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Cairo ( KYE-roh; Arabic: القاهرة‎ Al-Qāhirah, pronunciation ) is the capital city of Egypt . The city 's metropolitan area is one of the largest in Africa , the largest in the Middle East and the Arab world , and the 15th-largest in the world , and is associated with ancient Egypt , as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located in its geographical area . Located near the Nile Delta, modern Cairo was founded in 969 CE by the Fatimid dynasty , but the land composing the present- day city was the site of ancient national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been a center of the region 's political and cultural life , and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture . Cairo is considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC. Cairo has the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab world , as well as the world 's second -oldest institution of higher learning , Al-Azhar University . Many international media, businesses, and organizations have regional headquarters in the city ; the Arab League has had its headquarters in Cairo for most of its existence . With a population of over 9 million spread over 3,085 square kilometers (1,191 sq mi), Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt . An additional 9.5 million inhabitants live in close proximity to the city . Cairo, like many other megacities, suffers from high levels of pollution and traffic . Cairo's metro, one of two in Africa (the other being in Algiers, Algeria ), ranks among the fifteen busiest in the world , with over 1 billion annual passenger rides.