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[Manifestations de l'Ifao] :
An African Metropolis: Cairo and Its African Hinterland in The Middle Ages
Partenaire(s) de l’Ifao: Aix-Marseille Université, projet ERC HornEast
The Arab conquests of the Seventh-Eighth centuries and the formation of the Islamic empire gave Egypt a key position in the northern part of Africa and opened up new tracks of mobility and exchange along the African shore of the Mediterranean as well as with areas to the south, from the highlands of Ethiopia to the Sahel. Since the foundation of al-Fustat to the heights of Mamluk Cairo in the later Middle Ages, the capital city of Islamic Egypt was the main African metropolis. Its sphere of influence reached areas that had never yet been connected, or never so intensely, to the northern part of Africa before the Middle Ages.
This international conference supported by the ERC project HornEast and hosted by the IFAO aims to investigate the mutual attraction between Cairo and its African hinterland in all its aspects. Flows of goods, people and ideas to and from the capital city of Egypt made this pull apparent in various contexts. This was of course linked to its location on major routes along the Mediterranean and down the Nile valley. Cairo was also a mandatory step on the way to Mekka for almost all African Muslim pilgrims. But much more may have played a role in attracting African societies and individuals to the capital city of Egypt: the early formation of an intellectual milieu in Fustat; the establishment of a major imperial court in al-Qahira; the city’s growing importance as diplomatic crossroads; the flourishing of its Jewish communities; the displacement of the Coptic patriarchate from Alexandria; the development of learning institutions for Shi‘i — and later Sunni — Islam; the reputation of Muslim saints buried in its cemeteries; as well as the wealth accumulated in one of the most populated cities of the Medieval World. On the other side, the genuine interest of Cairene elites for the African hinterland of their city, wether inspired by imperial perspectives, economic opportunities or intellectual and spiritual networks, made of Cairo the main center of production of knowlegde about Africa in the Middle Ages
This conference’s goal is to portray, for the first time in the same frame, the relationships between the capital city of Egypt and the African continent, on both shores of the Sahara and from the western Maghreb to the Horn of Africa, in the Middle Ages. Contributors are invited to explore any framework of inquiry likely to enlighten the mutual pull between Cairo and its African hinterland.
Titles and abstracts should be sent to Julien Loiseau (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 15, 2020. Papers will be expected in February 2021 for publication in an edited volume.