Cairo is the capital city of Egypt. Locals call this ancient city Umm ad-Dunya which means the Mother of the World. Cairo is also the largest city in all of Africa and the Middle East, as well as the thirteenth largest city in the world in terms of size and population (25 million people live in Cairo). It is situated on the bank of the river Nile, on the south point where this river is divided into two different flows. Founded in the Pharaonic era under the name of Heliopolis, Cairo has been the protagonist of different cultures and religions over the centuries and is one of the oldest cities in the world.
In Cairo’s ancient area, where the Roman-Byzantine fortified city of Babylon once stood, there are numerous religious buildings witnessing the great variety of cults throughout Egyptian history.
The first settlement on the territory of today’s Cairo was the Roman fortress called the Fortress of Babylon, built in 150 BC close to the old Egyptian channel that linked the Nile with the Red Sea. Coptic Christians used to live here who started building their own small town near the fortress. Arab invaders, led by a leader named Amr Ibn-el-As occupied the fortress in 642. The Fatimid dynasty conquered Egypt in 972 and a new city, Cairo, was founded in 969 (Fatimid Caliphate was an Ismaili Shia caliphate that stretched over a large area of North Africa, from the Red Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The dynasty of Arab origin ruled across the Mediterranean coast of Africa and ultimately made Egypt the center of their caliphate). The leader of Fatimid Caliphate, Abu Tamim Maad al-Muizz li-Dinillah, gave the name to the city Cairo – in Arabic Al-Qahirah, which means Mars (the planet Mars) because the planet Mars rose up into the sky the day the city was founded. With the arrival of Saladin (the first sultan of Egypt and Syria) in 1100, Cairo was further expanded and a massive fortress of Saladin was constructed.
In 1797 Napoleon troops conquered Egypt. However, the short lived French occupation lasted only three years and did not bring any significant changes to this country. During the rule of Mohamed Ali, Ottoman governor who ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1848, the great railway was constructed with the aim to connect the city of Cairo with Alexandria. In 1863 the construction of Suez Chanel began under the rule of Ismail Pascia. The final conqueror, British Empire formally occupied Egypt and controlled its government from 1882 to 1922. However, the last British forces retreated from Egypt only in 1956.
Today Cairo is the largest city in Africa. It is the city of incredible history and culture that keeps impressing every visitor. Historic monuments and tourist attractions are numerous in Cairo.
What to visit in Cairo? It is worth going up to the top of the Cairo Tower, 187 meters tall, (there is an elevator) to capture the spectacular view over the city. Visitors should also visit the famous Pyramids of Giza, Mosque of Muhammad Ali made of alabaster stone, Coptic district and a stunningly beautiful church of Saint Virgin Mary also called the “Hanging Church”, the bazaar of Khan El Khalili where, in an atmosphere oozing with oriental aromas, it is possible to find all kinds of goods: from multi-colored fabrics to reproductions of finds from the Pharaonic period, from glass objects to essences and perfumes kept in ornate bottles.
Cairo, in Arabic Al-Qahirah, means Mars (the planet Mars) because the planet Mars rose upwards into the sky the day the city was founded. Founded in the age of the Pharaohs under the name of Heliopolis, Cairo has been the centreground of different cultures and religions over the centuries and is one of the oldest cities in the world. Cultural heritage is truly remarkable in this city and its visitors may enjoy in monuments that are over 5.000 years old. Starting from fascinating pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian museum where visitors shall see the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s treasures brought from his burial chamber, Mosque of Muhammad Ali made of alabaster stone, Coptic district and stunningly beautiful church of Saint Virgin Mary also called the “Hanging church”, the bazaar of Khan El Khalili.
Luxor is situated on the east bank of the Nile, rising on the grounds of ancient Thebes, the capital of the Pharaohs. Today, the city has 506,588 inhabitants and is considered a real open-air museum. In fact, Luxor “owns” some wonders of Egypt, including the Colossi of Memnon, the funerary complex of Pharaoh Amenhotep, majestic temples, statues, buildings, pyramids and the two valleys of kings and queens. Dozens of tombs were found here, including the one of Pharaoh Ramses, in which hieroglyphics have been magnificently preserved for millennia.