From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
View from Cairo Tower, 2013
Cityscape of Cairo, 2005
Orientalist vision of a Coptic household in Cairo, c. 1864

Cairo (Arabic: القاهرة, al-Qāhirah) is the capital of Egypt and the city-state Cairo Governorate, and is the country's largest city, home to 10 million people. It is also part of the largest urban agglomeration in Africa, the Arab world and the Middle East: The Greater Cairo metropolitan area is the 12th-largest in the world by population with over 22.1 million inhabitants.


  • He had found in Cairo what he had hoped to find in every other city in the world: leisure, importance, ease, warmth, and wealth; as well as a few moments of really great experience.
  • And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring of support.  America will never forget the sounds of our National Anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.   We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo.  We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America. Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own: dozens of Pakistanis; more than 130 Israelis; more than 250 citizens of India; men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan; and hundreds of British citizens.
  • Geopolitics had clearly obliterated all sense of history in Egypt. No one even mentioned Al-Azhar’s own Shia past. The religious institution dated back to the Fatimids, the fourth Islamic caliphate and a Shia dynasty that ruled from the tenth to the twelfth century over a territory extending from the Red Sea to the Atlantic. They were the descendants of Fatima, daughter of the prophet and wife of Ali. This was the only and last time since Ali’s own brief rule in 656 that direct descendants of the prophet had ruled as an Islamic caliphate, and therefore the only time that the caliph and the religious leadership had been one. One of the first universities in the world, Al-Azhar was first built as a center of Shia learning and named in honor of Fatima, who was known as al-Zahraa’, the brilliant. Cairo itself had been built by the Fatimids as their new capital in 970. The Fatimid reign was one of flourishing arts and abundant scholarly works. There were no forced conversions to Shiism, but a tolerance for minorities that left a lasting pluralistic legacy. When Saladin defeated the Fatimids in 1170, Al-Azhar was shut down for over a century and Sunni Islam became the state religion once again. Centuries later, in the land of the pharaohs, Islam still stood at the intersection of Sunnism and Shiism; on a popular level, for centuries, and until the very recent past, there had been no divide between them. But for a few decades now, just as in Pakistan, there had been efforts to curb the mawleds in Egypt, the colorful, exuberant celebrations of the birthdays of saints and the prophet. Some of this was the result of state-led efforts to organize the chaotic festivities, or even of Sufi-led reforms, but many Egyptians attributed the changes to the influence of Saudi puritanism.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • Morsi and most of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership ended up in jail, hundreds of its members sentenced to die in the course of the following year. In 2019, after six years of solitary confinement and inadequate health care, Morsi would collapse during a court hearing and die from cardiac arrest. The organization was banned. Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sissi, friend of Saudi Arabia and once a military attaché at the Egyptian embassy in Saudi Arabia, oversaw the crackdown. He was elected president in May 2014. The power of the people was buried under the rubble—not dead, but barely alive. Cairo was still hell, a city where, in Ahmed’s futuristic, fantastical novel, “life is one long wait, and the smell of trash and assorted animal dung hangs about all the time and everywhere … Cairo’s not what you’d expect from a city of its size. In spite of its teeming millions, this is a city that is hopelessly repressed. A coalition of social, political, and religious taboos conspire to keep everything that ferments in the city’s underbelly from rising to the surface.”
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • [L]et me tell you about the atmosphere in Egypt in May '82. That was a real honeymoon. Everything was open, even euphoric. We had already given back Sinai, and every Egyptian in the street would stop to tell us that Israel was an honorable nation, one that kept its word. Practically all of our friends were making definite plans to visit Israel for congresses, lectures, or simply for private purposes. There was a joint exhibition of women painters-Egyptian and Israeli-at the biggest hotel in Cairo. Once they knew we were Israelis, waiters and shopkeepers refused to accept our tips. "You are family now," they would say. And you know the level of poverty in Egypt where a teacher earns $40 a month. In May of '82, Egypt was a ball! (HC: And then?) SH: And then Israel invaded Lebanon, and everything, everyone stopped-horrified.
