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date: 18 October 2019

Cairo [al-Qahira; Fr. Le Caire, Ger. Kairo; colloquial Arab. Miṣr, Maṣr]locked

  • Wladysław B. Kubiak,
  • Doris Behrens-Abouseif,
  • Caroline Williams
  •  and Bernard O’Kane


[al-Qahira; Fr. Le Caire, Ger. Kairo; colloquial Arab. Miṣr, Maṣr]

Capital city of Egypt. Founded in ad 641 as al-Fustat, it was successively the seat of the Tulunid, Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk family dynasties. Following the Ottoman conquest in 1517, it remained one of the pre-eminent centres of Arab culture and is now the largest metropolis in the Arab world.

Cairo is strategically sited at the meeting of Lower and Upper Egypt, at the head of the Nile Delta and at the crossing of ancient routes that linked Arabia and Syria–Palestine with North Africa and Mediterranean coastal centres with inner Africa. The main urban area of Fustat, the old city, extended about 6 km along the eastern bank of the Nile between its course and the scarp of the desert plateau (al-Muqattam) overlooking the valley (see fig.). The later satellite towns of al-‛Askar, al-Qata’i‛ and al-Qahira extended several kilometres further north. Western and northern parts of the city were located on low and flat alluvial grounds created as the course of the Nile moved to the west over the centuries, while the eastern and southern quarters were rocky and gradually rose eastwards towards the slopes of the Muqattam (h. 200 m), the lower extensions of which were the hills of the citadel and the Istabl ‛Antar....

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Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1954–)