Walls of Fatimid Cairo, along with man who puzzled history

Passant Mohamed
7 Min Read

When Jawhar Al Sicily, the Fatimid general in Caliph Al-Mu’izz era, ordered to build Fatimid Cairo he ordered to build walls also to fortify the capital and the army was guarding those walls, then the walls were then restored by Saladin.

Cairo was not the name Jawhar had chosen for the new capital, but he named it as Al-Mansouriya after the name of Al-Mu’izz father, and when Al-Mu’izz came to Egypt he changed the name to Cairo or El-Kahera.

There are two stories that try to explain why he chose El-Kahera, which means the conqueror, as a name.

The first story tells that the Caliph Al-Mu’izz was fond of stars, whereby when the capital was built, the “oracles” were used to choose the right place to build the capital. They set up bells in several places and they were supposed to ring the bells after studying the stars positions and setting the right place, but some crows came and stood on the bells, by which the builder thought it was the signal and started the construction, in that time there was only one star in the sky, which was planet Mars or which they called El-Kaher star, hence the caliph named the city after the Mars.

The other story is when Caliph Al-Mu’izz came to Egypt and named the capital El-Kahra saying” it might conquer the capitals of the world.”

The walls surrounding the capital have three doors, Bab Zuwaila, Bab el Nasr and Bab Al-Futuh, each name have a story to tell.

Bab Zuwilla its name dates back to the tribe of Zuwaila, the first tribe to come from Morocco with the Caliph Al-Mu’izz. This tribe settles in Zuwila alley and the most famous person of those who belong to that tribe and died a while ago is the scientist Ahmed Zewail.

Bab Al-Nasr, which means the door of victory, that door was opened to the army when they won in battles.

Bab Al-Futuh, which means the door of conquest, they used to open that door for the army when it went out to battle in order to conquer new cities.

Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah, the man who puzzled history, he was the sixth Fatimid caliph and succeeded his father Abū Mansūr Nizār Al-Azīz at the age of eleven. Some accused him of injustice, others of madness, others said he was fair, but his policy was strict.

Because of his strange decisions, he prevented the cultivation of Malukhia and grapes, prevented women from going out of the house, prevented manufacturers from making shoes for them, and turned the night into morning and morning to night. But in his defence, he has a reason for each decision.

He prevented the cultivation of Malukhia, because according to medical reports it causes sluggishness, and the citizens in his era suffered from inactivity and laziness because of their addiction to eating  Malukhia.

He also did not prevent the cultivation of grapes, but reduced it, due to the large number of wines industry in his era.

Then for women in his reign, the work of women has spread, causing the unemployment of men and the spinsterhood, therefore, women were prevented from working and to ensure that they do go out for work, he ordered the shoe manufacturers to stop making women’s shoes.

He turned the night into morning and morning to night because people in his era used to sleep in morning and wake up at night, so to force them to work he change the work hours to be at night.

He was accused also for being mad but who accused him was Sitt Al-Mulk, his sister, she accused him after he was killed, and history scientists say that she was the first suspect in the murder, as she had a good reason to kill him, because he killed her lover.

Sitt al-Mulk loved the Chief of Police whose name was Ghabn, he was one of the Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah’s servants. In 1011 AD he was promoted to be the commander in chief. Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah appointed him to be in charge of social regulations.

Ghabn used to send poetic love letters to Sitt al-Mulk, later on Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah found one of those letters by chance, so on November 1013 AD Ghabn was punished by the caliph by cutting one of his hands (the right hand), but Ghabn did not stop and wrote the poetic letters with his left hand, eventually the caliph ordered to cut his other hand, and the hand was sent to the caliph on a plate. That plate was put in a fort of the caliph’s palace for people to see it. 

However, Ghabn did not stop, he read poetry in fort of the palace, for everyone to hear, yet he was punished by having his tongue cut, and then he was killed.

The plate in which held the hand of Ghabn is in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, which was decades was placed there. This plate is one of the largest plates in Islamic Arts.

Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah’s mysterious case of his murder remains uncertain. History says he was killed, yet the Shiite sect said he was not killed because they did not find his body, but he was lifted to heaven of Shiite, as he is the Mahdī, the redeemer of Islam and ultimate saviour of humankind and the final Imām who will emerge with Jesus Christ, in order to bring peace and justice to the world, and in order to do so he will come again to his mosque to start his mission.

Therefore, the Shiite sect was responsible for the renovations that took place in the mosque of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah in Al-Mu’izz Street, during the former President Anwar Al-Sadat’s reign. oas.

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