Historical Illustrations of the Topography of Musr (or Cairo) and its Environs.1
Historical Illustrations of the Topography of Musr (or Cairo) and its Environs.1
Abstract and Keywords
Little is to be found in the works of European travellers respecting the history and topography of the Egyptian metropolis and its environs; and that little is, in many cases, incorrect. It is hoped, therefore, that some authentic illustrations of these subjects, chiefly derived from El-Muckree'zee's historical and topographical account of Egypt and its metropolis, are not unacceptable to the English reader. This work of El-Muckree'zee is chiefly a compilation from the writings of other Arab historians and geographers; and those parts of it of which are availed here contain observations of many authors of different ages. This chapter discusses the sources of information respecting these subjects and the successive seats of government since the Arabian conquest. Finally, it gives an account of the changes that have taken place in the river in the neighbourhood of El-Foosta't and El-Cka'hireh.
Sources of information respecting these subjects—Of the successive seats of government since the Arabian conquest—El-Foostaʼt—El-ʼAsʼkar—El-Ckataʼ-eʼ, or El-Ckataʼyeʼ—Of the town of El-Mucks—El-Ckaʼhireh—Of the changes which have taken place in the river in the neighbourhood of El-Foostaʼt and El-Ckaʼhireh.
Little is to be found in the works of European travellers respecting the history and topography of the Egyptian metropolis and its environs; and that little is, in many cases, incorrect. It is hoped, therefore, that some authentic illustrations of these subjects, chiefly derived from El-Muckreeʼzee's historical and topographical account of Egypt and its metropolis (of which work I had the good fortune to obtain a copy during my residence in Musr), will not be unacceptable to the English reader. This work of El-Muckreeʼzee is chiefly a compilation from the writings of other Arab historians and geographers; and those parts of it (p.68) of which I here avail myself contain observations of many authors of different ages.1
The first city founded by the Arabs in Egypt was El-Foostaʼt. It was the residence of the governors of that country for more than a century: but after the overthrow of the dynasty of the Oomaweeʼyeh (or race of Oomeiʼyeh) a new city, called El-ʼAsʼkar, adjoining El-Foostaʼt, became the seat of government. Afterwards, another city, which received the name of El-Ckataʼ-eʼ, or El-Ckataʼyeʼ, was built in the neighbourhood of El-ʼAsʼkar; and the independent princes of the family of Tooʼlooʼn resided there. After the extinction of this dynasty, El-ʼAsʼkar became again the seat of government, and continued so until the general of El-Moʼezʼz obtained possession of Egypt, and founded El-Ckaʼhireh, which is now called Musr, or (by Europeans) Cairo.
El-Foostaʼt was built upon the spot where the army of the Arabs encamped for a short time after their conquest of Egypt in the 20th year of the flight (or A.D. 641). It received this name, which signifies “the Tent,” from its having been founded around the tent of the Arab general ʼAmr Ibn El-ʼAʼsee; or (according to some authors) merely because foostaʼt is a term applicable to any city. It was, however, more commonly known by the name of Musr ; which name has been latterly transferred to El-Ckaʼhireh. The appellation of MusrʼAteeʼckah2 (or Old Musr) is now given to the small town which at present occupies a part of the site of El-Foostaʼt. This town has been improperly called, by European travellers, Old Cairo: as well might Egyptian Babylon be called Old Foostaʼt.—The site of El-Foostaʼt, at the period of the Arabian conquest, was unoccupied by any buildings, excepting a Roman Fortress, still existing, called Ckusr esh-Shemʼă, on the north of the hill of Babylon: but in the neighbourhood were many churches and convents. The Nile, at that period, flowed close by the fortress above mentioned. El-Foostaʼt is described as a very fine city, containing houses five or six stories high, constructed of brick. The primary cause of its decline was the great famine which happened in the reign of the Khaleeʼfeh El-Moostunʼsir, in the middle of the fifth century after the flight, and which lasted seven years. About a century after this awful calamity the greater part of the city was purposely destroyed by fire, to prevent its falling a prey to an invading Christian army.3 It was partly rebuilt; but never regained its former opulence.
El-ʼAsʼkar was founded in the year of the flight 133 (A.D. 750–1), long before the decline of El-Foostaʼt, which continued to be the (p.69) metropolis of Egypt, though the Governors no longer resided there. El-ʼAsʼkar was rather a suburb of El-Foostaʼt than a distinct city.
El-Ckataʼ-eʼ, or El-Ckataʼyeʼʼ, was founded in the year of the flight 256 (A.D. 869–70). It lay immediately on the west of the hill which is now occupied by the citadel of the modern Musr; and was about a mile in extent, from north to south and from east to west. In the year 292, when the dynasty of the race of Tooʼloo1ʼn was subverted, this town was plundered, and partly destroyed by fire; and the great famine in the reign of El-Moostunʼsir destroyed all its inhabitants, leaving it to fall to ruin. The site has become included within the suburbs of the modern Musr; and its great mosque, founded by Ibn Tooʼlooʼn, yet remains.
The site of another town, which was called El-Mucks , and which existed before the period of the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs, is also now included within the suburban districts of the modern Musr.
Medeeʼnet El-Ckaʼhireh (or the City of El-Ckaʼhireh) originally occupied a space about three quarters of a mile square. It was founded in the year of the flight 358 (A.D. 968–9). Its first wall was pulled down in the year 480 (A.D. 1087–8), and a new one built, which included a small additional space on the north and south. This was pulled down in the year 572 (A.D. 1176–7), and the Citadel and a third wall were built, by Salaʼhh ed-Deen (the Saladin of European historians). The third wall extended from the Citadel along the eastern and northern sides of the metropolis; being left unfinished. It was the intention of its builder to have made it to surround El-Ckaʼhireh and the Citadel and El-Foostaʼt.—The suburbs of El-Ckaʼhireh have become much more extensive than the city itself.
