May 2016 - In 908 AD, a new family
rose up in Egypt and took
control of Egypt from the Abbasids. This
family was called the Fatimids, after Mohammed's
daughter Fatima, because they claimed to be descended from her. The
family began as leaders of a heretical Shiite
Islamic sect, the Ismailis (ish-my-EEL-ees), in Yemen in the Arabian
Peninsula. They sent people from Yemen to Egypt to take over as the
Abbasid caliphs began to weaken, and soon
succeeded in taking over not only Egypt but much of North Africa from
the Abbasids. They built the city of Cairo to be their capital, near
the old capital of Alexandria
but a new, Islamic city.
The Fatimids quickly conquered the old Egyptian territories in West Asia as well: Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and also Arabia. They were most powerful in the eleventh century (the 1000s). By the 1100s the Fatimids were clearly going downhill, having lost Syria and Arabia, and the Fatimid caliphs had lost most of their power to their generals, the Amirs.
In 1098, the Fatimids lost Israel and parts of Lebanon and Syria to the French and English soldiers of the First Crusade, who were taking advantage of Fatimid weakness. Finally in 1187 one of the Fatimid generals, Saladin (Sulah ad-Din), got rid of the last Fatimid ruler, and Egypt became Sunni once again, and part of the Ayyubid Islamic state ruled by Saladin and his sons.
Learn by doing: paint a tile in an Islamic pattern
Go on to the Ayyubids
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