Storytelling Walk in Historic Cairo: Fatimid Cairo (Jan 24th)

Today I organized a storytelling walk in Historic Cairo. The focus was on the Fatimid dynasty, which ruled Egypt between 969 and 1171. All in all, there were 14 Fatimid caliphs, and they turned Cairo into one of three caliphate seats in the Muslim world during the 10th century, the other two capitals being Baghdad (seat of the Abbasid caliphate) and Cordoba (seat of the Umayyad caliphate).

The Fatimids are best remembered as founders of Cairo and of al-Azhar, one of the world’s oldest universities (970 AD). The eccentric lifestyle of some of the Fatimid caliphs, coupled with their Shiite faith; distanced them from the people, despite all the cheerful social and religious celebrations and festivals that they introduced in Egypt.

Lecture on al-Andalus in Cairo: Tales of the Kingdom of Granada (Jan 20th)

Today I gave a presentation about the last Islamic kingdom of al-Andalus: the splendid Granada.

Following the fall of the Almohad dynasty under the pressure of the Reconquista, Muhammad ibn Nasr managed to fill the power vacuum through a set of alliances, compromises and balances of power, yielding a new dynasty that bore his name: the Nasrids (better known as Banu al-Ahmar). From its foundation in the 1230s and until its fall in 1492, the kings of this dynasty adorned their tiny kingdom with many marvels, the most spectacular of which is the Alhambra and its gardens (the Generalife).

Granada, their capital, was home for a flourishing cultural life. The city’s Maristan, its Madrasa al-Yusufiyya and its al-Jadida Caravanserai bear witness to the ‘modernity’ of the city, while the verses of Ibn al-Khatib and Ibn al-Jayyab that adorn the walls of the Alhambra are testimonies of the luxury of the court life. The Vase of the Gazelles is probably the most iconic artwork of that period.

It all came to an end with the surrender of Boabdil (Abu Abdallah al-Saghir) and the fall of the city to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.