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Egypt conditions under the Fatimid Caliphate

When El-Muizz came to Egypt, he made it the capital of the Caliphate. Then, he extended his authority to Syria, Hijaz and Yemen on the East, while the Fatimid authority extended to the Atlantic Ocean on the West. Egypt was separated from Baghdad, which was the capital during the Abbassid Dynasty. The weakness of the Abbassid Dynasty led to the foundation of the great Fatimid Dynasty. Moreover, the Alides helped the Fatimids in getting rid of the Abbasids and they made good relations with the former in order to participate in their government.

 

 

 

Administration

Egypt was divided into 4 divisions: Upper Egypt, Sharkia, Gharbia and Alexandria. Each division was divided into villages and districts. There were one local government, whom responsibility was for local works and buildings (such as bridges) and two central governments responsible for digging the canals. The Official Ministers: They were divided into 3 parts: (1) Men of sword, supervising the army. They included:

I- The viziers

II- The High Official

III-The Field Marshal who commanded the army and was responsible for the protection of the palace IV-The Umbrella Bearer V-The Chief of Cairo

VI -The Chief of Misr, Fustat,… etc.

(2) The men of the pen, who consisted of 7 parts:

I- The Vizier

II- The Chief Kadi who was the head of the law

III- The Chief preacher

IV- The Inspector of Markets (Muhtasib)

V- The Treasurer, who was the Chief of the Treasury

VI- The representative of the high official VII- Koran Reader

(3) The Division of the Diwan:

I- The Vizierate

II- Chancery the High Court

III- The Army Payment Office

IV- The Treasury, which was divided into 14 departments to deal with every branch of the finance, accounts, presents, royal factories, …. etc.

 

 The Army and the Fleet

During the Fatimid Period, Egypt had a strong army and the largest fleet since the Arab conquest. The Fatimid army was divided into 3 parts: A- The Emirs, including: I- Gold Series: emirs of the highest class. II- Sword Bearers, who accompanied the Caliph. B- The Officers of the Guard, including: I- The Masters who were given high and important positions II- The Young Guard.

III- The troops of the Caliph’s camps. c- The Regiments (the military divisions): Each military group or division was given its name according to its Caliph, vizier and its people (such as the Turks’ regimen, the Roman, .. etc). El Muizz built a port of Maks, known as Bulak. Also, he built 600 ships and the fleet of Egypt became the largest one that had ever existed since the Arab conquest. There were many sites, in which the fleet was put (such as at Alexandria, Damietta, Akka, Haifa and other Syrian ports). This fleet was under a high admiral.

 

 

Society

The population of Egypt was divided into several groups: A- The original inhabitants of Egypt B- The Berbers C- The Turks who increased since the Tulunid Dynasty. D- The Sudanese who increased since the reign of Kafur and El Mustansir, whose mother was Sudanese. E- The Armenians who increased since the time of Badr el-Gamali, who was once an Armenian slave. The Shi’a Creed At the beginning of the Fatimid Reign, the Egyptians were Sunnis, so the Fatimids did not exert any effort in spreading the Shi’a Creed. Then, the Caliph, El-Aziz, ordered the following: A-The first three Orthodox Caliphs (namely Abu Baker, Omar and Osman) should be cursed on the pulpits of the mosques. B-All the high jobs were given to the Shiites employees. C-The orators should wear white robes instead of black robes, which was the emblem of the Abbassids. The Zimmis: The Fatimids were tolerant with both the Christians and Jews. El-Aziz married a Christian lady and appointed her brother, Melekhite, Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem, while her second brother, Isa Ibn Nestorius, his vizier. As for El-Hakim, he was a very strange man. At first, he persecuted the Christians, destroyed their churches, took their lands and cancelled their feasts. Later on, he allowed them to re-build their churches and to celebrate their feasts. Feasts and Celebrations: The Fatimids had many feasts such as: The Bairam (عيد الإفطار), Feast of Sacrifice (عيد الأضحى), the Anniversary of the Prophet, the Nights of Ramadan, the Birthday of the Caliph, the First of Ragab and Sha’ban, and The Mid-Ragab and Sha’ban. Also, they shared the Christians in their feasts (such as the Epiphany). There were also national feasts such as “Cutting of the Cairo Khalig or Canal”, ‘Ashoura’, and day of El-Hussein’s murder (which was a day of mourning and a public holiday).

 

 

The Economic Situation

  – Agriculture

El-Muizz and El-Aziz were interested in developing agriculture: they dug canals and built bridges until the agriculture land reached 285,000 acres. Also, they organized the taxes and cancelled the heavy ones. However, from the second half of the Fatimid Dynasty, the Caliphs were very weak (namely El-Zaher and El-Mustansir). They neglected the canals, and agriculture in general, collected heavy taxes and there was no security. All these factors, in addition to the low level of the Nile, led to the famine that happened during the reign of El-Mustansir.

 

 

– Manufacture

During the Fatimid Dynasty, Egypt was the most important industrial center because its markets were full of the Egyptian products. Egypt was famous for its looms. Alexandria and Cairo were famous for making fine silk; Asyut for its woolen turbans; and Behnessa for its white woolen. Jewelry, ivory boxes, crystal vases, pottery, metal and glass were made in a finely perfect way.

– Trade

The goods were carried from “the Canal of the Commander of the Faithful to Kulzum, to the Red Sea, then to the East. This route continued to be used until the reign of Mustansir. When Syria was threatened by foreign invasion, the trade route changed to Aydahb. Therefore, the traders used the ships of the Nile as a means of transportation to Qoos, then to Aydahb by camels. Goods came from all ports of Upper Egypt to Cairo, Rosetta branch Atf, to Alexandria by camels, then to Europe by boats. Egypt, also, had a trade fleet for carrying goods to Sicily (Italy), Barbary and Syria.

– Architecture

When Gawhar entered Egypt, he founded a new city on the road to Heliopolis to be the center of the Shi’a Creed and to be a fortified place against the enemies of Egypt, who were the Karmatic troops. He did not like to use Fustat or Askar as his capital, because they were full of Sunnis. Gawhar built a big royal castle to be used by the Caliph, his Harim, his guard, his chosen soldiers and his government officers and built 50,000 brick houses with gardens and 20,000 shops. Gawhar, also, built a brick wall around Cairo to fortify it. Remarkably, the buildings, mosques and ruins of the Fatimids still fill the city.

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