the majestic Pyramids. Nevertheless, the nation’s capital, Cairo, which is translated as Al-Qāhirah (“The Victorious”) in Arabic is the largest city in the continent of Africa Abu-Lughod (2018). Additionally, Cairo has stood the test of time for over 1,000 years at the same site on the banks of the river Nile. Located in the furthest point in the north of Egypt, Cairo is the gateway to the Nile delta, a geographical masterpiece that allows the city to stand out of the surrounding desert environments of the Sahara. In an age of archeological breakthroughs, the city of Cairo is believed to be a vault of hidden and valuable information that may change human history. In an era of archeological breakthrough, the City of Cairo is arguably one of the remaining locations on earth that may have answers to social, economic, as well as historical questions that may aid for a better understanding of tomorrow.
Early History of the City
Present-day Cairo stands at the same location as the ancient city of Memphis. As indicated by Sims (2012), this early Egyptian metropolis was established by the King Menes who made history after he united Upper and Lower Egypt roughly in 2000 BC. In the 1st Century, the Romans built the Babylon fortress on the Nile making it the oldest structure in the City at around 150 AD. As indicated by Behrens-Abouseif (1994), Cairo was established as a city of Fustat by the Fatimids in the 10th Century, and it is for this reason that the city became the center of significant construction that included the Al-Azhar Mosque. With robust construction, the city became the link between the East and West spice route, with the market streets of Khan el-Khalili being a center of busting trades of trade (Kamil, Ibrahim, & Al Jazeera, 1987). Additionally, the city of Memphis history is connected to the Great Pyramids at Giza, as well as other older structures at Sakkara. According to Sims (2012), by the time Alexander the Great had taken over the North African nation of Egypt and declared himself ruler of the land in 332 BC, the city of Memphis was already on a decline.
Cairo owes its existence to the Romans who settled at the location after the city of Memphis had seen its best day pass. As indicated by Kamil, Ibrahim, and Al Jazeera (1987), at the time the Romans settled in Cairo, the area had little significance to the locals considering the Pharos had relocated to Luxor at the Nile at the latter stages of the dynasties. The ‘Copts’ (descendants of ancient Egyptians) later took interest and built their homes and areas of worship at the city, many of whom remain there to-date in the region known as Coptic Cairo (Behrens-Abouseif, 1994). This area features the fort and a museum displaying the days of ancient Cairo. In 642 AD, the Arabs invaded Egypt from neighboring Saudi Arabia (Khan, 2013). They took over the city’s leadership and made the Babylon Fort their headquarters where the city grew around it. As indicated by Khan (2013), the Saudis gave the city new life and made the ancient Citadel (Al-Qalaa) as the centerpiece of attraction, considering it was home to a variety of mosques, such as Ibn Tulun and Al-Azhar, the city’s oldest Islamic temple.
Since the Arab invasion, Cairo grew exponentially and in the 1300s. It became the world’s largest city. Nevertheless, the Arabic influence began to wane after the Turkish and European settlers began to have more power over the city residents. Consequently, in 1517, the Ottoman Empire infiltrated the city, and later, held on to it for three hundred years only to be ousted by Napoleon in 1798 (Behrens-Abouseif, 1994). However, the French ruler’s time was short-lived after the Turks and British joined arms and drove his forces away. In 1801, the Ottoman Empire took Cairo back after they were aided by the British. Under Commander Muhammad Ali, Cairo became Egypt’s capital after he saw to its development as a modern state and not a trading center. After the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869, Europeans came in their droves as this passage served as a shorter route joining the Red Sea with the Mediterranean
The Pyramids and The Sphinx
After the Suez Canal, most of what was ancient Egypt was lost to modernity up until the re-discovery of the great pyramids and the Sphinx in the mid-1800s. As indicated by Abu-Lughod (2018), Cairo saw increased interest from the archeological world after the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Menkaure, as well as the Pyramid of Khafre, were found on the nearby Giza Plateau located outside of the city. Alongside the Great pyramids sat the Great Sphinx as well as other smaller ‘Queens’ pyramids. These structures are believed to date as far back as the 3rd Century BC thus making Cairo arguably the world’s first tourist destinations. Priceless artifacts and treasures have been retrieved from most of the tombs. They have been taken back to the Egyptian Antiquities Museum near Tahrir Square. Evidently, Cairo has been a gem in the deserts of the Sahara. Over time, it has provided humanity with a glimpse of history dating as back as the first century providing sight to wonders such as the Tutankhamen’s death mask a factor that is celebrated to-date.
