Al-Ahram Weekly Online   4 - 10 October 2007
Issue No. 865
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Snap shots

By Mohamed El-Hebeishy

TABATABA is the only relic supposedly remaining after the Ikshidid. Mohamed El-Hebeishy reports on more about one part of Egyptian history.

The 30 years following the end of the Tulunid Dynasty were best described as chaotic, with the nation experiencing severe upheaval and no stability whatsoever. In 935 AD, the Abbasid Caliph appointed Mohamed Ibn Tughj, from Sogdiana in Central Asia, as the governor of Egypt. Ibn Tughj soon gained himself the title Ikshid (Persian for prince) and started a new dynasty which would rule Egypt. That would be the birth of the Ikshidid Dynasty.

Ibn Tughj had an Abyssinian slave named Abul- Misk Kafur who began serving as a tutor for his children. Soon, Kafur was leading military campaigns against Syria and Hegaz, and finally succeeded his master as de facto ruler of Egypt, being the guardian of the lawful heir to the throne. Kafur died in 968 AD and in only one year's time, the country fell, with no resistance worth mentioning, to the Fatimid Gen Jawhar Al-Siqilli. Alas, the Ikshidid Dynasty was over, having existed for only 34 years.

The only monument the Ikshidid left as proof of their existence was the Tabataba Shrine.

Tabataba is a family that started with Ibrahim Ibn Ismail Al-Dibag. Al-Dibag was a Shia Muslim belonging to the Zaidi sect. In the mid-eighth century, Shias rebelled against the Ummayids, who in turn persecuted anyone who opposed them; being a Shia sect, Zaidis were on the list. Imprisoned for an extended period of time, when Al-Dibag was finally released, he was confined to live in Iraq from where he acquired the name Tabataba, "Master of Masters" in the local tongue.

Fleeing persecution, Tabataba descendants were scattered throughout the Middle East, Iran and even India. The featured shrine is dedicated to one of them. Is it really the only monument the Ikshidi left behind or could there be more?

photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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