Friday, January 1

Did Saladin destroy the Fatimid Libraries?

last year, I came across a fascinating paper. The paper said that there is a belief in the middle east that Saladin destroyed the Fatimid Dynastic libraries. Saladin is a famous character and he is best known for how he tweaked Richard's nose.

But his story is fascinating, not least because of the reactions. Cairenes who are educated and know a bit about their history hate him. Why? because he took the wealth of Cairo and took it off to Damascus...but this was worse...when he conquered Cairo, he apparently destroyed the Fatimid Libraries.

I didnt know that there was a library in the first place! You always associate Egypt with the Library of Alexandria, not something in Cairo!

check out this link. The numbers look a bit OTT but suffice to say that there were 40 rooms full of books, manuscripts, documents, papers and the like. FOURTY rooms full of amazing stuff.

As it so happens, the paper, Did alā al-Dīn Destroy the Fatimids' Books? An Historiographical Enquiry by FOZIA BORA published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society July 2014, pp 1 - 19, takes us through a fascinating story about how the collection wasnt actually destroyed but sold on. Let me quote a little bit from the paper which made me really wince and cry.

Abu Sh  ̄ ama’s informant describes the collections that fell into S  ̄ .alah ̄. al-D ̄ın’s
34 and then reconstructs related events as follows:
1. Qad ̄. ̄ı al-Fad ̄.il, a lover of books, was allowed to survey the collections and take ‘a great quantity’ of them.
2. S.alah ̄. al-D ̄ın cut off the bindings from many of the rest that were in a good condition, to sell or re-use the leather, and threw the unbound contents into a lake.
3. Other volumes were sold to the public,35 over a period of ten years.
4. When news of the books in the lake became common knowledge, ‘people’ recovered
those, too, because ‘[books] are revered items’.
5. Much of the corpus that was initially discarded was thereby preserved, and this is how
‘that which we have [today] was attained’.

Bloody Kurd, the second point made me furious - how he ripped off the bindings! just to sell the sodding leather, but it gladdened my heart to read about how the Cairenes felt that the books are revered items. do not think that this has stopped, look at this story from recent times. So sodding painful to see. May their groins be infested with camel lice and may their arms be too short to scratch.

that said, dont forget the Lavon affair, when the Israeli's bombed the libraries in Cairo.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

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