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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

33      ?'be Egyptian Contribution to Christianity
a nationalist movement amongst the Coptic Christians, which
passed unchecked by the Arab rulers.
In 969 a great change took place. Egypt was conquered by
the Fatimid anti-khalif of Kairawan and so cut off from the life
of the main Muslim community under the khalif of Bagdad.
For a while the change of rulers brought increased prosperity,
and the Christian population suffered no harm: several of these
Fatimid khalifs made their summer holidays in Christian mon-
asteries, and some of them married Christian wives who were
not required to change their religion. These rulers- founded
a new capital Kahira, our present Cairo, a suburb of Fustat
entirely devoted to government offices and officials. The old
Fustat, which lay on the south, fell very largely into the hands
of the Copts and so there, in what we now know as 'Old
Cairo', are a number of ancient Christian churches and mona-
steries.
But a great rivalry arose between the Coptic clergy of Cairo
and the monastic dignitaries of the Wadi el-Natrun. At length
a compromise was effected: the patriarch went down to the
desert monastery for the Easter ceremonies and there each
patriarch was consecrated, but part of his time he lived in Cairo,
usually in high favour at the Fatimid court. Finally he was
settled in Cairo altogether, but still retained the title 'Patriarch
of Alexandria', though the patriarchs had ceased residence in
Alexandria since 551.
Then in the days of the later Fatimids came the Crusades
(1096-1291), the brunt of the attack falling on the Fatimids who
ruled Palestine as well as Egypt. It was during this struggle that
bitter party feelings arose between Muslims and Christians,
exasperated when in 1171 the Turkish general Saladin con-
quered Egypt for his master the khalif of Bagdad. The Turks
were fanatics in a way the Arabs never had been and the disasters
suffered during the Crusades were not forgotten. The Christians
of Egypt continued to be tolerated, but often suffered from