|Other names of Cairo:
Al Qaira (Standard transliteration of Arabic), Masr (name
used by locals, meaning Egypt)
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Cairo (Arabic: القاهرة
translit: al-Qāhirah), It comes from the arabic word "قاهرة" means "Triumphant", It is the capital city of Egypt (previously the United Arab Republic). It has a metropolitan area population of approximately 15.2 million people. Cairo is the seventeenth most populous metropolitan area in the world (the 10th according to 2004 statistics). Cairo is also the most populous metropolitan area and the most populous city in Africa. The city is located at 30°2' North, 31°13' East (30.03333, 31.21667). 
While al-Qāhirah is the official name of the city, in local speech it is typically called simply by the name of the country, Miṣr (Arabic, مصر) pronounced Maṣr in the local dialect.
Cairo was founded in AD 969. However, to claim that Cairo is merely a thousand years old is in fact historically inaccurate. The city's long journey across history started more than four millennia ago. Throughout the ages, it managed to survive many rurlers, including Egyptian Pharaohs, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. The city assumed various names: Memphis, Heliopolis, Babylon-in-Egypt, Al-Fustat, Al-Qatta'i, Al-Askar, and most recently, Al-Qahira. In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus visited the then 2000 year-old Pyramids as a tourist. By that time, ancient Egyptian civilization had generated more than thirty dynasties. Later, Cairo witnessed the rise and fall of the Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, French, and British Empires. It played major roles in the history of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was here that the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus rested after their long journey from Palestine, and that the first Islamic mosque in Africa was built by Amr ibn al-A'as. Cairo is at least twice as old as Paris, 7 times as old as Berlin, and 15 times as old as New York City.
Today, Greater Cairo encompasses various historic towns and modern districts into one of the most populous city|the largest metropolis in the world. A journey through Cairo is a virtual time travel: from the Pyramids, Saladin's Citadel, the Virgin Mary's Tree, the Sphinx, and ancient Heliopolis, to Al-Azhar, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-A'as, Saqqara, the Hanging Church, and the Cairo Tower. With an estimated population of more than 15 million, Cairo is the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. It is the Capital of Egypt, and indeed its history is carefully intertwined with that of the country. Today, Cairo's official name is Al-Qahira (Cairo), but to Egyptians, it is simply Masr:
Era of the Pharaohs (BC 3500 - BC 30)
Long before the pyramids were built, Egypt's northern and southern territories were ruled separately. It was about 5000 years ago that a young prince by the name of Narmer (Menes) unified the Red (North) and White (South) kingdoms to become Egypt's first Pharaoh. As brilliant a politician as he was a warrior, Narmer chose the site of Memphis as his capital. The city was situated at the then Nile Delta tip, along the North-South border, and about 25 km south of today's downtown Cairo. For the next 800 years or so, the first Capital of the Pharaohs prospered under the rule of Zoser, Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), Menkaure (Mycerinus), Unas, and others. She became the most influential and powerful city in the world, and housed the always and forever World Wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza. Constructed on the Giza plateau, a necropolis of the city of Memphis on the Nile's west bank, the three Great Pyramids are the ultimate manifestation of political stability and power of the Ruler during the Third and Fourth
The Romans (BC 30 - AD 641)
No one knows the origin of the name of Babylon-in-Egypt. It may be a corrupted version of the ancient Egyptian per-hapi-n-on, or Nile House of On, a nearby Island. It might have come from the Arabic Bab-ila-on, or gateway to On. Or it may be simply a name the Babylonian prisoners of Pharaoh Sesostris gave to the place. Anyway, Babylon-in-Egypt was more a strategic spot than an intellectual center. With the re-opening of the canal joining the Nile to the Red Sea, the town became the gateway to Persia and India. Control over the Fortress of Babylon therefore meant control over trade. And while Alexandria was the political and intellectual capital of Egypt under the Greeks and the Romans, Babylon became its military stronghold. The year 30 B.C. marked a significant turning point in the history of Egypt and the world at large. It was the year when the victorious Octavian (Augustus) entered Alexandria. His former ally and rival Mark Antony died, and Cleopatra ended her own life, realizing that her time was over. Although Cleopatra was of Greek descent, she, like her ancestors, ruled Egypt as and Egyptian. She was both Queen and Pharaoh. With her death, Egypt simple became just another Roman province, a Roman granary rather than a world power.
