By Martyn Smith
Paper given at the Middle East Studies Association 2010 Annual Meeting (2010)
Introduction: No translation of al-Maqrizi’s Khitat is available in English or any other European language. The more you know about the history of Cairo the more remarkable that will appear. Pick up a standard work on Cairo, such as that by André Raymond, and the influence of al-Maqrizi in reconstructing points of medieval history is evident in many places. The sort of building by building tour of Islamic Cairo in the work of Doris Behrens-Abouseif is enabled, to a large degree, by the information preserved by al-Maqrizi.
In the Khitat al-Maqrizi presented a synthetic view of the history of Cairo, augmented through the concept of cyclical history that he learned from Ibn Khaldun. Equal in importance to his original views on Cairo are the passages drawn from works otherwise lost. Because of this material al- Maqrizi is an essential source for the study of the Fatimids, and he receives close attention in Paul Walker’s Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and Its Sources.