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Cairo and the Giza Plateau

QUESTION: Cairo and the Giza Plateau


Cairo, called al-Qahira in Arabic, meaning “the victorious,” is the capital of Egypt. With a population of approximately 7 million in the city and 18 million in the surrounding metro area, Cairo is the largest city in Africa and the entire Arab world. The actual city of Cairo was founded in 969 AD, but the history of settlement in the area goes back millennia. To the southwest is the ancient capital of Memphis, while to the northeast the ancient city of On, or Heliopolis. Memphis, according to Herodotus, the first historian, was established by Pharaoh Menes in about 3000 BC. The area was continually settled, and in the 4th century AD the Romans built the Babylon Fortress within the bounds of modern-day Cairo. Settlements continued to be founded and eventually all merged into Cairo.

Cairo and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
One of the biggest attractions in Cairo is the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, housing an estimated 120,000 items, and undoubtedly the most comprehensive and rich museum on ancient Egypt in the entire world. The museum houses important artifacts such as the Merneptah Stele (containing the earliest mention of Israel on any document), statues, and even mummies of famous Pharaohs such as Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, and Ramses II. Hatshepsut is thought by some to be the stepmother of Moses and the others are candidates for the Exodus Pharaoh. The main attraction of the museum is the Tutankhamen exhibit, containing many of the treasures found in his nearly intact tomb -- chariots, gloves, jewelry, and the famous gold mask. Soon the museum will move to a new site on the Giza Plateau. The Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza is planned for completion in 2013, which will be significantly larger, more modern, and better organized.

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