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By Jane Hathaway

This revisionist learn reevaluates the origins and origin myths of the Faqaris and Qasimis, rival factions that divided Egyptian society in the course of the 17th and eighteenth centuries, whilst Egypt was once the biggest province within the Ottoman Empire. In solution to the iconic secret surrounding the factions’ origins, Jane Hathaway areas their emergence in the generalized trouble that the Ottoman Empire—like a lot of the remainder of the world—suffered throughout the early glossy interval, whereas uncovering a symbiosis among Ottoman Egypt and Yemen that used to be severe to their formation. furthermore, she scrutinizes the factions’ beginning myths, deconstructing their tropes and emblems to bare their connections to a lot older renowned narratives. Drawing on parallels from a wide range of cultures, she demonstrates with awesome originality how rituals reminiscent of storytelling and public processions, in addition to deciding on colours and symbols, may serve to enhance factional identification.

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Extra resources for A Tale of Two Factions: Myth, Memory, and Identity in Ottoman Egypt and Yemen

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Notwithstanding, each individual faction can incorporate members from disparate backgrounds by imbuing them with a sense of group cohesion; this is particularly noticeable in a society in which two factions predominate since few things foster unity like hostility toward a common foe. Even so, how to encourage raw recruits to identify with one faction of two, with which they had no prior connection, of which they had presumably never heard before coming to Cairo? I believe that the answer may have lain in popular stories of the sort described above.

In this bilateralism, they resemble less the Mamluk-era factions than they do other well-known historical examples of two rival blocs that divided their respective societies, notably the Guelphs and Ghibellines of medieval Tuscany, whose enmity pervades Canto X of Dante’s Inferno;19 the Blues and Greens of the Byzantine Empire; and the northern and southern, or Qaysi and Yemeni, Arabs whose rivalry emerged in the early centuries of Islam. 20 As we shall see, historical connections may, in fact, exist between the Blues and Greens and, on the one hand, the Qays and Yemen, and, on the other, the blocs of Ottoman Egypt.

But when deployed by only two competing factions, the standards become markers of identity. Public Rituals The factions’ identities were embedded in public consciousness and, ultimately, in collective memory through public visibility, which was in turn enhanced by the factions’ participation in public rituals. Equestrian exercises are one example of such public rituals, although they took place in a relatively circumscribed space—the hippodrome—and if they were for practice, rather than in celebration of a holiday or military victory, there was no guarantee that the identifying markers of the factions would be on display.

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