Back to the 8th and 9th century

Abbasids and Tulunids

10th century
4 - The Foundation of Fatimid al-Qahira
The Great Mosque of Mahdiyya, Tunisia: (ca. 920) built in the Fatimid new capital, al-Mahdiyya, near Qayrawan, it displays Fatimid monumental additions to a modified hypostyle plan.
Al-Qahira (Cairo): The new royal city of Egypt established north of Fustat by the Fatimids upon their conquest of the country in 969. It had a regular plan running parallel to the Khalij (Canal of the Nile) with a main north-south thoroughfare.
Plan of the Fatimid City with the two palaces and Khitat (after Ravaisse).
Majlis: A T-shaped architectural unit with a large central hall flanked by two smaller spaces. The three spaces are fronted with a portico (riwaq) which opens onto the courtyard via three doors. The type is believed to have been imported from Samarra to Egypt by Ibn Tulun.
Shadirwan or Salsabil: A slanted, pebbled or chevroned slab on the wall upon whose surface the water gurgles down to a channel whence it is collected in a central fountain.
Fatimid (and pseudo-Fatimid) Palaces:
The Eastern Palace: (969-72) A huge enclosure with several monumental gates that contained a number of halls set within garden-courtyards.
The Western Palace: (975-96) Built by al-`Aziz, al-Mu`izz's son, as the more private caliphal palace across from the Eastern Palace. The two palaces were separated by an open parade ground called Bayn al-Qasrayn (Between the Two Palaces).
Carved wood panel  
Carved wood panel  
Double-arched window  
Remains of an iwan with a shadirwan in its center  
La Zisa Palace, Palermo, Sicily: Built by the Norman king Roger II between 1154-66, it represents the most complete example of a garden pavilion/throne hall built by Muslim craftsmen after the Fatimid model.
Main Facade of the Palace
General View from the West
Main Hall with Shadirwan and water channel

La Cuba Palace, Palermo, Sicily: Attributed to Roger II or his successors and dated to 1180, this palace-pavilion sits within a pool. It too echoes the development in reception hall arrangement in the Fatimid realm.

19th c. Reconstruction of the Palace

View of the Main Iwan inside the Palace as it stands today

The Shi`ites: from shi`a (supporters), who recognized `Ali as the only legitimate imam (political and religious leader) after the Prophet. They developed into several branches which differed primarily in the number of imams they recognized after `Ali. Most important are:
  The Twelvers Imamis: Who constitute the majority of Shi`ites, and recognize twelve descendants of `Ali as imams.
  The Isma`ilis: recognize the first six imams as the Twelvers, but differ with them about the seventh, Isma`il, hence their name.
The Fatimids: An Isma`ili dynasty whose founder claimed descent from Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet and wife of `Ali, and established a caliphate in Ifriqiya (Tunisia), which was later expanded to include Egypt and southern Syria.
  Al-Mu`izz li-Din Allah: (953-75) The fourth Fatimid caliph and the first in Egypt.
  Jawhar al-Siqilli: The Fatimid general who conquered Egypt and founded al-Qahira.

Forward to the 10th century

Fatimid Mosques in Cairo


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