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The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo:
Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque
Edited by Carolyn Ludwig and Morris Jackson
Photographs by Sherif Sonbol
A celebration of the history of religious life in the early Egyptian capital, in text and pictures
Just to the south of modern Cairo stands the historic enclave known as Old Cairo, which grew up in and around the Roman fortress of Babylon, and which today hosts a unique collection of monuments that attest to the shared cultural heritage of ancient Egyptians, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. In this lavishly illustrated celebration of a very special place, renowned photographer Sherif Sonbol’s remarkable images of the fortress, churches, synagogue, and mosque illuminate the living fabric of the ancient and medieval stones, while the text describes the history of Old Cairo from the time of the ancient Egyptians and the Romans to the founding of the first Muslim city of al-Fustat, focusing on the Jewish history of the area (exploring the famous Genizah documents found in the Ben Ezra Synagogue that tell so much about everyday life in medieval Egypt), the early Coptic Christian churches, some of the oldest in the world, and the arrival of the Muslims in the seventh century, their establishment of al-Fustat on the edge of Old Cairo, and the building of the oldest mosque in Africa.
Gawdat Gabra is the former director of the Coptic Museum and the author, coauthor, or editor of numerous books on the history and culture of Egyptian Christianity, including The Treasures of Coptic Art (AUC Press, 2006) and The Churches of Egypt (AUC Press, 2007). He is currently visiting professor of Coptic studies at Claremont Graduate University, California.
Gertrud J.M. van Loon specializes in Coptic art and archaeology. She holds a PhD from Leiden University. She is currently a fellow at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. She is the coauthor of The Churches of Egypt (AUC Press, 2007).
Stefan Reif is professor emeritus of medieval Hebrew studies and fellow of St John’s College at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books and articles, including most recently A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo, Problems with Prayers, and Charles Taylor and the Genizah Collection.
Tarek Swelim earned his PhD in Islamic art and architecture from Harvard University. He has taught at the American University in Cairo, and is the author of diverse publications on Mamluk, Ottoman, and Roman architecture. He is a lecturer and guide, leading tours for prestigious American institutions throughout Egypt, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Carolyn Ludwig is the author of Jewels in Our Crown: Churches of Los Angeles, and editor of The Churches of Egypt (AUC Press, 2007). She lives in Los Angeles and is a frequent visitor to Egypt.
Morris Jackson has designed books for publishers, museums, corporations, and individual artists. Working with Carolyn Ludwig, he designed Jewels in Our Crown: Churches of Los Angeles, and The Churches of Egypt (AUC Press, 2007).
Sherif Sonbol is a highly regarded Egyptian photographer. He has contributed photographs to numerous illustrated books, including The Churches of Egypt (AUC Press, 2007) and The Nile Cruise (AUC Press, 2010).