The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 feet) above sea level in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. The valley is historically termed as "Nepal Mandala" and has been the home of Newar culture, a cosmopolitan urban civilisation in the Himalayan foothills. The city was the royal capital of the Kingdom of Nepal and hosts palaces, mansions and gardens of the Nepalese aristocracy. It has been home to the headquarters of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) since 1985. Today, it is the seat of government of the Nepalese republic established in 2008; and is part of the Province No. 3 in Nepalese administrative geography.
Kathmandu is and has been for many years the centre of Nepal's history, art, culture and economy. It has a multiethnic population within a Hindu and Buddhist majority. It is also the home of the Newars. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu.
Tourism is an important part of the economy; in 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top ten upcoming travel destinations in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia. The city is the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas, and home to seven world heritage sites: the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur; the Stupas of Swayambhunath and Baudhanath; and the temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan. There are also seven casinos in the city.
Historic areas of Kathmandu were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25th April 2015 and are in the process of reconstruction.
Kathmandu is not the native name used by the indigenous Kathmandu Newar people of the valley. Yei is the classical Nepalese name for it. The Pahari name Kathmandu comes from Kasthamandap temple, that stood in Durbar Square. In Sanskrit, Kāṣṭha (काष्ठ) means "wood" and Maṇḍap (/मण्डप) means "covered shelter". This public pavilion, also known as Maru Satta: in the Newar language, was rebuilt in 1596 by Biseth in the period of King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The three-story structure was made entirely of wood and used no iron nails nor supports. According to legend, all the timber used to build the pagoda was obtained from a single tree. The structure collapsed during a major earthquake on 25 April 2015.
The colophons of ancient manuscripts, dated as late as the 20th century, refer to Kathmandu as Kāṣṭhamaṇḍap Mahānagar in Nepal Mandala. Mahānagar means "great city". The city is called "Kāṣṭhamaṇḍap" in a vow that Buddhist priests still recite to this day. Thus, Kathmandu is also known as Kāṣṭhamaṇḍap. During medieval times, the city was sometimes called Kāntipur (कान्तिपुर). This name is derived from two Sanskrit words – Kānti and pur. "Kānti" is a word that stands for "beauty" and is mostly associated with light and "pur" means place. Thus, giving it a meaning as "City of light".
Among the indigenous Newar people, Kathmandu is known as Yeṃ Deśa (येँ देश), and Patan and Bhaktapur are known as Yala Deśa (यल देश) and Khwopa Deśa (ख्वप देश). "Yen" is the shorter form of Yambu (यम्बु), which originally referred to the northern half of Kathmandu.[clarification needed]