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Islamic Arts in Egypt

Islamic Arts in Egypt

The expansion of the Arabs as a power in the 7th century AD was no gradual rise through ascending cultural levels, but a sudden eruption into the heartland of two of the greatest civilizations at the time.


Persia and Byzantium

The former was conquered completely and of the latter, a great portion was claimed. Thus virtually at a strike, the Arabs were heirs to civilizations stretching back several thousands of years. However, with the rise of Christianity in Egypt, the ancient artistic traditions were studiously avoided, so in turn the Arabs found little in the provincial Byzantine style of Egypt to attract them, their requirements were very different from those of the static conquered population and none of the religious or aesthetic traditions were adopted.

At first, the main influences were from Mesopotamia, which contained the metropolitan centers of Islam. With the increase in independence from the time of Ibn Tulun (868) onward, local styles emerged. Following conquests of the Fatimids in the 10th Century, the Ayyubids in the 12th Century and the Ottomans in the 16th century, new fashions and techniques were introduced only to be modified in turn by local preferences. In addition, despite political frontiers, it was possible to travel widely in the Muslim territories, in fact it was a necessity when going on the Hajj, which encouraged the wide scale of interchange in ideas.

The immense disruptions in the east caused by successive waves of central Asian peoples and in the west by the re-conquest of Europeans also contributed greatly to the cultural mix and Egypt, as the pivot between the eastern and the western territories of Islam, received refugees from both. However, some styles remained local and were never adopted throughout.

Last Updated on Sunday 16th January 2011

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