Pleasures and Celebrations at Court
‘Despite their piety, life at the Fatimid court was not short of entertainment.’
Despite their piety, life at the Fatimid court and that of their vassals – the Zirids in North Africa and the Kalbids in Sicily – was not short of entertainment, provided by poets, singers, and dancers. In North Africa, the Fatimids welcomed local poets such as the Ifriqiyans (Tunisians) Ibn Hani and al-Ladi. Later, in Cairo, the court hosted poets from all over the Islamic world. A number of caliphs also composed poetry which was sometimes performed publicly. Musical entertainment drew on the Eastern tradition and borrowed elements from the Andalusian repertoire; it was performed by male and female musicians on instruments such as reed flutes, lutes and dulcimers. Singers, many of whom had mastered both an instrument and verse, sang poetry exploring love and chivalry. Male and female dancers performed eloquently; the popular ‘handkerchief’ dance appears on many relief carvings.
Four ivory panels

Hegira 5th–6th centuries / AD 11th–12th centuries
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Berlin, Germany
Ivory panels, depicting seated revellers who are being entertained by male and female performers.