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The streets of Old Cairo at the turn of the 20th century

These photos of “The City of a Thousand Minarets” from the turn of the century to the 1930s capture it at a time of rapid sprawl and population growth, as its residents chafe against a British occupation which lasted from 1882 to 1956.

Located on the fertile floodplains of the Nile delta, the area of present-day Cairo (derived from al-Qahira, meaning “The Victorious”) has been inhabited since ancient times.

Over the centuries, it changed hands from the Romans, to the Fatimids, to the Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans. Military installations were erected to defend the strategic location, including the looming hilltop Citadel, commissioned by Saladin in 1176.

The Al-Azhar Mosque was dedicated in 972 shortly after the foundation of the city as the capital of the Fatimid Caliphate, and is today the second oldest continuously run university in the world.

Under the rule of Isma’il Pasha from 1863 to 1879, newer sections of the city were built with modern, Paris-style boulevards and avenues, moving the heart of the city away from historic Old Cairo.

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