.باشا، حسن ) محرر). القاهرة تاريخها فنونها آثارها. القاهرة: مؤسسة الأهرام، ١٩۷٠، ٦٤۷ص
Al-Basha, Hasan (ed.). Al-Qahirah: Tarikhuha, Fununuha, Atharuha. Cairo: Mu’assasat al-Ahram, 1970, 647pp.
The History, Art and Monuments of Cairo
القاهرة تاريخها فنونها آثارها
This book brings together various research presentations and studies delivered during the Pyramid Celebrations marking a thousand years since the founding of Cairo. These studies were conducted by researchers and experts in archaeology and Islamic art, such as Hasan al-Basha, ‘Abd al-Rahman Fahmi, ‘Abd al-Ra’uf ‘Ali Yusuf, Hussain ‘Abd al-Rahim ʻUlaywah and Muhamad Mustafa Nagib, in addition to Sir Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell, an expert on Islamic archaeology, who discusses the story behind Cairo’s establishment.
According to Hasan al-Basha this work aims to highlight the cultural side of Cairo and, as far as possible, the town’s history and artistic heritage as conveyed by monuments, primary source documents and contemporary scholarly studies. The book discusses Cairo’s growth and its different quarters whose origins date back to various eras. It draws on the writings of travellers visiting the city including Nasir Khusraw, Arnold von Harff, Dominico Trivisano. It furthermore discusses the town’s most prominent personalities and the role of women within society. Also included are three sections dealing with architecture, fine arts and applied arts; it concludes with a study of the most famous edifices and masterpieces in Cairo, as well as furniture and the tools employed.
The most distinctive feature of the book is its general and encompassing overview of Cairo’s history and its emphasis on important cultural dimensions. It is well suited to the average, non-specialised reader thanks to the manner in which the various topics are organised and the use of simple and clear language. The volume also includes numerous photos and illustrations.
Unfortunately, however, many of the photographic sources have not been provided (such as illustrations: 1, 2, 6, 25). Despite providing scholarly references in Arabic, English and French, the book does not cite many of the sources for the mentioned historical accounts, such as on page 539 regarding al-Mu‘izz and his lineage, and on page 392 concerning the Fatimids’ interest in the textile industry. Furthermore, the language used in some instances is unjustifiably biased such as the depiction of the Babylon Fortress as a symbol of Roman tyranny on page forty-seven. The methodology and the reason for choosing such varied subjects as historical figures, neighbourhoods and monuments have not been provided.
Overall, this book can be considered as a good basis for shedding light on the important aspects of Cairo’s history and culture, essentially under the influence of Islam. The work also serves to increase awareness of the importance of this ancient town which has spanned multiple eras, and has had an impact on Muslim culture.
Translated by Hugh Lovatt