Cairo is Egypt's capital and the largest metropolis in Africa, which today has a population of almost 18 million, has its origins in the city of On on the east bank of the Nile, later called Heliopolis by the Greeks, and in Mennofer, the Greek Memphis, on the west bank. The site was chosen in 3100 B.C. by King Menes, first king of the 1st Dynasty, for his capital. From here, he could control the newly united Upper and Lower Egypt.
Luxor lies on the east bank of the Nile about 700 kms south of Cairo. Thebes was the capital of the ancient Egyptian empire, which extended from the Euphrates to Upper Nubia, for almost a thousand years, and even when it was not the capital it played an important role in the country's history, serving as a spiritual and economic center. Remains of its great temples, obelisks and tombs can still be seen and some of the sculptures, inscriptions and paintings of scenes of daily life and religious beliefs are in almost perfect condition.
Aswan was the southern gateway to Egypt. It was the domain of the ram god Khnum, the potter-god who fashioned man and his ka upon the potter's wheel. It was also the domain of two goddesses, Satis and Anukis, of Nubian origin, who were introduced by the local inhabitants into the legends of Khnum. It is the region of the cataract, where the innundation was believed to originate, the first and foremost nome of Upper Egypt.