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A city is a large and permanent human settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town in general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.

Cities generally have complex systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation. The concentration of development greatly facilitates interaction between people and businesses, sometimes benefiting both parties in the process, but it also presents challenges to managing urban growth.

A big city or metropolis usually has associated suburbs and exurbs. Such cities are usually associated with metropolitan areas and urban areas, creating numerous business commuters traveling to urban centers for employment. Once a city expands far enough to reach another city, this region can be deemed a conurbation or megalopolis. Damascus is arguably the oldest city in the world. In terms of population, the largest city proper is Shanghai, while the fastest-growing is Dubai.

There is not enough evidence to assert what conditions gave rise to the first cities. Some theorists have speculated on what they consider suitable pre-conditions and basic mechanisms that might have been important driving forces.

The conventional view holds that cities first formed after the Neolithic revolution. The Neolithic revolution brought agriculture, which made denser human populations possible, thereby supporting city development. The advent of farming encouraged hunter-gatherers to abandon nomadic lifestyles and to settle near others who lived by agricultural production. The increased population density encouraged by farming and the increased output of food per unit of land created conditions that seem more suitable for city-like activities. In his book, Cities and Economic Development, Paul Bairoch takes up this position in his argument that agricultural activity appears necessary before true cities can form.