  • Between Muhammad’s death and the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate in 750, Arab armies appeared everywhere from central Asia, through the Middle East and north Africa, throughout the Visigothic Iberian Peninsula, and even into southern France. They imposed Islamic governments and introduced new ways of living, trading, learning, thinking, building, and praying. The capital of the vast caliphate they established would be Damascus itself, crowned with its Great Mosque—one of the masterpieces of medieval architecture anywhere in the world. In Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock was built on top of the site of the old Jewish Second Temple—and its gleaming dome became an iconic landmark on that city’s famous skyline. Elsewhere, great new cities like Cairo, Kairouan (Tunisia), and Baghdad grew out of Arab military garrison towns, while other settlements like Merv (Turkmenistan), Samarkand (Uzbekistan), Lisbon, and Córdoba were renewed as major mercantile and trading cities. The caliphate established by the Arab conquests was more than just a new political federation. It was specifically and explicitly a faith empire—more so than the Roman Empire had ever been, even after Constantine’s conversion and Justinian’s reforms; even after a promulgation late in Heraclius’s reign that all Jews in Byzantium were to be forcibly converted to Christianity. Within this caliphate, an old languageArabic—and a new religion—Islam—were central to the identity of the conquerors and, as time went on, became ever more central to the lives of the conquered. The creation of a global dar al-Islam (abode, or house of Islam) in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. would have profound consequences for the rest of the Middle Ages, and indeed for the world today. With the exception of Spain and Portugal (and, later, Sicily), almost every major territory that was captured by early medieval Islamic armies retained, and still retains today, an Islamic identity and culture. The spirit of scientific invention and intellectual inquiry that thrived in some of the larger and more cosmopolitan Islamic cities would come to play a key role in the Renaissance of the later Middle Ages.
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021).
  • There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same. … Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence.  For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. … Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in. The word Tahrir means liberation.  It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom.  And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people — of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.
  • What happened in Abbottabad … has been the second death of Osama bin Laden. His physical one. Meanwhile, his symbolic, political and ideological [death] had already occurred on the squares of Cairo, Tunis, Damascus, and Bengasi, where Al Qaeda had been ignored. Nobody exalted it. Nobody mentioned it. The "Arab spring" has blossomed and exploded for want of democracy and freedom. It is not provoked by Islamic fanaticism and even less inspired by the idea of a caliphate... launched by bin Laden. His terroristic instrument, Al Qaeda … has been, and is, ignored by the Egyptian, Tunisian, Syrian or Libyan youth. For them, [Al Qaeda] is a bloodstained and obsolete tool. It is not a choice. It is outdated, even if its sporadic followers are still able to strike. Before the Americans, bin Laden had been symbolically killed by the people on Tahrir square and Burghiba avenue.
    • Bernardo Valli, in "Il Giovane viziato con lo sguardo timido diventato il 'principle del terror': I sold del padre e la svolta Nella lotta control l'Urss in Afghanistan" in La Republica (3 May 2011)


  • To Cairo city, one hot afternoon,
    In the midsummer, came an anchorite,
    Pale, shrunk as any corpse, thin, lean, and blanched,
    From dwelling in the tombs deep from the light:
    Tall, gaunt, and wan, across the desert sand
    He strode, trampling on avarice; by his side,
    Licking his hands, two dappled panthers paced,
    With lolling tongues, and dark and tawny hide.
    The gilded domes of Cairo blazed and shone,
    The minarets arose like long keen spears
    Planted around a sleeping Arab’s tent.
    The saint’s attendants pricked their spotted ears
    When the muezzin, with his droning cry,
    Summoned to prayers, and frightened vultures screamed,
    Swooping from the gilt roof that glittered in the sky,
    Or the tall parapet that o’er it gleamed.
    The hermit came to where the traders sat,
    Grave turbaned men, weighing out heaps of pearls,
    Around a splashing fountain; wafts of myrrh
    Rose to the curtained roof in wreathing curls,
    And Abyssinian slaves, with sword and bow,
    Watched at the doorway, while a dervish danced
    In giddy circles, chanting Allah’s name,
    With long, lean arms outstretched and eyes entranced.
    St. Vitus spurned the gold and pearls away,
    And struck the dervish silent with a blow
    That loosened half his teeth, (the infidel!)
    And tossed the censers fiercely to and fro;
    Then sang, defiant of the angry men,
    “How long, O Lord, how long?” and raised his eyes
    To the high heaven, praying God to send
    Some proof to them from out those burning skies.
    And when their knives flew out, and eunuchs ran,
    With steel and bowstring, swift to choke and bleed,
    The saint drew forth from underneath his robe
    A Nubian flute, carved from a yellow reed;
    Then put it to his lips, and music rose,
    So wild and wayward that, on either hand,
    Straightway perforce the turbaned men began
    To whirl and circle like the wind-tossed sand.
    And so the saint passed on, until he reached
    A mosque, with many domes and cupolas,
    And roof hung thick with lamps and ostrich-eggs,
    And round the walls a belt of crescent stars.
    Towards the Mecca niche the worshippers
    Bent altogether in a turbaned row;
    So, seeing this idolatry, the saint
    Struck the chief reader twice a sturdy blow.
