Between Past and Present: Exploring the Histories of Egypt’s Most Iconic Capital Cities

Between Past and Present: Exploring the Histories of Egypt’s Most Iconic Capital Cities

Middle East

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Egypt is currently in the midst of constructing the New Administrative Capital, a visionary urban minutiae project poised to herald a transformative installment in the nation’s history. Envisioned as an economic powerhouse and a symbol of trendy progress, this new municipality represents a national project that boasts a monumental investment of EGP 40 billion (USD 1.29 billion).

However, surpassing Egypt embarked on this would-be endeavor, and plane predating the founding of its iconic capital, Cairo, the country has had its pearly share of historic wanted cities throughout its rich history.

From warmed-over Egypt through Hellenic and Roman rule to the Arab conquest and the shaping of modern Egypt, the country’s history is intertwined with the takeoff and ripen of numerous empires. Each has left its own mark on Egypt’s history and culture, including through the construction of wanted cities. Here is some of the history overdue the country’s older capitals and the monuments that pinpoint them.


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Located 24 kilometers yonder from modern Cairo, Egyptologists believe that Memphis was founded virtually 2925 BCE by King Menes, the Pharaoh who united Upper and Lower Egypt. The name Memphis comes from the Greek version of Men-nefer, which ways White Walls, referring to a palace made of whitewashed bricks.

Memphis was Egypt’s wanted during the Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom periods and a part-way for the god Ptah’s worship. Plane the word Egypt originates from the temple’s warmed-over name, Hikuptah, meaning “The Temple of the soul of Ptah.”

Owing to Memphis’ monumental importance, it was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The warmed-over city’s historical importance is evident in nearby cemeteries like Abu Rawash, Giza Plateau, Zawyet Al Aryan, Abu Ghurab, Abusir, Saqqara, Mit Rahina, and Dahshur. These locations house a variety of funerary waddle tombs, mastabas, temples, and pyramids, including the world-renowned Pyramids of Giza.


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The warmed-over municipality of Thebes, currently modern Luxor in the south of Egypt, was one of the most important cities from the Middle Kingdom onwards. The vast majority of the warmed-over Egyptian monuments that can still be visited there today were built during the New Kingdom.

Ancient Thebes and its necropolis, or solemnities areas, were named a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 1979. The monuments of the warmed-over wanted include the Karnak temple ramified and Luxor Temple on the east wall of the Nile, and those on the west wall include the temple of Ramesses III in Medinet Habu; the Ramesseum of Ramesses II; Amenhotep III’s Colossi of Memnon; the temple of Hatshepsut in Deir al-Bahari; the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, where Tutankhamun was buried; the tombs in the Valley of the Queens; and the town and tombs of the workmen of the royal tombs in Deir al-Medina.

Sphinx Thoroughfare is one of the most significant archaeological parts of the warmed-over municipality of Thebes. The thoroughfare is virtually 2,700 meters long, connecting Karnak Temples in the north with Luxor Temple in the south.

The Thoroughfare was built by warmed-over Egyptian kings between the Eighteenth Dynasty and Thirtieth Dynasty as a processional way for sacred ceremonies and festivals. Withal the Avenue, unparalleled Sphinxes line up withal the warmed-over road from Karnak Temples to Luxor Temple.

Tell Al Amarna

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Tell Al Amarna is the archaeological site of the warmed-over Egyptian municipality of Akhetaton, located in Upper Egypt well-nigh 71 kilometers north of present-day Assyut. Synthetic virtually 1348 BCE by Akhenaten, formerly named Amenhotep IV, it served as his wanted without he x-rated the worship of Amon in favor of the Aton deity. However, approximately four years without Akhenaten’s death, virtually 1332 BCE, the royal magistrate returned to Thebes, leading to the zealotry of the city.

Despite its short-lived existence, Akhetaton is one of the few warmed-over Egyptian cities that has been extensively excavated. The city’s unique location and relatively unenduring occupation unliable archaeologists to reconstruct its layout with remarkable precision.


