This richly illustrated volume tells the story of one of the most complex of Islamic societies, addressing questions raised by the art of Egypt between 973 and 1171. Farhad Daftary describes how Cairo was set up as the capital of the Fatimid Caliphate. Paul Walker analyses its literary culture, and Doris Behrens-Abouseif reveals the impact of intense architectural and artistic activity, while Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani notes that our knowledge is based on but a tiny fraction of what once existed.

By contrast, the unity that characterizes Fatimid calligraphy on stone and the outstanding calligraphy of the Fatimid tiraz are demonstrated by Bernard O’Kane, and the highly original characteristics of monumental calligraphy in Ifriqiya are shown by Lotfi Abdeljaouad. The diversity of Fatimid art resulting from the heterogeneous make-up of society including the Christian and Jewish communities is described both by Matt Immerzeel et al, and by Paula Sanders.

Maribel Fierro and David Bramoullé give overviews of the movements of people and goods between al-Andalus and southern Italy, and Egypt, exchanges so intense that Doris Behrens-Abouseif and Maurizio Massaiu ask whether it was Palermo or Cairo that became the centre of Arab artistic innovation?

The relations of Iranian Ismaili missionaries with Fatimid Egypt are investigated by Farhad Daftary, and Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani revisits a passage in the travel account of Naser-e Khosrow and ponders just what the 11th-century Iranian philosopher/poet actually saw.