Language in Cairo Egypt
For antiquity, Arabic has been the spoken as well as written language in Cairo. Nevertheless, it is not the only language that has been used in the region. Prior to the Arab invasion of AD639, Coptic, a dialectal known to have descended from ancient Egypt, was the language used by the masses of both Christian and Muslim religions. Cairo was synonymous with this language in the entire Egyptian territory because it served as the center for all trading communities. Nevertheless, by the 12th Century, under the rule of Sultan Saladin, Arabic became the language of choice as Coptic became a language for the Orthodox Church. The written form of Arabic in grammar, as well as syntax, has continued in its original form since the 7th Century (Allehaiby, 2013). In other ways, the written form has significantly changed over the years to modern forms of styles. For instance, phraseology are less complicated and more supple than in classical Arabic. As indicated by Allehaiby (2013), word sequences, as well as direct derivative of English or French, has led the development of Arabizi, which has its origins in Cairo.
The written form of the Arabic language in grammar and syntax remains substantially unchanged since the 7th Century. Notably, the written language has changed the modern forms of style and word sequence. These are often directly derived from English or French. Before the 1990s, there were significant calls for the restructuring of Arabic language, particularly in writing through the Romanization of Arabic script with Latin. Throughout the 1880s, Egyptian Linguistic scholars led by Wilhelm Spitta and Karl Vollars argued out a variety of reasons as to the reform of Arabic, specifically due to the increasing use of Latin scripts at a global perspective (Allehaiby, 2013). Due to the endowment of local scholars, the Romanization of Arabic is believed to have taken off in Cairo.
Cairo Society and Culture
The Majority of the population in Cairo is Islamic. This, Sharia Laws politically, legislatively, as well as legally govern the city. In the Egyptian capital, various Mosques serve the millions of Muslims in the city. Evidently, Cairo is among the Islamic metropolis that have a visible difference during prayer time, particularly on Friday when most stores are closed. The city of Cairo has a plethora of treasures and information that directs the knowledge of mankind socially, politically, and economically. With a history spanning as far as the first century, it can be argued that the city is the cradle of civilization. Basing on the rules, pharos, conquerors ,and dynasties, Cairo is a prime example of how history can be preserved beyond scrolls to continue hosting a rich culture for the future generations.
In summation, Cairo is a city that has prevailed through the tough test of time and hosts a variety of process archeological artifacts that describe early civilization. From the text provided the city has survived wars from a variety of communities and for over 1000 years, its ruins are testament of different forms of modernity through human history. The cultural mix in the city is an astonishing phenomenon of social harmony that ought to be replicated in other areas in the Arab strip. It can be therefore argued that Cairo is the cradle of urban or modern civilization.
Abu-Lughod, J. L. (2018). Cairo: 1001 years of the city victorious (Vol. 5221). Princeton University Press.
Allehaiby, W. H. (2013). Arabizi: An Analysis of the Romanization of the Arabic Script from a Sociolinguistic Perspective. Arab World English Journal, 4(3).
Behrens-Abouseif, D. (1994). Egypt’s adjustment to Ottoman rule: institutions, Waqf and architecture in Cairo (16th and 17th centuries).
Kamil, J., Ibrahim, H., & Al Jazeera, O. (1987). Coptic Egypt: history and guide. American University in Cairo Press.
Khan, M. S. (2013). A History of Egypt: in the middle ages. Routledge.
Sims, D. (2012). Understanding Cairo: The logic of a city out of control. Oxford University Press.