Splendor of the Fatimids

In 1045, Syedna Pir Nasir-i Khusraw made a decision to go for a pilgrimage to Mecca. Three months later, he began his famous journey, which lasted for almost seven years. After the pilgrimage, Syedna Pir Nasir went to Fatimid Cairo, where he stayed for a few years. In his book Safarnama (Travelogue), he describes the splendor of the Fatimid capital as well as the wealth of Egypt:

“I estimated that there were no less than twenty thousand shops in Cairo…Every sort of rare goods from all over the world can be had there: I saw tortoise-shell implements such as small boxes, knife handles, and so on. I also saw extremely fine crystal, which the master craftsmen etch most beautifully… I saw the following fruits and herbs, all in one day: red roses, lilies, narcissus, oranges, citrons, limes and other citrus fruits, apples, jasmine, basil, quince, pomegranates, pears, melons of various sorts, bananas, olives, myrobalan, fresh dates, grapes, sugarcane, eggplants, fresh squash, turnips, radishes, cabbage, fresh beans, cucumbers, green onions, fresh garlic, carrots, and beets… In Old Cairo they make all types of porcelain, so fine and translucent that you can see your hand behind it when held up to the light. From this porcelain they make cups, bowls, plates, and so forth…They also produce a glass so pure and flawless that it resembles chrysolite, and it is sold by weight.”

This remarkable economic vitality led to the development of complex administrative and financial systems comprising a number of ministries including the chancery of state, and ministry of finance.

Source: Farhad Daftary, The Ismailis Their history and doctrines (Cambridge University Press, 1990)


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