Fatimid Caliphate - Medieval Islamic Historys
Quatr.us answers questions
Upgrade /Log in
Options /Log out
Early Europe
Central Asia
Islamic Empire
Native Americans
S./Central America
American History

The Fatimids

Bab Zuweila
Bab Zuweila (Cairo, 1092 AD)

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.

Al Azhar
Al Azhar Mosque, Cairo, 970 AD

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. Finally in 1187 one of their 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

Bibliography and further reading about the Fatimid Caliphate:

Fatimid architecture
More about North Africa
More about the Islamic Empire
Quatr.us home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support Quatr.us!

Quatr.us (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

'Tis the season: read all about the history of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Who invented Christmas trees? Who were the Maccabees? When was Jesus really born? How did people celebrate Hanukkah in the Middle Ages? Plus, some great gift ideas.