Fatimid Caliphate - Medieval Islamic Historys

Quatr.us answers questions: an online encyclopedia of history and science

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

Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated September 2015.

About - Contact - Privacy Policy - What do the broom and the mop say when you open the closet door?