Interesting Facts about Cairo Geniza



Cairo Geniza is a collection of old manuscripts that were found in a synagogue’s storeroom, the Ben Ezra synagogue, in old Cairo. The manuscripts are an outline of 1000 years ranging from 870 CE to 19th century. The Cairo Geniza is an account off the history of North Africa, Middle East and the Jews. It is believed to be a significant account of the world’s manuscripts containing diverse collections from the medieval era. The writings are done in different languages with the most common being Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic. The writings are also done on paper, which is the main material, vellum, papyrus and cloth.


Details of the Cairo Geniza manuscripts


This precious historical artifact gives an account of Jewish religious texts with the most common being Biblical writings, Rabbinic and the Talmudic writings with some of them still containing the original authors’ works. On top of this is an account of the Eastern Mediterranean and North African economic and cultural lifestyles dating from the 10th century to the 13th century.


The writings are spread all over the world with universities such as Cambridge and Manchester being the beneficiaries as they are used in studies and references with some universities investing a great deal of money to preserve their existence. In addition, more manuscripts were found in Basatin cemetery in the Easter side of old Cairo Geniza.


The discovery of the Cairo Geniza


A European by the name Simon Van Gelderen first noted the collection when he visited Ben Ezra Synagogue in either 1752 or 1753. Later in 1864, a scholar and traveler known as Jacob Saphir visited the same synagogue where he spent two days exploring the content. Although he did not make any notice of importance, he suggested that further investigations were in order to establish if the synagogue’s stores had anything significant to offer.


Later in 1896 two sisters, Scottish twins called Agness Lewis and Margaret Gibson carried with them a few fragments from the Cairo Geniza and brought them to Solomon Schechter in Cambridge to investigate the pieces of interest. He discovered the importance of the material immediately and made a plan to travel to the synagogue to explore the material further since he knew just how important this discovery was going to be.


With the assistance of the chief Rabbi he was able to remove the greater percentage of the Cairo Geniza from its chamber. This is the part that then led to the contents spreading to different universities all over the world. In fact, most of these fragments are used as references in certain studies including theology. Find some details on this at