For centuries, Cairo had been an important city in the North African and Middle Eastern regions. It was the capital after Saladin helped defeat the crusaders during the third crusade. Starting in 1260, the Mamluks ruled over Egypt and Syria. They defeated the Mongols and kept them from conquering Syria and Egypt. The Mamluks were slaves that were trained to be excellent warriors that then went on to be the rulers themselves. Their capital was in Cairo. During their reign, Cairo flourished as scholars and elite were among the favorites to the Mamluk lords, especially during the time that Ibn Battuta visited [1].

Ibn Battuta visited Cairo on his way to the Hijaz, and consequently he did not stay in Cairo for very long. He does make note in his Rihla that the Nile was extremely important, and that there were thousands of people employed to carry water from the river to city and its surrounding areas. While he was in Cairo, Ibn Battuta visited a madrasah (religious school). The idea of a madrasah was brought from Iraq to Cairo by Saladin when he made Cairo his capital [2].

When Ibn Battuta visited Cairo, it was more populous than Tunis, Tangier or Alexandria. In today’s times, this is still a fact. Cairo is the most populated Arab city in the Middle East with a population near 20 million, and the most populous city in Africa. Cairo is still the capital of Egypt, and in the center of the of the city is Tahrir Square. Over the past year, the major protests in Egypt to take down President Hosni Mubarak were held in the square. This is also where many governmental buildings are located, and the meaning of Tahrir is significant to the protests because it means liberation in Arabic. Cairo is still having large protests due to its first democratic elections in decades.



[1] Dunn, Ross. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.

[2] Macintosh-Smith, Tim. The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador, 2003.