Cairo, which means "The Vanquisher" or "The Triumphant," is the capital city of Egypt. While Al-Qahirah is the official name of the city, in Egyptian Arabic it is typically called simply by the name of the country, Masr. It has a metropolitan area population of officially about 16.1 million people. Cairo is the seventh most populous metropolitan area in the world. It is also the most populous metropolitan area in Africa.
Old Cairo or Al-Fustat was founded in AD 648 near other Egyptian cities and villages, including the old Egyptian capital Memphis, Heliopolis, Giza ,and the Byzantine fortress of Babylon-in-Egypt. However, Fustat was itself a new city built as a military garrison for Arab troops and was the closest central location to Arabia that was accessible to the Nile. Fustat became a regional center of Islam during the Umayyad period and was where the Umayyad ruler, Marwan II, made his last stand against the Abbasids. Later, during the Fatimid era, Al-Qahira (Cairo) was officially founded in AD 969 as an imperial capital and it absorbed Fustat. During its history various dynasties would add suburbs to the city and construct important structures that became known throughout the Islamic world including the Al-Azhar mosque. Conquered by Saladin and ruled by Ayyubids starting in 1171, it remained an important center of the Muslim world. Slave soldiers or Mamluks seized Egypt and ruled from their capital at Cairo from 1250 to 1517 when they were defeated by the Ottomans. Following Napoleon's brief occupation, an Ottoman officer named Muhammad Ali made Cairo the capital of an independent empire that lasted from 1801 to 1882. The city came under British control until Egypt attained independence in 1922.
Today, Greater Cairo encompasses various historic towns and modern districts into one of the most populous cities 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.
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.
JOURNEYS trips that include Cairo:
Ancient Wonders of Egypt
Egypt Desert Oases & the Nile Valley
Cairo to Casablanca Overland Adventure from Oct. 13-Nov. 23, 2007 with Will Weber
Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo