The Fatimids came to power in Ifriqiyya in 909, establishing an Isma’ili Shi’i Caliphate in North Africa to counter the ‘Abbasids. They built on esoteric interpretations of Shi’i traditions, sending out da’is (proselytizers) to convince others to their religio-political perspective. The took over Egypt in 969 and founded the city of Cairo right alongside Fustat. They claimed close connections to Iran and Iraq, but also Arabia and the east African coast, due to both the da’wa (their invitation to join the Fatimid cause) and trade relations.

While the Fatimids were Isma’ili Arabs, the people living under their rule were very diverse, including most notably Jewish and Coptic Christians communities. Under the Fatimids, we see the incredible growth of evidence from the Cairo geniza, a stockpile of manuscripts from the Ben Ezra synagogue in Fustat. These manuscripts attest to the linguistic and religious diversity of North Africa.

12a. Da’wa and Dawla

12b. Interconnectivity

12c. Identities & Contestation