The Islamic Conquering (641 - 969)
In AD 640, the Moslem army, commanded by a skillful warrior, politician, and poet by the name of Amr Ibn-el-Aas, besieged the Fortress of Babylon. It was a matter of time before the Viceroy of Egypt, Cyrus, agreed to peacefully surrender the Fortress, and less than a year later, the Capital city Alexandria. Amr became the first Arab ruler of Egypt and remained so until his death. Even tough the Arabs admired Alexandria's glamor and wealth, they decided to abandon the city. The reason is simple: no body of water was to separate the Egyptian Capital from the Caliph's residence in Medina. Al-Fustat was therefore founded on the East bank of the Nile, outside the walls of the Fortress of Babylon. Deriving its name from the Arabic (and Roman) word for "camp" or "tent", the town was built at the spot where the Arabs camped during the Fortress siege. Here, the first Mosque in Africa was built, carrying the name of the Arab general, Amr. The new Capital grew slowly as Alexandria declined. With the re-opening of the Red Sea Canal, Al-Fustat became the linking bridge between the East and the West. In AD 661, a power struggle took place over the Islamic Caliphate, and Amr, the cunning politician, sided with the powerful Umayyads who ruled from Damascus, and even played a major role in legitimizing their reign. Egypt remained since loyal to the Umayyads until the collapse of their rule.
The Triumphant City (969 - 1168)
It was in the Tenth Century that the Abbasid Caliphate was again challenged. This time, the new leader was a Shiite who established his strong political and military platform in Tunisia and moved eastward. His legitimacy was supported by his claim (whether or not true) of being a direct descendent of the prophet Mohammed's daughter, Fatima. His name was Al-Muez Ledin-Ellah, he who strengthens the religion of Allah, or "Al-Muez" for short. In 969, he sent his most skilled general Gawhar, or Jewel, on a campaign to capture Egypt. Gawhar was a former slave from Sicily who converted to Islam. Let us stop here for a while and elaborate on the status of slavery in the Islamic Empire. Strictly speaking, in the Islamic religion, only prisoners of war are to be taken as slaves. By the Tenth Century, however, young men and women from neighboring territories such as the Caucasus and Central Asia were constantly kidnapped and sold in markets. With these two "abundant" sources, the slave market was quite active in the Middle East and North Africa during the Abbasid Caliphate. Unlike in the Western World, slaves in the Islamic Empire were civil servants rather than hard labor workers. Their status would tremendously rise if they converted to Islam. The younger were treated like family members, and the older would become confidants, civil servants, political aides, and even military officers, such as Gawhar. Even Egypt's famous governor Ahmad Ibn-Tulun was the son of a slave, while Kafoor was a former slave himself.
The Age of Saladin and the Crusades (1168 - 1250)
The last Fatimid Caliph was only eighteen when the Seljuks captured Cairo. The Seljuks who came originally form Central Asia had already conquered Syria and Palestine, and established their Capital in Damascus. By 1168, Egypt had become a battle ground between the Seljuks and the Crusaders, with the Fatimids having virtually little or no control, although they sided mostly with the Crusaders. It was in 1168 that the victorious Shirkoh entered Cairo, and was named governor of Egypt by the Sultan of Damascus, Noor-el-Din. When he died a year later, his nephew was immediately appointed as the next governor. He was young - in his early thirties - and full of will. Quickly, he would become one of the most famous figures in Medieval history. His name was Salah-el-Din the Ayyubid, better known in Western history as Saladin.
Ruled by the Mamelouk (1250 - 1517)
When Saladin established his rule over Cairo, his Seljuk army was mainly composed of slaves and former slaves who had climbed up the ranks. They were mostly Caucasians (i.e. from the Caucasus region) or Central Asians who were captured in military raids or, in most instances, kidnapped by slave merchants. The military power of the men slaves had been on the rise since the early Abbasid rule, but their political influence tremendously increased when Saladin rewarded them extravagantly for their loyalty. They were granted ranches and palaces, and some became governors. Women slaves usually became part of the Sultan or ruler's harem, and had even more influence over politics and internal palace matters. These slaves became known as the Mamelouks (lit. Owned), and the term extended to include former slaves who were often freed to become aides and viziers. Shagaret-el-Dorr (Tree of Pearls) was the former slave and the wife of Al-Saleh, the last Ayyubid Sultan. When he died in 1249, and with no strong successor within the Ayyubid house, Shagaret-el-Dorr became monarch. The Mamelouk lady would be the last woman to rule Egypt to this day. She ruled singlehandedly for 80 days, but was later pressured into marrying the Mamelouk chief officer, Aybeck, in order to "keep things in perspective". She continued, however, to rule Egypt, and even had her husband assassinated when he wanted to marry another woman. Shortly after, she herself was killed by her fellow Mamelouks who decided she had "gone too far".
