In terms of historical significance, Cairo is one of the most important cities in the world. Its rich history goes back thousands of years, and the culture and structures that have survived bear witness to the numerous legends about the birth of a powerful city.
Shortly after unifying Upper and Lower Egypt, Menes, the first King-God of the Dynastic period, established the capital of Memphis in around 3100 BC. Many accounts suggest that Memphis predated Menes’ arrival and that it had a huge influence on Egypt’s Pharaonic history.
Memphis was Cairo’s birthplace. If lower Manhattan is to New York City, then Memphis is to Cairo. Although unlike lower Manhattan, Memphis is now deserted except for travelers who come to see the gigantic statue of Pharaoh Rameses II.
After Memphis, Giza, Heliopolis, and the Babylon-in-Egypt Byzantine fortress, Fustat was built to serve as a military stronghold for Arab troops. It became the Islamic world’s regional center during the Umayyad period. In 969 AD, Cairo (Al-Qahira) was founded as an imperial capital, although the actual administrative and economic capital was located in nearby Fustat.
However, after the destruction of Fustat in 1168-1169, Egypt’s administrative capital moved to Cairo. In the next centuries, Cairo absorbed other local cities, including Fustat. Soon, the city became a center of learning.
In 1250, the Mamluks (slave soldiers) got hold of Egypt and dominated Cairo until the Ottomans defeated them in 1517. By this period, Cairo was booming with high-rise apartment and commercial buildings.
From 1798 to 1801, Napoleon’s French army ruled Egypt. From 1805 to 1882, an Albanian officer, who was part of the Ottoman army, made the city the capital of an independent empire. The British then invaded Cairo until Egypt achieved its independence in 1922.
Over the centuries, the city has played host to Greeks, Romans, Turks, Arabs, the English, and the French, among others. Cairo is perhaps the most visited city in human history, with 2 million tourists marveling at the city’s wonders every day.