Adult Programs

Looking for Women in Medieval Cairo: Imagined Histories and Historical Realities

Ikat shawl with painted inscription Cotton tabby with warp ikat pattern, ink, gold leaf Yemen 10th century 970.364.19

Pre-registration is required.  Ticket sales will not be available at the door.

Note: This lecture will be held at the Ismaili Centre Toronto, 49 Wynford Drive, Toronto.  Paid parking will be available.

This lecture takes us on a virtual journey in search for women in medieval Cairo. Exploring palaces and ordinary houses, markets and cemeteries, leisure pavilions on the Nile and ateliers, the quest for the attainment of a historically accurate portrayal of women in medieval Egypt turns the social historian into a veritable detective. Armed with the forensic tools of textual analysis, material evidence, scarce documentary sources and a dose of intuition Dr. Cortese unpacks anecdotes, literary conventions, historical accounts and forged stories to shed light on women’s participation – whether real or perceived- to the political, economic, social and cultural life of the time and place they lived in. The lecture focuses on women in Cairo in the Fatimid period (969-1171). During Fatimid rule, royal patronage, religious tolerance and commercial prosperity promoted the establishment and growth of a cosmopolitan urban society that brought to Cairo and the neighbouring city of al-Fustat women of varied religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. Some of these women rose to become royalty while others left their mark as transmitters of learning. Seeking them out deepens our knowledge of life in medieval Cairo.

Speaker: Dr. Delia Cortese, Middlesex University, London (PhD, SOAS University of London), Assistant Professor in Religious Studies.

Dr Delia Cortese’s area of research is medieval Islam, particularly Ismaili studies and the Fāṭimid period. In recent years she has been focusing on gender and social history, Islamic codicology, and the interrelationship between Europe and the Islamic world. Beside Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam (with S. Calderini, Edinburgh University Press, 2006), she is also the author of Arabic Ismaili Manuscripts: The Zahid Ali Collection, IB Tauris, 2003 and  Ismaili and Other Arabic Manuscripts, IB Tauris, 2000. Recent articles include ‘Voices of the Silent Majority: the Transmission of Sunni Learning in Fāṭimid Ismā‘īlī Egypt’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol. 39 (2012), and ‘A Dream Come-True: Empowerment Through Dreams Reflecting Fāṭimid-Ṣulayḥid Relations’ in O. Ali-de-Unzaga (ed.), Fortresses of the Intellect, Ismaili and other Islamic Studies in Honour of Farhad Daftary, London, New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

Note: This lecture will be held at the Ismaili Centre Toronto, 49 Wynford Drive, Toronto.  Paid parking will be available.

Presented in Partnership by the Royal Ontario Museum and His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Canada.

More Cairo Under Wraps lectures


Ismaili Center Toronto, 49 Wynford Drive, Toronto
Ticket does not include parking. Paid parking available.