Interesting Facts about Cairo Geniza

The Cairo Geniza is an account of over 3000 Jewish Manuscript that was found in a storeroom of an ancient Egyptian synagogue known as Ben Ezra synagogue in old Cairo. These remains outline the account of 1000-year era from 870CE to the 19th century. It gives a historic account of the Jewish, North African and Middle Eastern people. In fact, it comprises of the most significant manuscripts in the world with its diverse medieval collections. The manuscripts are written in different languages among them being Hebrew Aramaic and Arabic. In addition, it is written on paper, which is the most common, but other materials such as vellum, cloth and papyrus are also used.

Cairo Geniza's Particulars

This significant relic is well known for articulating the Jewish religious account with the most common biblical writings, Talmudic and Rabbinic writings being seen. Apart from the religious content, the manuscripts content documented evidence of the Eastern Mediterranean and North African economic and cultural activities from 10th and 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

Simon Van Gelderen was the first to bring attention to the Cairo Geniza after he visited the Ben Ezra synagogue in 1752 or 1753, the exact year is not well known. A scholar known as Jacob Saphir later visited the synagogue in 1864 during his travels where he explored the fragments in two days. Although he did not make any significant findings during his two-day exploration he made suggestions that there could be something important in the chamber that needed to be explored further.

Later in 1896 two sisters, Scottish twins called Agness Lewis and Margaret Gibson carried with them a few fragments from the 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.

He was assisted by the chief rabbi to separate the biggest part of the Geniza from its original chamber. This was the start of how the numerous fragments of this writings have spread all over the universities in the world. In fact, most of these fragments are used as references in certain studies including theology. Get detailed facts on this at