Shiite Connotations on Islamic Architecture in Cairo in the Fatimid Era (358-567 A.H/ 969-1171 A.D)

Mohamed N. El-Barbary, Aisha Al Tohamy, Ehab Y. Ali


The city of Cairo is serving as the capital of Egypt since it was built by the Fatimids in 358 A.H/969 A.D. Fatimids were mainly “Ismaaili Shiaa” who attributed themselves as descendants of “Ali Ibn Abi Talib”; the cousin of the prophet “Mohamed” (PBUH) and the husband of his daughter “Fatima AL-Zahra’". Therefore, they were named after her as the “Fatimids”.

The Fatimids ruled Egypt for over 208 years (358-567 A.H/ 969-1171 A.D), in which they constructed a lot of buildings in the city. Most of these Buildings are still well-preserved till now with its magnificent decorations that were completely influenced by the Shiite concepts as a part of their plan to promote for Shiism among Egyptians secretly and publicly. Some of these elements are simply interpreted while the others aren’t as the Fatimids believed in “Azzahir” and “Al-Batin” which indicate that every obvious meaning has a hidden meaning, an idea that was widely employed by the Fatimids and allowed them to spread their thoughts among all the Egyptian society during their rule of Egypt.

The paper illustrates the hidden meanings of the Fatimid decorations preserved within the Islamic architecture of Cairo have been highlighted according to the Shiites’ thoughts during the Fatimid Period. The study also includes the additions of the Fatimids to the previous Islamic buildings in Cairo, e.g. (The mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun).


Shiite Connotations, Fatimids, Fatimid architecture, Azzahir and Al-Batin, Kufic Calligraphy, Fatimid Ornaments

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