Fatimids dynasty

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					The Fatimids (969-1171) were the only Shietes who ever ruled
Egypt. They were called as such since they claimed descent from
Fatimah (the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed) and Ali the
fourth Khalif. The Ikhshidid dynasty began to weaken after
Kafur's death. This incited the Fatimids to invade Egypt. Fatimids
claim their descent from Prophet Mohamed through his daughter,
Fatima. The Fatimids followed the Shi'ite belief in 909 in
present-day Tunisia.
In 968 under the caliphate of Al-Muezz, A Fatimid army headed
by General Gawhar Al-Sekelli (the Sicilian) commanded the
invasion of Egypt. Symbolizing the change of the rule, Gawhar
managed to build a new capital called "Al-Qahera," after planet
"mars." The name also means "vanquisher" in Arabic language. It
was corrupted by European merchants to the name "Cairo," the
same capital of our present-day.
In 970, the Fatimids built the great mosque of Al-Azhar, which is
also named after the Prophet's daughter, Fatima Al-Zahra'.
Fatimids gained control, in short time, over holy cities of Mecca
and Medina. They also annexed Palestine but had to confront the
Byzantine forces there. Realizing the strategic importance of
Egypt, the Fatimid caliph decided to shift the caliphate seat from
Tunisia to the new Arab capital of Cairo.The Fatimids were not
concerned with converting the population to the Shi'ite sect. They
were also tolerant enough to employ Sunnis , Christians and
Jews in the government.
In 975 Al-Muezz died and was succeeded by Al-Aziz Billah. Al-
Aziz's rule was characterized by an excellent administration that
ran Egypt so effectively. This gave him a good opportunity to
prosper Cairo with foundations, thanks to his witted vizier , ibn
Killis. The kingdom continued despite the existence of other
strong rival kingdoms. To strengthen the army, the Fatimids
continued to import Turkish and Sudanese mercenaries.
Al-Aziz died in 996 AD and was succeeded by his 11-year old
son, Al-Hakim. Al-Hakim was an enigma. He had an
extraordinary eccentric character. He was renown by issuance of
very strange laws. He had all dogs of Cairo killed in 1004. He had
a special passion to the dark so he ordered shops to open at
night and close in daylight. Al-Hakim also forbade the selling of
grapes, wine, beer, meloukhia (Jew's mallow) and even ordered
the pouring of honey in the Nile. For some reason, he disliked
women and consequently barred them from being seen in public
and forbade shoemakers from making them shoes. Despite these
all, Al-Hakim had positive sides. In 1005, he founded The
Wisdom House (Beit Al-Hekma), as a center for learning science
and theology. The center expanded and became a good place for
scholars to meet and discuss their subjects. In his reign, a peace
treaty was also forged with the Byzantine Empire in 1001 AD. He
also managed to survive a severe famine that hit Egypt in 1007
In 1017 AD, a vizier of Al-Hakim called Darazi claimed that Al-
Hakim is an incarnation of God. To Egyptians, that was the last
straw. They were shocked by the theory and started to make fun
of their sort-of-a-mad caliph. The dispute between Al-Hakim and
the populaces resulted in a breakout of a rebellion in 1020. As a
result, Al-Hakim sent black troops to put down the unrest and to
even burn the city of Al-Fustat. In 1021, Al-Hakim, who used to
wander alone on his donkey in the Muqattam hills, disappeared
during one of his rides. His body was never found and he is
presumed to have been murdered by his sister, Set El-Molk, and
other conspirators.
The Fatimids began to lose their territories due to the internal
crisis. Furthermore, a severe power struggle took place between
the Turkish and Sudanese regiments of the army. Turkish troops
plundered the treasury and the caliph's huge library of 100'000
books was dispersed. In an attempt to restore order, the caliph
sent for Badr El-Gamali, a Fatimid ruler of Acre in Palestine to
come to Cairo. Upon his arrive in 1074, Badr Al-Gamali
aggressively crushed the army dissidents. He then united Egypt
successfully under his control. After cleaning up the state, Egypt
began to prosper again. Badr called for his architects and
builders to thicken the walls of Cairo and build new gates, like
Bab El-Fetouh, Bab El-Nasr and Bab Zuweila. Many of these
constructions are still visible in Cairo nowadays.
In 1094, both the caliph and his able general died. Following
their death, six Fatimid caliphs ruled to the end of the dynasty in
1171 AD. Their rule was characterized by power struggles with
viziers. The weak caliphs allowed many of the court members to
control the government. The vacuum in the reign facilitated
victories of the first crusade in 1099 that targeted the Holy Land
in Palestine. Crusaders seized Jerusalem and continued to
expand their empire and in 1118 they launched their first
unsuccessful attack on Egypt.
At the end of the Fatimid rule, a vizier called Shawar, sought help
from ruler of Damascus, Nour El-Din, in order to regain the reign
after being displaced by a rival. The Damascus ruler sent several
campaigns headed by commander Sherkouh. Eventually, Shawar
succeeded to seize back his seat but when he turned against
Damascus, he began to contact the crusaders in Jerusalem
seeking help from them. Sherkouh, who became an enemy to
Shawar, launched a successful campaign in 1169 ousting Shawar
and placing himself in rule only short time before his own death
in the same year.
The Fatimid caliph appointed Salah El-Din Al-Ayyubi, who was a
general from Damascus and Sherkouh's nephew, as his vizier.
Salah El-Din was a Sunni Moslem so he began founding schools
to teach the Sunni doctrine to Egyptians. The pace was welcomed
of Moslem Egyptians because the majority of them remained
Sunnis during the reign of Fatimids. Salah El-Din, known as
Saladin to the West, went far beyond this by dropping the name
of the caliph from mosque prayers. The caliph was too weak and
ill to realize what was happening as Saladin was actually
deposing him.
In 1171, the last Fatimid caliph died, ending the only Shi'ite
dynasty that ever ruled Egypt. During the Fatimids' Period, the
Crusaders came to in the Middle East and started occupying a
great part of the Arab lands. The two ruling dynasties that
followed the Fatimids as rulers of Egypt were the Ayyubids and
the Mamluks. They were the rulers who carried the responsibility
of fighting the Crusaders.

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