    Then they howled all at once, and many flew,
    With sabres drawn, upon the holy man,
    To toss him to the dogs. The panthers still
    Kept them at bay until the saint began
    Upon his flute to breathe his magic tune,
    Such as the serpent-charmers use to charm
    The sand-asps forth, and straightway priests and flock
    Began to circle round; and free from harm
    He glided forth on to the caliph’s house,
    Where in divan he and the vizier were,
    Girt with the council of the rich and wise,
    And all the Mullahs who his secrets share.
    There he raised up the crucifix on high,
    Spat on the Koran, cursed Mohammed’s name,
    Took the proud caliph’s turban from his head,
    And threw it to his panthers. Fire and flame
    Broke forth around him, as when in a mine
    The candle comes unguarded; swords flashed out
    By twenties, and from inner court to court
    Ran the alarm, the clamor, and the shout.
    The saint, unmoved, drew forth his magic flute
    (It was the greatest miracle of all),
    And, lo! the soldiers, counsellors, and slaves
    Swept dancing, fever-stricken, round the hall.
    Round went the caliph with his shaven head,
    Round went the vizier, raging as he danced.
    Round went the archers, and the sable crew
    Tore round in circles, every one entranced
    By that sweet mystic music Heaven sent;
    Round, round in ceaseless circles, swifter still,—
    Till dropped each sword, till dropped each bow unbent.
    And then the saint once more into the street
    Glided unhurt, and sought the market-place,
    Where dates rolled forth from baskets, and the figs
    Were purple ripe, and every swarthy face
    Was hot with wrangling; and he cursed Mahound
    Loud in the midst, and set up there his cross,
    O’er the mosque gate, and wailed aloud a psalm,—
    “Let God arise, and all his foes confound.”
    But the fierce rabble hissed, and throwing stones,
    Shouted, “Slay, slay the wretch!” and “Kill, kill, kill!”
    And some seized palm-tree staves and jagged shards;
    In every eye there was a murderous will,
    Until the saint drew forth again his flute,
    And all the people drove to the mad dance,
    With nodding heads and never-wearying feet,
    And leaden eyes fixed in a magic trance.
    And so he left them dancing: one by one
    They fell in swoons and fevers, worn and spent.
    Then the stern anchorite took his magic flute,
    And broke it o’er his knee, and homeward went,
    Tossing the useless tube, now split and rent,
    Upon the sand; then through the desert gate
    Passed, with his panthers ever him beside;
    And raised his hands to heaven and shouted forth,
    “Amen, amen! God’s name be glorified!”
    • Walter Thornbury, "The Legend of St. Vitus"
    • Once a Week, Series 1, Vol. 11, No. 275 (1 October 1864)

William Lithgow, Totall Discourse, VII[edit]

Microcosmus of the greater World
William Lithgow
  • This incorporate World of Grand Cairo, is the most admirable and greatest City, seene upon the earth, being thrice as large of bounds as Constantinople, and likewise so populous, but not so well builded, being situate in a pleasant Plaine, and in the heart of Ægypt, kissing Nylus at some parts.
    The City is divided in five Townes, first and formost, Cairo novo, the new Caire, which is the principall & chiefest place of all the other, lying in midst of the rest, having walles and Ports, the circuit whereof is 22. miles, contayning al the chiefe merchandise and market places within it.
    The second is Cairo Vecchio, the old Caire, called formerly Cairo de Babylonia or Babylon Ægyptiorum: for there were two Babylons, one in Assiria called now by the Turkes Bagdat, and the other is this that joyneth with the new Caire: It was also aunciently called Memphis, and was the furthest place that Ulysses in his travels visited, so well memorized by Homer: yet a voyage of no such estimation, as that princely Poet accounted it; for his travels were not answerable, to the fifteene part of mine.
    • The great City of Grand Cayre.
  • The third Towne is Medin, joyning to the backe side of the old Caire, toward the Piramides: The fourth is Boulak, running a great length downe along and neare the River side, having three market places of no small account: The fift and last, is the great Towne of Caraffar, bending Southward, in the way of the red Sea for many miles: All which are but as Suburbs to the new Caire, that of many smalles make up a Countrey, rather then a City: And yet all of them are contiguat one with another, either to the left or right hand, or to them both, with innumerable streets: The length whereof in all, from the lowest end of Boulak, to the South-most part of Caraffar is by my deepe experience twenty eight English miles, and fourteene in breadth; for tryall whereof I troad it one day on foote from Sun to Sunne, being guided and guarded with a riding Janizarie, which for my bruised feete on the streets, was one of the sorest dayes journey that ever I had in my life.
