Mar Girgis Street
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The remains of the Babylon Fort mark the gateway into what is known as Coptic Cairo. People often refer to the area as Old Cairo, or Fustat, since this is where the first invading Arab armies settled. The varied nomenclature can be confusing, and misleading. In fact, there was a city called Kheraha here in ancient Egyptian times, that was an important regional capital. When, how and why the name changed to Babylon is debated, but it appears that the Persians built the first fort here, some time in the 6th Century BC. At that time Babylon Fort stood on top of the cliffs (probably the Muqattam Hills), but when the Romans invaded, they rebuilt the fort in its current position, which would have been right next to the Nile (the river's course has changed significantly over time). The Babylon Fort protected an important garrison town, which by the time of the first Arab invasion in the 7th Century, had a successful port as well as a canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea (constructed in pharaonic times). The original Arab city, Fustat, was actually built just outside the walls of Babylon Fort; interestingly, many of the churches in the area were not built until after the Arab conquest. All that really remains of Babylon Fort now are the remnants of the huge round towers that guarded the entrances to the fort. As you face the Coptic Museum, you can see the skeletal remains of one tower to the right; the Greek Orthodox Church of St George is built on top of the remains of the second tower, to the left.