Circa: 909 AD to 1171 AD
Style: Coin Pendant
At the height of their power, the Fatimid Caliphate ruled much of the Islamic world, including North Africa, the Hejaz, and the Eastern Mediterranean, from their capital in Cairo. However, their roots can be traced to the shores of Ifriqiya in modern day Tunisia and eastern Algeria where in 909 A.D. an imam from the Ismaili sect of the Shia branch of Islam declared himself caliph and adopted the name of al-Mahdi (the Divinely Guided One). Directly opposing the power of the Sunni Abbasids, the Fatimids legitimized their claim to authority by tracing their descent to Muhammad by way of his daughter Fatima (hence the name Fatimid) and her husband Ali, the first Shia imam. Soon after their founding, the Fatimids began to expand outwards, swiftly bringing all of the Maghreb under their dominion. Thereafter, the Fatimids set their sights to the East where the Abbasids centers of power lay.
After numerous campaigns launched under multiple caliphs, the Nile Valley was finally conquered in 969, opening up the Middle East to their armies. The city of Cairo was founded as a new capital. Opulent mosques and centers of learning including al-Azhar University were constructed, as Cairo quickly became the spiritual center for Ismaili Shia. The arts flourished during the Fatimid era, specifically rock-crystal carvings that became treasured by the Caliphs themselves and throughout the Mediterranean world. In their ultimate pursuit of usurping Abbasid power, the Fatimids eventually extended their control throughout the Red Sea and the Hejaz (including the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina), thereby opening up direct sea routes with India and effectively diluting Abbasid trade with these foreign markets.
The middle of the 11th century marked the height of Fatimid power in the East, when a dissident general in Iraq switched side and declared his allegiance to the Fatimids. Yet this turn of events was brief as Seljuk Turks soon regained control of Baghdad, marking the beginning of the decline of the Fatimid Dynasty. A combination of local opposition by the largely Sunni populations they ruled and outside attacks by Byzantines, Turks, and Crusader armies of Europe would ultimately prove lethal as the once extensive reach of the Fatimid Caliphate was eventually reduced to Egypt itself. By the time the last of a series of ineffective caliphs passed away in 1171, the vizier Salah al-Din had become the real master of Egypt and the Fatimid Caliphate was formally abolished. - (CK.0577)