Phoenix is the capital of the state of Arizona as well as the most populous city in the American Southwest and sixth largest city in the United States. Founded in 1871, it has become the region's primary political, cultural, economic, and transportation center. At an elevation of 1100 ft (335 m), it is situated in the biologically unique Sonoran Desert. Over time it has merged with the neighboring cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Peoria, Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert to form the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area. Currently exurbs such as Apache Junction, Fountain Hills, Queen Creek, and Sun City are becoming part of this metropolitan area as well. Phoenix is extremely hot in the summertime, so always have sun screen with you!
Why would anybody want to start a city in the middle of a desert? The answer is, surprisingly, agriculture. The Salt and Verde Rivers of central Arizona were exploited for large-scale agriculture by Native Americans as early as the 11th century. The area that now encompasses Phoenix was a center of the Hohokam culture, which built large canal systems and a network of towns and villages, whose remains may be viewed in the city to this day. White settlers discovered the remnants of the Hohokam culture in the 19th century. The city's name reflects its history as a city "reborn from the ashes" of the previous settlement. European-American settlement of the area commenced in the 1860s, and in 1911 the completion of the first of several large reservoirs in the mountains north and east of Phoenix insured its success as a center for irrigation-based agriculture. Many tens of thousands of acres were planted in citrus and cotton and other crops, and for many years, intensive, year-round irrigated agriculture formed the basis of the economy. Recent years are seeing a revival, and trendy hotels, bars, shops and restaurants are making it a place to be again.