"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).

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Splendors of Old Cairo

Forthcoming from Oxford University Press is a new collection by Gadwat Gabra and edited by Carolyn Ludwig, with photographs from Sherif Sonbol and Morris Jackson, Stefan Reif, Tarek Swelim, Gertrude van Loon: The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo: Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque (Oxford UP, 2011), 250pp + 250 illustrations.

This book, the publisher tells us, 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 Gawdat Gabra 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. Stefan Reif focuses 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. Gertrud van Loon looks at the early Coptic Christian churches, some of the oldest in the world, and Tarek Swelim describes 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 Mosque of 'Amr ibn al-'As, the oldest mosque in Africa.
I look forward to seeing this reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

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