Egypt 979 CE

Under the Fatimids, Egypt becomes the leading centre of Islamic civilization.

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What is happening in Egypt in 979CE

In the 870s the governor of Egypt, Ahmad Ibn Tulun, gained control of both Egypt and Syria and governed as an autonomous ruler, though he was careful not to openly break with the caliph. One of the caliph’s armies restored these provinces to the caliph’s control in 905, but thirty years later Egypt again became autonomous under a rebellious governor, Muhammad ibn Tughj (935).

In 969 the Fatimids, a fervent Shi’ite sect, conquered Egypt. The Fatimids make no pretence of loyalty to the caliph in Baghdad, and their aim is, in fact, to displace him as the rulers of the entire Islamic world.

As an independent state, Egypt’s tax revenues are now all spent within its own borders, rather than some or all of them being dispatched to some distant imperial capital such as Rome, Constantinople or Baghdad. This has allowed Egypt’s rulers to invest in Egypt’s agriculture, improve and maintain the irrigation system, increase the prosperity of the country and boost the government’s tax revenues.

The process of Islamization (and Arabization) has been slowly gaining pace in Egypt. This has not been official policy: quite the reverse (non-Muslims paid higher taxes, so conversion was not encouraged by the government). However, the need by many people to deal with the new ruling elite has spread the knowledge of Arabic, and perhaps too an awareness of the advantages which come with belonging to the ruler’s religious community, has encouraged many to convert. Nevertheless, at this date the majority of Egyptians are still Christians.

Next map, Egypt in 1215

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