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Sacred Geometries: The Dynamics of ‘Islamic’ Ornament in Jewish and Coptic Old Cairo

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents Old Cairo geometric designs for specific iconographic meaning and provides an approach that views them as having multiple, interrelated roles, especially those connected to their presence in architectural space. Just as sacred geometries were important sites of spiritual and communal investment and transformation during the medieval and early modern periods, so today, they continue to play an important role in the mediation of Jewish, Christian, and even Muslim identity in Cairo. Two non-Muslim sites in Cairo, the Coptic Church of Santa Barbara and the Ben Ezra Synagogue, serve as a context for the re-evaluation of architecture as a reflection of, and a mediator in, Muslim and non-Muslim relations in Cairo. Acting as ritual, social, and experiential mechanisms in architectural space, architectural surface ornamentations in Coptic Christian and Jewish Old Cairo have clearly mediated cross-cultural relations in Muslim society, past and present.

Keywords: Ben Ezra Synagogue; Christian identity; Coptic Church of Santa Barbara; Jewish identity; Muslim identity; Old Cairo; sacred geometries



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