I must now give a brief account of the remarkable changes which have taken place in the bed of the river in the neighbourhood of El-Foostaʼt and El-Ckaʼhireh, chiefly since the foundation of the latter of those cities.
We are informed by El-Muckreeʼzee that, at the period of the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs, Er-Roʼdah was the only island existing in the neighbourhood of the sites of the two cities above-mentioned. It was believed that the colossal figure called Abʼoo-l-Hoʼl (the great Sphinx near the Pyramids of El-Geeʼzeh) and a similar colossus on the opposite side of the Nile were talismans contrived by the ancient Egyptians to prevent the sands of the adjacent deserts from encroaching upon the banks of the river: but in spite of the popular opinion respecting their magic influence, the latter of these colossi was demolished, in the year of the flight 711 (A.D. 1311–12); and about the year 780 (A.D. 1378–9) the face of Abʼoo-l-Hoʼl was mutilated by the fanatic sheykh Mohhamʼmad, surnamed Saʼim ed-Dahr, or “the Faster of the Age.” Immediately after these periods, it is affirmed, the sands of the eastern and western deserts began to overspread the cultivable land intervening between them and the Nile, and to cause a considerable contraction of the bed of the river: in truth, however, the eastern limits of the river in the neighbourhood of El-Ckaʼhireh had become very much contracted in the sixth and seventh (p.70) centuries after the flight; and have experienced but little change since the commencement of the eighth century.
Before this contraction of its bed, the river flowed by the walls of the Ckusr esh-Shemʼă and the Mosque of ʼAmr: to the northward of El-Foostaʼt, its eastern limits were bounded by the town of El-ʼAsʼkar, the gardens of Ez-Zahʼree, the eastern part of the quarter called El-Looʼck, the town of El-Mucks, the tract called Ard et-Tabbaʼleh, the garden of El-Baʼal, and the village of Minʼyet es-Seeʼreg. Thus we see that the Nile formerly flowed close by the western suburbs and gardens of El-Ckaʼhireh.—Towards the close of the period of the dynasty of the Fawaʼtim (the Khaleeʼfehs of Egypt) a large vessel, called El-Feel (or the Elephant), was wrecked in the Nile, near El-Mucks, and, remaining where it sank, occasioned an accumulation of sand and mud which soon became an extensive and fertile island. This new island, from the circumstance which gave rise to it, received the name of Gezeeʼret el-Feel (or the Island of the Elephant). It is laid down in the plan prefixed to this chapter, according to the description of its situation and extent given by El-Muckreeʼzee. In the year of the flight 570 (A.D. 1174–5) this island became united with the main land on the east; and from that period, the river gradually retired from the neighbourhood of El-Mucks, forming, by the deposit of soil during the successive seasons of the inundation, the wide plain upon which the town of Booʼlaʼck is situated. Booʼlaʼck was founded in the year of the flight 713 (A.D. 1313–14); and the island which is named after it (Gezeeʼret Booʼlaʼck) was formed about the same time.
(1) Explanation of the Plan (plate 6 [fig. 12]).—A, The Citadel—B, Place called the Roomeyʼleh—C, The Ckarʼa Meydaʼn—D, Ckalʼʼat el-Kebsh—E, Birʼket el-Feel—F, El-Ezbekeeʼyeh—G, El-Hhasaneeʼyeh—H, Space between the Baʼb en-Nasr of the first wall of El-Ckaʼhireh (marked by the dotted line) and that of the second wall—I, Space between the Baʼb el-Footooʼhh of the first wall and that of the second—K, Space between the Baʼb Zooweyʼleh of the first wall and that of the second—L, Baʼb el-Bahhr; now more commonly called Baʼb el-Hhadeeʼd—M, Tract formerly called Ard et-Tabbaʼleh—N, Site of the garden of El-Baʼal—O, El-Looʼck, and Baʼb el-Looʼck—P, Tract which was occupied by the gardens of Ez-Zahʼree—Q, Ckusr esh-Shemʼă—R, Mosque of ʼAmr—S, Convent of Durweeʼshes—T, Ckusr El-ʼEyʼnee; now a college—U, V, Palace and Hhareeʼm of Ibraheeʼm Baʼsha—W, Kufr ʼAbd El-ʼAzeeʼz (a village)—X, Kufr Ckaʼid Bey (a village)—Y, Ckusr er-Roʼdah—Z, The Mickyaʼs, or Nilometer—a,b, Mosque and Fort on Mount Moockutʼtum—c, Ruin called Ckoobʼbet el-Howʼa—d,d,d,d,d,d,d,d, Forts erected by the French on the mounds of rubbish—e, Cemetery of Baʼb en-Nusr—f, Birʼket er-Rutʼlee—g, Telegraph—h, Gaʼmeʼ Ez-Zaʼhir (a ruined mosque)—i,i,i,i,i, Western canal, formerly called El-Khaleeʼg en-Naʼsiree—k,k, New canal.—(A plan in the great French work on Egypt was of some assistance to me in drawing the first lines of that above described [Description de lʼÉgypte, “État moderne,” vol. 1, pl. 15]).
(1) Tuckʼee ed-Deen Ahhʼmad, commonly called El-Muckreeʼzee (because his family was of El-Muckreeʼz, a quarter of Baalbekʼk), was born at El-Ckaʼhireh (now called Musr, or Cairo) in the year of the flight 769 (A.D. 1367–8), and died in 845.
(2) More properly (though not commonly) written Musr el-ʼAteeʼckah, and Musr el-Ckadeeʼmeh, which has the same meaning.
(3) Under Amaury, King of Jerusalem, called by the Arabs Merʼee.