Tag: Islamic

Nilometers Revisited

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(This is an expanded version of a previous post about nilometers. It will appear in the August 2017 edition of Egypt Today)

Nilometers were used in Egypt, particularly during the pharaonic, Roman and medieval periods, to measure the Nile’s water level during the annual summer flood.

Essentially, apart from such ritual functions they may have served in ancient Egypt, nilometers worked on the Goldilocks principle as far as the rulers of Egypt were concerned. If the water level in August–September was too high, the effects on the narrow band of fields either side of the river, and the surrounding infrastructure, would be devastating and there was no point sending out the tax collectors. If the water level was too low, the population would starve, and there was also no point sending out the tax collectors. If the water level was just right, a rich layer of alluvial silt would be deposited as the flood subsided, crops would grow, and off would go the tax collectors, no doubt singing merrily to themselves. (more…)

Roda Island Nilometer

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Nilometers were used in Egypt particularly during the pharaonic, Roman and medieval periods to measure the Nile’s water level during the annual summer flood.
Essentially, apart from any additional ritual function they had in ancient Egypt, nilometers worked on the Goldilocks principle as far as the rulers of Egypt were concerned. If the water level in August-September was too high, the effects on the narrow band of fields either side of the river, and the surrounding infrastructure, would be devastating and there was no point sending out tax collectors. If the water level was too low, the population would starve, and there was also no point sending out tax collectors. If the water level was just right, a rich layer of alluvial silt would be deposited as the flood subsided, crops would grow, and off would go the tax collectors, no doubt singing merrily to themselves.

(more…)

Ibn Tulun Mosque

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The Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo

Ahmad Ibn Tulun (835-884) was the son of a Turkic slave and was raised at the Abbasid court in Samarra. Through both luck and talent, Ibn Tulun rose through the courtly ranks until, at the age of 33 (in 868), he was appointed governor of Egypt. His own military success and the growing weakness of the ‘Abbasid caliphs led Ibn Tulun to form an independent sub-kingdom consisting of Egypt, Palestine and Greater Syria in 880. (more…)

Mosques of Egypt

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All images are from The Mosques of Egypt (AUC Press)

Some months ago, I wrote an article for my Egypt Today column that concentrated on what many consider to be one of the most serene and spiritual spaces in the whole of Egypt—the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (see: http://egypttoday.com/blog/2016/02/02/the-lost-city-of-ibn-tulun/).
This month, I have been reading more about Ibn Tulun, and more than eighty other mosques around Egypt, in a new publication: The Mosques of Egypt by Bernard O’Kane. The book is sumptuous—a true publishing tour de force combining the unrivaled subject expertise and photographic talent of the author, and the best in editorial and production values. (more…)

Al-Ghuri Funerary Complex

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Al-Ghuri complex dome

In the pursuit of a bargain in the market outside, or on the way down to Bab Zuweila and the Street of the Tentmakers, it is quite possible to pass between the two halves of the Sultan al-Ghuri funerary complex—a stone’s throw away from the Khan al-Khalili—without a second thought. (more…)