Osmaniye's Age ( Sultans and Mamelouks ) (1517 - 1798)
Under the rule of the Ottomans, the Mamelouks did not cease to exercise their power. As the Ottoman empire expanded, the new world power adopted a government model that consisted of three authorities: local, military, and political. In Egypt, they realized that the power of the Mamelouks was strong enough to subdue the local people, yet not too strong to revolt against the Grande Porte, or the Ottoman Sultan. The Mamelouks were, therefore, left in charge of local affairs. Feudal Lords or Mamelouk Beys were appointed to each of Egypt's districts, and, in order to ensure no revolt attempt on the part of the Mamelouks, the Ottomans stationed their own soldiers, the Janissaries and the Azabs, in Cairo. Both orders consisted of soldiers, much like the Mamelouks, enslaved at a young age, raised as fighters, and appointed to high military, political, and civil posts. The Janissaries were among the most skillful of fighters. It was to them that Constantinople fell in 1453.
However, the ultimate political power was, at least theoretically, in the hands of the main authority, the Pasha, a Turk governor usually educated in Istanbul. In several occasions, Pashas were overruled by powerful Mamelouk Beys, who were subsequently subdued by the Ottoman troops, who received their orders from the Sultan, and so on. To the Sultans, what mattered most in the provinces was tax collection rather than political power. Meanwhile, little was being done to improve the social and economic status of Egypt or its capital city.
French and British domination (1798 - 1952)
It was in the summer of 1797 that Napoleon's
army landed in Alexandria and advanced to Cairo. Murad Bey and Ibrahim
Bey, the Mamelouk rulers of Egypt, sent a messenger with a small tribute
and asked the French general to leave the country. They had never heard
of Napoleon before. The French captured Cairo with little resistance
shortly after. Much is to be taken against the French during their
three-year occupation, from their mistreatment of Egyptian citizens to
their invasion of Al-Azhar mosque. However, one has to acknowledge that
it was during their presence that Egypt came out of its long dark age.
Champollion the father of Egyptology, deciphered the Ancient Egyptian
writings on the famous Rosetta Stone. The French also established the
"Institut d'Egypte", built schools and colleges, and wrote
"Description d'Egypte", the most comprehensive reference on
the country's geography and culture. Under Mohamed Ali's rule, Cairo
prospered both economically and culturally. Not only was the
infrastructure of the city rebuilt, but a new city center was also
planned according to European standards. This new city center, today
occupies the downtown Tahrir Square, Garden City, and Azbakeya. It was
constructed over a swampy flood plain stretching between Ramses Square
and the Nile by French city planners and engineers. A new mosque, the
Mohamed Ali Mosque, was erected within the walls of Saladin's Citadel,
and barrages were constructed along the Nile near the city. Cotton was
introduced and soon became the country's main crop, thereby boosting the
economy. During the six-year reign of Mohamed Ali's grandson, Abbas, the
first railway line was constructed between Alexandria and Cairo, soon to
be followed by a railroad network covering the Delta and Upper Egypt
with Cairo at its center. Much of the hydraulic and transportation
infrastructure built during that period is still operating to this day.
Cairo is located on the banks and islands of the Nile River in the north of Egypt, immediately south of the point where the river leaves its desert-bound valley and breaks into two branches into the low-lying Nile Delta region.
The oldest part of the city is somewhat east of the river. There, the city gradually spreads west, engulfing the agricultural lands next to the Nile. These western areas, built on the model of Paris by Ismail the Magnificent in the mid-19th century, are marked by wide boulevards, public gardens, and open spaces. The older eastern section of the city is very different: having grown up haphazardly over the centuries it is filled with small lanes and crowded tenements. While western Cairo is dominated by the government buildings and modern architecture, the eastern half is filled with hundreds of ancient mosques that act as landmarks.
Extensive water systems have also allowed the city to expand east into the desert. Bridges link the Nile islands of Gezira and Roda, where many government buildings are located and government officials live. Bridges also cross the Nile attaching the city to the suburbs of Giza and Imbabah (part of the Cairo conurbation).
West of Giza, in the desert, is part of the ancient necropolis of Memphis on the Giza plateau, with its three large pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza Approximately 11 miles (18 km) to the south of modern Cairo is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis and adjoining necropolis of Saqqara. These cities were Cairo's ancient predecessors, when Cairo was still in this approximate geographical location.