Islamic Cairo is a part of central Cairo noted for its historically important mosques and other Islamic monuments. It is overlooked by the Cairo Citadel. Islamic Cairo, also referred to as Medieval Cairo or Fatimid Cairo, was founded in 969 as the royal enclosure for the Fatimid caliphs, while the actual economic and administrative capital was in nearby Fustat. Fustat was established by Arab military commander 'Amr ibn al-'As following the conquest of Egypt in 641, and took over as the capital which previously was located in Alexandria.
Al-Askar, located in what is now Old Cairo, was the capital of Egypt from 750 to 868. Ahmad ibn Tulun established Al-Qatta'i as the new capital of Egypt, and remained the capital until 905, when the Fustat once again became the capital. After Fustat was destroyed in 1168/1169 to prevent its capture by the Crusaders, the administrative capital of Egypt moved to Cairo, where it has remained ever since. It took four years for the General Jawhar Al Sikilli (the Sicilian) to build Cairo and for the Fatimid Calif Al Muizz to leave his old Mahdia in Tunisia and settle in the new Capital of Fatimids in Egypt.
After Memphis, Heliopolis, Giza and the Byzantine fortress of Babylon-in-Egypt, Fustat was a new city built as a military garrison for Arab troops. It was the closest central location to Arabia that was accessible to the Nile. Fustat became a regional center of Islam during the Umayyad period. It was where the Umayyad ruler, Marwan II, made his last stand against the Abbasids. Later, during the Fatimid era, Al-Qahira (Cairo) was officially founded in 969 as an imperial capital just to the north of Fustat. Over the centuries, Cairo grew to absorb other local cities such as Fustat, but the year 969 is considered the "founding year" of the modern city.
Egypt was conquered by Arab Muslims under in Amr ibn al-A'as in 641. Alexandria was then the capital of Egypt. However, even though the Arabs admired Alexandria's glamor and wealth, they chose to establish a new capital on the east bank of the Nile. That site would not be separated by water from Medina, then the residence of the Caliph. Here, the Amr ibn al-A'as Mosque was built, the first mosque in Africa. Later rulers added many additional mosques and palaces in the area around Amr Mosque. Today, Islamic Cairo includes the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (the oldest and largest in Cairo), Al-Azhar University, the oldest university in the World, the Al-Hakim Mosque, and many other famous mosques and buildings.
Much of this historic area suffers from neglect and decay, in this, one of the poorest and most overcrowded areas of the Egyptian capital. In addition, as reported in the Al-Ahram Weekly, thefts at Islamic monuments inside the Darb Al-Ahmar threaten their long-term preservation.