Cairo is the capital city of Egypt (and previously the United Arab Republic) and is located at 30°2' North, 31°13' East (30.03333, 31.21667). Close by is almost every Egypt Pyramid, such as the Great Pyramids of Giza on the very edge of the city. But there are also ancient temples, tombs, Christian churches, magnificent Muslim monuments, and of course, the Egyptian Antiquities Museum all either within or nearby the city.
Al-Qāhirah is the official name of the city though in local speech it is typically called simply by the name of the country, Misr pronounced Masr in the local dialect. The name Al-Qahirah literally means "The Subduer," though it's often translated as "The Victorious." The origin of the name is said to come from the appearance of the planet Mars during the foundation of the city. The planet Mars, associated with destruction was called "Al Najm Al Qahir" in Arabic, from which the name of the city was derived. However the legacy of the name evolved into the title "Qahirat Al Adaa" meaning "subduer of the enemies". This title was given to the city as many armies were destroyed in attempts to invade Cairo or defeated elsewhere by troops sent from Cairo.
Cairo incorporates an entire medieval section, which is now a popular neighborhood and contains important buildings of Islamic architecture. The current location of Cairo was too far from the ancient course of the Nile to support a city. Just to the south of the modern city's location are the ruins of Memphis, which was the capital of Ancient Egypt and was founded in around 3100 BC by Menes of Tanis after he had united the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, although the capital later moved to Heliopolis, further south to Thebes, and, under the Ptolemaic dynasty, Alexandria.
The first settlement on the location of modern Cairo was a Roman fort, known as Babylon Fort, built about AD 150, built near the settlement known as Babylon-in-Egypt, which lay close to an ancient Egyptian canal from the Nile to the Red Sea.
A small town mostly of Coptic Christians slowly grew around the fort. Arab invaders, lead by Amr Ibn-el-As, took the fort town in 642 and also established their army in the location, rebuilding its defenses. The Arab tented camp outside the fortress, known as Al-Fustat, slowly became the permanent base of the Arab forces in Egypt under the Umayyads and Abbasids, and contains the first mosque in Africa.
Slowly, the settlement grew into a small city. The North African Shiite Fatimid Dynasty conquered Egypt in 972 and built a new capital, Al-Mansureya, north of the old settlement. Their leader, Al-Muez Ledin-Ellah, renamed the city Al-Qahirah.
The Al-Azhar mosque was founded the same year along with its accompanying university it made Cairo a centre of learning and philosophy. It is believed that Cairo was the largest city in the world from 1315 to 1348. But power was shifting from the Arab world north to the Turks and Europeans.
In 1517 the city was taken by the Ottoman Empire under Selim I, but the ruling Mameluks quickly returned to power as nominal vassals to the Ottoman Sultan.
The family of 26th Ottoman sultan Selim III died on the way to Medina. Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1798, and Cairo was quickly surrendered to him by its Mameluk rulers. Napoleon left Egypt after his fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Aboukir Bay in August 1798, leaving General Klιber in charge. Klιber was assassinated in 1800.
The first hints of westernization began under the successors to Mehemet Ali with the introduction of a railway connection to Alexandria in 1851. Significant change, however, did not occur until the reign of Isma'il Pasha when, in 1863, construction of the Suez Canal brought significant numbers of westerners to Egypt.
The era of colonization in 1882 saw the rebuilding of Cairo continuing. Today, Cairo is Africa's most populous city and the Arab world's cultural centre. Since the 19th century Cairo has also become a center for tourism as people from around the world have come to see the monuments and artifacts of Ancient Egypt, especially the Pyramids.
uk.holidaysguide.yahoo.com/ p-travelguide-36667-cairo_history-i - 31k
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
Comment on this article!