Marcus Pasha Simaika (1864–1944) was born to a prominent Coptic family on the eve of the inauguration of the Suez Canal and the British occupation of Egypt. From a young age, he developed a passion for Coptic heritage and devoted his life to shedding light on centuries of Christian Egyptian history that had been neglected by ignorance or otherwise belittled and despised. He was not a professional archaeologist, an excavator, or a specialist scholar of Coptic language and literature. Rather, his achievement lies in his role as a visionary administrator who used his status to pursue relentlessly his dream of founding a Coptic Museum and preserving endangered monuments. During his lengthy career, first as a civil servant, then as a legislator and member of the Coptic community council, he maneuvered endlessly between the patriarch and the church hierarchy, the Coptic community council, the British authorities, and the government to bring them together in his fight to save Coptic heritage. This fascinating biography draws upon Simaika’s unpublished memoirs as well as on other documents and photographs from the Simaika family archive to deepen our understanding of several important themes of modern Egyptian history: the development of Coptic archaeology and heritage studies, Egyptian–British interactions during the colonial and semi-colonial eras, shifting balances in the interaction of clergymen and the lay Coptic community, and the ever-sensitive evolution of relations between Copts and their Muslim countrymen.
Father of Coptic Archaeology
Introduction byDonald M. Reid
1 August 2017
13 b/w illus
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Caliph of Cairo
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021
Paul E. Walker
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021Paul E. Walker
One night in the year 411/1021, the powerful ruler of the Fatimid empire, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, rode out of the southern gates of Cairo and was never seen again. Was the caliph murdered, or could he have decided to abandon his royal life, wandering off to live alone and anonymous? Whatever the truth, the fact was that al-Hakim had literally vanished into the desert. Yet al-Hakim, though shrouded in mystery, has never been forgotten. To the Druze, he was (and is) God, and his disappearance merely indicated his reversion to non-human form. For Ismailis, al-Hakim was the sixteenth imam, descended from the Prophet, and infallible. Jews and Christians, by contrast, long remembered him as their persecutor, who ordered the destruction of many of their synagogues and churches. Using all the tools of modern scholarship, Paul Walker offers the most balanced and engaging biography yet to be published of this endlessly fascinating individual. To some, al-Hakim was God incarnate, to others an infallible imam, to still others he was a capricious tyrant. This book examines myth and fact, document and opinion, to present the most complete and detailed history yet written of the life and times of one of the medieval Islamic world’s most controversial figures....read more
15 December 2012
Doria Shafik, Egyptian Feminist
A Woman Apart
A Woman ApartCynthia Nelson
Cynthia Nelson brings to life a bold and gifted Egyptian of the mid-twentieth century who helped define what it means to be a modern Arab woman. Doria Shafik (1908-1975), an Egyptian feminist, poet, publisher, and political activist, participated in one of her country’s most explosive periods of social and political transformation. During the ’40s she burst onto the public stage in Egypt, openly challenging every social, cultural, and legal barrier that she viewed as oppressive to the full equality of women. As the founder of the Daughters of the Nile Union in 1948, she catalyzed a movement that fought for suffrage and set up programs to combat illiteracy, provide economic opportunities for lower-class urban women, and raise the consciousness of middle-class university students. She also founded and edited two prominent women’s journals, wrote books in both French and Arabic, lectured throughout the world, married, and raised two children. For a decade, she ignited the imagination of the press, where she was variously described as the “perfumed leader,” a “danger to the Muslim nation,” a “traitor to the revolution,” and the “only man in Egypt.” Then, in 1957, following her hunger strike in protest against the populist regime of Gamal Abdul Nasser, she was placed under house arrest. Within months her magazines folded, her name was officially banned from the press, and she entered a long period of seclusion that ended with her suicide in 1975. With the cooperation of Shafik’s daughters, who made available her three impressionistic, unpublished, and sometimes contradictory memoirs, Nelson has uncovered Shafik’s story and brings the life and achievements of this remarkable woman to a Western audience....read more
14 b/w illus.
This book is only available for purchase from Egypt
Crowds and Sultans
Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria
Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and SyriaAmina Elbendary
During the fifteenth century, the Mamluk sultanate that had ruled Egypt and Syria since 1249–50 faced a series of sustained economic and political challenges to its rule, from the effects of recurrent plagues to changes in international trade routes. Both these challenges and the policies and behaviors of rulers and subjects in response to them left profound impressions on Mamluk state and society, precipitating a degree of social mobility and resulting in new forms of cultural expression. These transformations were also reflected in the frequent reports of protests during this period, and led to a greater diffusion of power and the opening up of spaces for political participation by Mamluk subjects and negotiations of power between ruler and ruled. Rather than tell the story of this tumultuous century solely from the point of view of the Mamluk dynasty, Crowds and Sultans places the protests within the framework of long-term transformations, arguing for a more nuanced and comprehensive narrative of Mamluk state and society in late medieval Egypt and Syria. Reports of urban protest and the ways in which alliances between different groups in Mamluk society were forged allow us glimpses into how some medieval Arab societies negotiated power, showing that rather than stoically endure autocratic governments, populations often resisted and renegotiated their positions in response to threats to their interests. This rich and thought-provoking study will appeal to specialists in Mamluk history, Islamic studies, and Arab history, as well as to students and scholars of Middle East politics and government and modern history....read more
1 May 2016
El Alamein and the Struggle for North Africa
International Perspectives from the Twenty-first Century
Edited by Jill Edwards
International Perspectives from the Twenty-first CenturyEdited by Jill Edwards
This new collection of studies presents fresh insights into a war fought over unusually difficult terrain and with exceptional supply demands. From the ongoing Italian geomorphic study of the Alamein arena to individual memories of non-combatant Alexandrians, from the Free French to the seasoned colonial forces of Australia, India, New Zealand, and South Africa, and from vital naval engagements and the siege of Malta to the study of Rommel’s leadership and the Churchill–Montgomery duo, this book presents the reader with a detailed yet broad reassessment of the complexities of the war in North Africa between 1941 and 1943, its technology, philosophy, military doctrine, strategy, tactics, logistics, and the associated local and international politics. Writing from the perspectives of some of the many nations whose armies were involved in the conflict, fifteen historians bring to their work the precision of their national historical archival sources in clear and spritely narratives....read more
15 March 2013
55 b/w illus.