Cairo has stood for more than 1,000 years on the banks of the Nile and has long been a cultural capital of the Middle East. Today, the city displays an extensive bazaar and a semi-walled medieval city endowed with more than 400 registered historic monuments. The origins of the city can be traced back to the Egyptian capital of Memphis, where the Romans constructed their city Babylon, renamed by Muslim Arabs Al Fustat. When in 969 A.D. the Fatimid dynasty conquered Egypt, present-day Cairo was established as the new headquarters and capital when Al Qahir, ‘the Victorious’ (referring to planet Mars), was in the ascendant; hence the name Al Qahira, the pronunciation of which Europeans corrupted to Cairo. The Fatimids did not remain in power long, but their city flourished and became known as the Mother of the World. When Ismail the Magnificent came to power in the 19th century, he was determined to renovate the city with an international cachet, so he invited architects from Belgium, France, and Italy to design a new European-style Cairo.
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