Cairo, Egypt Introduction and History
Cairo’s architectural monuments rank among humanity’s great achievements. We must realize that its preservation is a matter of importance to the whole world, UNESCO has listed the Egyptian capital as one of the “Cities of human heritage”.
The concentration reflects the political situation of Islamic Egypt, which never had another capital outside the space occupied by the city we now call Cairo.
Historians describe a series of capital cities Al Fustat, Al Askar, AlQatami and Al Qahira. but all of these were within sight of one another and eventually became a single city.
Cairo has been the center of power in Egypt since 641 AD.
the area between Mosque of Amr in the south and Bab al Nasr and Bab al Futuh to the north is a Muslim Egypt was ruled from a single site. Outside this area, very few medieval buildings of interest have survived, while within it, a large number of Egypt’s medieval and post- Medieval Monuments stand, witnesses to more than eleven centuries of history.
Al Fustat, Al Askar, Al Qatami
What we today call Cairo or AlQahira, is an agglomeration of four cities founded within the area.
The name Alqahira didn’t exist until the last of these was created in 969 AD as Capital of Egypt under the Fatimids before this city came a succession of capitals beginning with al Fustat 641 AD, the Abbasid foundation of Al Askar 750 AD and the Tulunid establishment of Al Qatami 870AD.
after the Arab conquest of Egypt Al-Fustat was founded as the capital of Egypt. Its location was a strategic decision by the Caliph Umar Ibn Al Khattab in Medina, for although Alexandria was the capital of Egypt at the time of the conquest.
The new capital at the apex of the Nile Delta was strategically situated near the Roman fortress town of Babylon. At the intersection of Upper and Lower Egypt, this site allowed easy access to the Arabian Peninsula without crossing the Nile and its Delta branches
Amr Ibn Alas, reduce the ancient canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea, further facilitating communication with the caliphate in the Hejaz.
Receiving goods from Upper and Lower Egypt and from the Mediterranean and its Nile port in the 9th century, however, the Khalil or canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea was partially filled in, and all that was left was a pond southeast of the Delta called Birkatal Hajj, the first station on the caravan road to Mecca.
Fustat was founded in the early days of the Arab conquests and was typical of the garrison cities of Kufa and Basra in Iraq, it was an unplanned agglomeration that later crystallized into true urban form.
The Amr Mosque was in the center of Fustat, a simple building for the religious need of the troops, adjacent to it the commander’s house. The mosque overlooked the Nile, whose channel was much closer to it than it is now.
Fustat was occupied by various tribes of the Army of Conquest and Fustat was originally divided into distinct neighborhoods. This garrison gradually developed into a large town engulfing the town of Babylon around the Roman fortress.
In the following period, the two communities of Alfustat and al Askar, fused into large city designated simply as al Fustat, stretching to the Nile in the west and to the foot of the Muqattam hill to the east and north, the great mosque of al Askar had already disappeared in the Middle Ages.
Following the precedent set by the Abbasids in founding al Askar, later dynasties created for themselves new seats of power, each farther to the northeast, farther inland, and each more grandiose than the last.
Ahmed IbnTulun, sent to Egypt in 868 AD as the Abbasid caliph’s governor, soon asserted his independence, founding a new ruling dynasty (868-905) and new capital, Al Qatai (the wards), northeast of the Fustat al Askar complex.
A large palace was built by Ibn Tulun, The Tulunid age with its luxurious trappings came to an end in 905 AD when the Abbasid troops once again marched on Egypt, this time to re-establish order and replace the dynasty whose sovereigns had lived so sumptuously.
During this campaign, the entire city of al Qatami was razed to the ground except for IbnTulun’s aqueduct and his mosque, the oldest mosque in Egypt surviving in its original form.
The fourth palatial satellite city was born with the conquest of Egypt by the Fatimid’s, an Ismaili Shia dynasty originating in North Africa, the fourth Fatima caliph, al Muizz Li din Allah, with his general Jawhar al Siqilli, overthrew the Ikhshidids who had ruled Egypt between 934 and 969 AD. Egypt became the seat of the caliphate after its status rose with the invaders.
Jawhar accordingly began construction on the walls which were to enclose the new caliph residence Al Muizz first named the site al Mansuriyyaafter his father, the caliphal Mansur, the planet Mars, in ascendance when the signal was given to break ground for the new capital, the new construction was completed in 971 AD.
The two cities
Under the Fatimids al QAHIRA (Cairo) became the seat of power, a ceremonial, residential center where the caliph dwelt with his court and army but al Fustat remained the productive and economic center of Egypt.
The older city, by that time called simply Misr, had grown into a flourishing metropolis.