    The principall gates of new Caire are Babell Mamstek looking toward the Wildernesse and the Red Sea: Bebzavillah toward Nylus, and Babell Eutuch toward the fields: The streets are narrow, being all of them almost covered to save them from the parching heate with open vents for light; and their buildings commonly are two stories high, composed either of mudde or bricke, and platforme on the tops; whereon usually in the night they use to sleepe to imbrace the fresh & cooling ayre. Their Bazar or exchange, beginneth at the gate of Mamsteck, and endeth at a place called Babeso.
    At the corners of chiefe streets or market places, there are divers horses standing ready sadled and bridled, that for a small matter, or according to the way, a man may hire and ride so where he will, either to negotiat, or to view this spacious spred City, and change as many horses as he listeth, having the Maisters which owe them to convoy them for lesse or longer way, which is a great ease to weary passengers.
    There is a great commerce here with exceeding many nations, for by their concurring hither, it is wonderfully peopled with infinite numbers: for the Countrey aboundeth in Silkes, Cornes, Fruits, Waxe, Honey, and the soveraigne Balsamo good for all sores, besides many other commodities of Cotten-wooll, rich Stuffes of cloth of gold and silver, and the best Sattins, Damas, Taffaties, and Grograines that are made in the world are here.
    The infinite populositie of which place, and the extreame heate, is the cause why the pest is evermore in the City: insomuch, that at some certaine times, ten thousand persons have dyed in one day: Nay, the City is reputed to be in good health, if there dye but one, or two thousand in a day, or three hundred thousand in a whole yeare, I meane, when the soare encroaching pestilence, which every third yeare useth to visite them, is rife here.
    • The length of great Cayre and the bounds thereof.
  • In this Towne a Traveller may ever happily finde all these sorts of Christianes, Italians, French, Greekes, Chelfaines, Georgians, Æthiopians, Jacobines, Syrians, Armenians, Nicolaitans, Abassines, Cypriots, Slavonians, captivat Maltezes, Sicilians, Albaneses, and high Hungarians, Ragusans, and their owne Ægyptian Copties; the number of which is thought to be beyond two hundred thousand people: besides the infinite number of Infidels, whose sorts are these, Turkes, tawny Moores, white Moores, blacke Moores, or Nigroes, Musilmans, Tartars, Persians, Indians, Sabuncks, Berdoanes, Jewes, Arabians, Barbares, and Tingitanian Sarazens. All which are Mahometans, and Idolatrous Pagans.
    From the great Palatiat Mansion, where the Begler-Beg, or Vicegerent hath his residence, being builded on a moderate height; a man may have the full prospect of the better part of the Towne, the gardens and Villages bordering on Nylus, and a great part of the lower plaines of Ægypt. Their Lawes heere and Heathnish Religion, are Turkish and Mahometanicall, and the Customes and Manners of the people, are like unto their birth and breeding, beastly and Barbarous; being great Sodomites, and Diabolically given to all sorts of abhominations.
    • Divers nations residing in Cayre.
  • As for their Balsamo, the Garden wherein it groweth, lyeth neere to the South-side of Cayre, and inclosed with a high Wall, being sixe miles in compasse, and daily guarded by Turkes. To which when I came, being Conducted with a Janizary, they would not suffer me to enter, neyther any Christian, & far lesse the Jewes: For not long ago, they were the cause, that almost this Balme was brought to confusion; they having the custody of it for certayne yeares.
    The Tree it selfe is but of three foote height, which keepeth evermore the colour greene, having a broad three poynted leafe, which being thrice in the yeare incised in the body and branches; it yeeldeth a red Water that droppeth downe in earthen Vessels, which is the naturall Balsamo.
    And not far from this Garden, in a sandy Desart, is the place called Mommeis, which are innumerable Caves cut foorth of a Rocke, whereunto the Corpes of the most men in Cayro, are carried and interred. Which dead bodies remayne alwayes unputrified, neyther yeeld they a stinking smell: Whereof experiments are plentiful at this day, by the whole Bodies, Hands, or other parts, which by Merchants are now brought from thence, and doth make the Mummia which Apothecaries use: The colour being very blacke, and the flesh clung unto the bones.
    • The Garden of Balsamo.
  • Now having viewed, and review’d this Microcosmus of the greater World, the foure French Pilgrimes and I, did hire a Janizary to conduct us to the great Pyramides, surnamed the Worlds wonders; which are distant from Cayre about foure Leagues, standing beside or neare to the bankes of Nylus: Where, when come, I beheld their proportion to bee Quadrangled, growing smaller and smaller to the toppe, and builded with huge and large stones, the most part whereof, are five foote broade, or there abouts, and nine in length, beeing of pure Marble.
    • The pyramides of Egypt.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: