Two miles N.E. of Cairo and on the edge of the desert is the suburb of Abbasia (named after the viceroy Abbas), connected with the city by a continuous line of houses. Abbasia is now largely a military colony, the cavalry barracks being the old palace of Abbas Pasha. In these barracks Arabi Pasha surrendered to the British on the 14th of September 1882, the day after the battle of Tel el-Kebir. Mataria, a village 3 m. farther to the N.E., is the site of the defeat of the Mamelukes by the Turks in 1517, and of the defeat of the Turks by the French under General Kleber in 1800. At Mataria was a sycamore-tree, the successor of a tree which decayed in 1665, venerated as being that beneath which the Holy Family, rested on their flight into Egypt. This tree was blown down in July 1906 and its place taken by a cutting made from the tree some years previously. Less than a mile N.E. of Mataria are the scanty remains of the ancient city of On or Heliopolis. The chief monument is an obelisk, about 66 ft. high, erected by Usertesen I. of the XIIth dynasty.
A residential suburb, named Heliopolis, containing many fine buildings, was laid out between Mataria and Abbasia during 1905-10.
On the west bank of the Nile, opposite the southern end of Roda Island, is the small town of Giza or Gizeh, a fortified place of considerable importance in the times of the Mamelukes. In the viceregal palace here the museum of Egyptian antiquities was housed for several years (1889-1902). The grounds of this palace have been converted into zoological gardens. A broad, tree-bordered, macadamized road, along which run electric trams, leads S.S.W. across the plain to the Pyramids of Giza, 5 m. distant, built on the edge of the desert.
Fourteen miles S. of Cairo and connected with it by railway is the town of Helwan, built in the desert 3 m. E. of the Nile, and much frequented by invalids on account of its sulphur baths, which are owned by the Egyptian government. A khedivial astronomical observatory was built here in 1903-1904, to take the place of that at Abbasia, that site being no longer suitable in consequence of the northward extension of the city. The ruins of Memphis are on the E. bank of the Nile opposite Helwan.
The inhabitants are of many diverse races, the various nationalities being frequently distinguishable by differences in dress as well as in physiognomy and colour. In the oriental quarters of the city the curious shops, the markets of different trades (the shops of each trade being generally congregated in one street or district), the easy merchant sitting before his shop, the musical and quaint street-cries of the picturesque vendors of fruit, sherbet, water, etc., with the ever-changing and many-coloured throng of passengers, all render the streets a delightful study for the lover of Arab life, nowhere else to be seen in such perfection, or with so fine a background of magnificent buildings. The Cairenes, or native citizens, differ from the fellahin in having a much larger mixture of Arab blood, and are at once keener witted and more conservative than the peasantry. The Arabic spoken by the middle and higher classes is generally inferior in grammatical correctness and pronunciation to that of the Bedouins of Arabia, but is purer than that of Syria or the dialect spoken by the Western Arabs. Besides the Cairenes proper, who are largely engaged in trade or handicrafts, the inhabitants include Arabs, numbers of Nubians and Negroes - mostly labourers or domestics in nominal slavery - and many Levantines, there being considerable colonies of Syrians and Armenians. The higher classes of native society are largely of Turkish or semi-Turkish descent.
Of other races the most numerous are Greeks, Italians, British, French and Jews. Bedouins from the desert frequent the bazaars.
At the beginning of the 19th century the population was estimated at about 200,000, made up of 120,000 Moslems, 60,000 Copts, 4000 Jews and 16,000 Greeks, Armenians and "Franks." In 1882 the population had risen to 374,000, in 1897 to 570,062, and in 1907, including Helwan and Mataria, the total population was 654,476, of whom 46,507 were Europeans.