Cairo Population 2017

Cairo is the largest city in Egypt and the country's capital. It is located close to the Nile Delta. With a history dating back to CE 969, Cairo blends old-world and new-world Egypt. It is often referred to as Masr by Egyptians, which is the Egyptian Arabic pronunciation of Egypt, as well as al-Qahirah ("the Vanquisher"), Kayro or Umm al-Dunya ("the mother of the world"). The city's population in 2016 was estimated to be as high as 12 million.

Cairo has an estimated 2016 population as high as 12 million, with a metropolitan population of 20.5 million, which makes it the largest city in Africa and the middle East, and the 17th largest metropolitan area in the world.

Close to 100% of Egypt's population lives in Cairo, Alexandria or elsewhere along the Nile river banks and the Suez Canal. Cairo and other major regions of the country are some of the most densely populated in the world. Cairo itself has a population density of 19,376 people per square kilometer (50,180/sq mi), which ranks 37th in the world. While the 2016 population of Cairo is 12 million, the Greater Cairo area has over 20 million people. It is the 3rd largest urban area in the Islamic World behind Jakarta and Karachi.

Cairo is a primate city, as the second largest city of Alexandria is only 30% of Cairo's size.

Cairo Demographics

Cairo is a very homogeneous city with very few minority communities. Those that do exist are very small and are not concentrated in specific neighborhoods. The few ethnic minorities include Nubians and northern Sudanese, along with refugees from other parts of Africa. Foreigners from the United States, the United Kingdom and several Arab countries have larger populations.

Arabic is the most widely spoken language in Cairo, although many educated Cairenes speak English, Italian or French. Egypt has a very young population. 75% of Egyptians are under the age of 25 and just 3% are over the age of 65, which makes it one of the youngest countries. Cairo has an older population compared to the national average, however, with 36% of the population under the age of 15.

Cairo has a literacy rate of 70.8% for individuals 15 and older. While its infant mortality rate of 42.2 deaths per 1,000 live births is still very high, it is much lower than the 240 deaths per 1,000 live births seen in 1961.

Most people, or an estimated 89%, in Cairo are Sunni Muslims. About 10% are Christian, particularly Coptic Orthodoxy, which was the dominant religion in Cairo before Islam. The city once had a large population of Jews, most of whom have since left for Israel or the United States.

Cairo History

Cairo is often called the cradle of civilization as it is the largest city in Africa and the Middle East and sits at the center of routes to Asia, Europe and Africa. Cairo was officially founded in AD 969, but its history is much longer than a mere 1,000 years. It has been known as several names, including Memphis, Heliopolis, Babylon-in-Egypt, Al-Fustat, Al-Qataei, Al-Askar and more by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. In fact, the city is so old that when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, Cairo was already older to him than he is to us.

About 5,000 years ago, the two kingdoms of Egypt -- the Red kingdom of the north and the White kingdom of the south -- were united by Narmer (Menes), who became the first Pharaoh of Egypt. He chose the site of Memphis as the capital, located about 25 kilometers south of present-day downtown Cairo. For 800 years, the city prospered and became a very influential city across the world. It was not until the 5th Dynasty (ca 2500 BC) that the power of the Pharaohs declined and the city became Heliopolis, ruled by the Egyptian priests.

The Romans and then the Arabs both conquered and ruled the city for some time. It was in the 14th century under the Mamaluks that Cairo became a true metropolis unrivaled anywhere else in the world. By the 17th century under Ottoman rule, it began a long decline that was not reversed until the mid-19th century under Mohamed Ali Pasha. From 1882 to 1926, Cairo and the rest of Egypt was ruled by the British.

Cairo Population Growth

Cairo has seen rapid growth over the last few decades, in large part because of a huge gap between the birth rate (30 births/1,000 people) and the death rate (7 deaths/1,000 people.) Cairo struggles with many health issues, including malnutrition, bacterial infection, and serious air pollution. Today, Cairo has one of the highest air pollution levels in the world and is believed to cause 2% of all deaths.

Cairo is an example of a third-world mega-city, with a population that is growing rapidly due to natural growth despite insufficient services.

Cairo Population in 2018Source: Haddara

Cairo Population Data (Urban Area)

Year Population Growth Rate (%) Growth
203024,502,0009.23%2,070,000
202522,432,0009.06%1,864,000
202020,568,0005.55%1,082,000
201719,486,0003.80%714,000
201518,772,00011.08%1,873,000
201016,899,00011.37%1,725,000
200515,174,00011.36%1,548,000
200013,626,00013.91%1,664,000
199511,962,00020.93%2,070,000
19909,892,00018.78%1,564,000
19858,328,00013.32%979,000
19807,349,00013.94%899,000
19756,450,00015.49%865,000
19705,585,00017.88%847,000
19654,738,00028.75%1,058,000
19603,680,00021.49%651,000
19553,029,00021.45%535,000
19502,494,0000.00%0
Cairo Population Growth

Cairo's 2017 population is now estimated at 19,486,000. In 1950, the population of Cairo was 2,494,000. Cairo has grown by 714,000 in the last year, which represents a 3.80% change. These population estimates and projections come from the latest revision of the UN World Urbanization Prospects. These estimates represent the Urban agglomeration of Cairo, which typically includes Cairo's population in addition to adjacent suburban areas.

Data Sources
  1. Egypt Data Portal - Egypt census data
  2. Population Council - Population Policy and Demographic Analysis
  3. World Urbanization Prospects - United Nations population estimates and projections of major Urban Agglomerations