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 metro 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.
Population Density of Cairo
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 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. There are more foreigners from the United States, the United Kingdom, and several Arab countries.
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 people 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 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-Qatari, Al-Askar and more by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. 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 Mamluks that Cairo became a true metropolis unrivaled anywhere else in the world. By the 17th century under the Ottoman rule, it began a long decline that was not reversed until the mid-19th century under Muhammad Ali Pasha. From 1882 to 1926, Cairo and the rest of Egypt were ruled by the British.
Cairo Population Growth
In 1882 the area had a population of 347,838. By 1947 the population had leaped to over 2.09 million residents.
Cairo has seen rapid growth over the last few decades, in large part because of a massive 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 severe 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.