OIM A11246

Manuscript from the Cairo Genizah

Judaeo-Arabic (Arabic written in Hebrew script) and Hebrew Language Biblical fragment of Joshua, 2 leaves, 14th–16th century AD. OIM A11246 (D. 027318). Photo: Anna Ressman.

OIM E25571

Glazed Bowl Fragment

Depiction of a horse in cavetto and goblet on the saddle, Fustat, early 14th century AD. OIM E25571 (D. 027454). Photo: Anna Ressman.

OIM A12029

Qur'an fragment given as waqf by Mamluk Sultan Faraj

2 folios, 1399–1412 AD / 801–815 AH . OIM A12029 (D. 027324). Photo: Anna Ressman.

OIM E22513

Small Juglet with Stamped Base

The cross on the bottom of this vessel indicates that this it was used by Christian elements of the population, Fustat, 12th century AD. OIM E25513 (D. 027414). Photo: Anna Ressman.

February 17 – September 13, 2015

How did modern Cairo come to be?  Unlike many cities in Egypt which originated during ancient Pharaonic or Greco-Roman times, Cairo is a relatively young city.  The first permanent urban settlement began only in AD 641 but it grew quickly into a sprawling capital city.  This exhibit highlights the diversity of people who were the first to make Old Cairo their home. 

In the exhibit, visitors will explore how Old Cairo’s communities lived together and melded their traditions to create an ever-growing, multi-cultural society during the 7th to 12th centuries AD.   Although the city was governed by Muslim Arabs, its neighborhoods were populated by people from a patchwork of religious and ethnic communities, including native Egyptians and many immigrants.  The exhibit puts a special focus on the three main religious communities - Muslims, Christians, and Jews – whose members helped shape Old Cairo’s neighborhoods, markets, and public places.

Each of Old Cairo’s communities will be brought to life through documents that highlight the words and thoughts of individuals, including letters from the Genizah (a deposit of Jewish manuscripts preserved for centuries in a synagogue), early Islamic administrative records, and illuminated manuscripts.  The exhibit will also use audio recordings to highlight the human voices that created these written words.

Another theme within the exhibit is the exploration of how Old Cairo’s communities interacted while living in close urban quarters.  Archaeological artifacts such as textiles, pottery, games, and toys show how the boundaries between communities could be blurred.  Old Cairo’s residents often lived similarly across the city and shared many daily activities, traditions, and aspirations.  The archaeological artifacts in the exhibit commemorate 50 years since rescue excavations were conducted at Old Cairo by George Scanlon in collaboration with the American Research Center in Egypt in 1964.  This is the first time that many of these objects have been be displayed.

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