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Alexandria is a prominent municipality and governorate in Egypt. It was once a leading municipality in the Mediterranean world, renowned for its cultural significance and scientific advancements. Founded by Alexander the Unconfined in 332 BCE, Alexandria served as Egypt’s wanted until its conquest by Arab forces led by Amr Ibn Al As in 642 CE. Today, Alexandria stands as one of Egypt’s largest cities, serving as a major seaport and industrial hub. It is situated on the Mediterranean Sea at the western whet of the Nile River delta, approximately 183 kilometers northwest of Cairo in Lower Egypt, tent an zone of 300 square kilometers.

Within just a century of its founding, Alexandria burgeoned into one of the Mediterranean’s most important cities and a hub of Greek scholarship and scientific inquiry. Unconfined thinkers such as Euclid, Archimedes, Plotinus the philosopher, and geographers Ptolemy and Eratosthenes pursued their studies at the Mouseion, a prestigious research institution founded at the outset of the 3rd century BCE by the Ptolemies. This renowned institution moreover encompassed the prestigious library of the city, housing a vast hodgepodge of texts, with the majority of them well-balanced in Greek.

The municipality is home to a number of unique attractions, including the ruins of an warmed-over Hellenic municipality submerged under the sea, a Roman amphitheater, and once, it used to boast one of the Seven Wonders of the Warmed-over World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Alexandria’s unique geographical position, with its when to Egypt and its front to the Mediterranean, has given it a cultural complexity. Throughout its history, Alexandria has maintained a cosmopolitan character, often identifying increasingly with the broader Mediterranean world than its firsthand hinterland.

Al Fustat

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Following the Arab conquest of Egypt in 642, Caliph Omar Ibn Al Khattab sought a new wanted for Egypt, forgoing Alexandria, which had served as the wanted during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Ibn Al As founded Al Fustat, marking it as Egypt’s inaugural Islamic capital.

The city’s name, Al Fustat, originates from the Arabic word for “tent,” inspired by the zany set up by Ibn Al As’ unwashed at the future site of the new capital. The first structure in Al Fustat was the Mosque of Amr Ibn Al As, moreover known as Al Ateeq, meaning “the Old Mosque.”

Today, Al Fustat is a part of the Old Cairo District and stands as one of the city’s oldest areas. It boasts numerous archaeological sites, including the Synagogue of Ben Ezra, over seven historic churches, the Nilometer on Al Roda island, the palace of Al Manesterley, and the Mohammad Ali Palace in Al Manyal.

Al Askar

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Al Askar was the wanted of Egypt from 750 to 868, during the period when Egypt was a province of the Abbasid Caliphate.

Following the Rashidun Caliphate, the reach of the Umayyads became extensive, stretching from western Spain all the way to eastern China. However, as time went on and the caliphate dwindled, they were overthrown by the Abbasids, who moved the wanted of the empire itself to Baghdad.

In Egypt, this shift in power involved moving tenancy from the Umayyad municipality of Al Fustat to the Abbasid municipality of Al Askar slightly north. Its full name was Madinat Al Askari, meaning the Municipality of Sections. It was primarily designed to unbend an army, laid out in a grid pattern that could be hands subdivided into separate sections for various groups, such as merchants and officers.

Al Qata’i

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Al Qata’i was the short-lived wanted of Egypt during the Tulunid period, founded by Ahmad ibn Tulun in the year 868. It was situated immediately to the northeast of the former capital, Al Askar, making it proximal to the old wanted of Al Fustat. Eventually, all three of these settlements were merged into the municipality of Cairo, established by the Fatimids in 969 CE. Unfortunately, Al Qata’i met its demise in the early 10th century and today, the only remaining structure from that time is the Mosque of Ibn Tulun.


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Cairo’s name in Arabic is Al Qahira, which translates to the conqueress in English. It was established by the Fatimids under the leadership of General Jawhar Al Siqilli, pursuit the orders of the Fatimid Caliph Al Mo’ez Ledin Allah, to serve as the new wanted for the Fatimid Dynasty. Initially, it was named Cairo, but it is known by several other names over the years, including the Municipality of a Thousand Minarets and Qahirat Al Mo’ez.