"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Old Cairo

To think of Egypt today, with her long, indigenous Christian presence, is to weep. A new book will only likely deepen that flood of tears at what once was but has increasingly been destroyed by barbarians: Carolyn Ludwig et al, eds., The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo: Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque (American University in Cairo Press, 2013), 250pp.

This book, the publisher says, is a "celebration of the history of religious life in the early Egyptian capital, in text and pictures": 

Just to the south of modern Cairo stands the historic enclave known as Old Cairo, which grew up in and around the Roman fortress of Babylon, and which today hosts a unique collection of monuments that attest to the shared cultural heritage of ancient Egyptians, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. In this lavishly illustrated celebration of a very special place, renowned photographer Sherif Sonbol’s remarkable images of the fortress, churches, synagogue, and mosque illuminate the living fabric of the ancient and medieval stones, while the text describes the history of Old Cairo from the time of the ancient Egyptians and the Romans to the founding of the first Muslim city of al-Fustat, focusing on the Jewish history of the area (exploring the famous Genizah documents found in the Ben Ezra Synagogue that tell so much about everyday life in medieval Egypt), the early Coptic Christian churches, some of the oldest in the world, and the arrival of the Muslims in the seventh century, their establishment of al-Fustat on the edge of Old Cairo, and the building of the oldest mosque in Africa.

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