Cairo is the capital city of Egypt. With a population of approximately 8 million people in the city and nearly 18 million in the greater metropolitan area, it is the most populous city on the African continent and one of the world’s largest. Founded by Fatimid caliphs in 969 AD as a royal enclosure, its Arabic name is Al-Qahirah, “the victorious.” The name had to do with an appearance by the planet Mars, the “destroyer planet,” at the time the city was established. There is also a Persian word, carro, meaning an army encampment.
The country’s capital had been Alexandria, then was moved to Fustat, which was near Cairo and was soon absorbed by it. Cairo became the administrative capital of Egypt in the 12th century after Fustat was destroyed to prevent its capture during the Crusades and, after occupation by Mamluks, Ottomans, the French and the British, remains the capital to this day.
Visitors to Cairo can see its many sights, including the Citadel of Saladin and Mosque of Muhammad Ali, tour the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, shop in traditional souks, enjoy colorful folkloric music and dance, and tour many beautiful mosques, Coptic churches and synagogues. And travelers will not want to miss a trip out to nearby Sakkara, home of the step pyramid of Djoser, and Giza, where they will find the three Great Pyramids and the mysterious Sphinx. These artifacts comprise part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Memphis and its Necropolis.