Ben Ezra Synagogue, exterior
Aliza in Cairo blog has a lovely photo of the delicate ornamentation above the synagogue gate.
Since Fostat was the main Jewish suburb in Cairo, you would expect the synagogue complex to contain all the resources that a large, thriving community (7,000 Jewish citizens in the 12th century) would need. The synagogue precincts, for example, were meeting places for social functions. A large library was given a central position. The Rabbinic Court heard cases in a smaller building, behind the synagogue. A mikveh-well was on the site for religious ablutions. A market place, Souk of the Jews, was located outside the synagogue, attached to the outer wall.
Men's seating on ground floor, women's gallery above
This was the synagogue whose geniza or store room was accidentally found in the late 19th century. When permission was obtained to open the room, it contained a veritable historical treasure trove of stored sacred manuscripts, as well as bills of sale, contracts, letters and other secular documents. The collection, known as the Cairo Geniza, was taken to Cambridge University for preservation and scholarship. Ferrell’s Travel Blog has good links for the geniza.
The Supreme Council of Egypt Antiquities has indicated that the building holds a special spiritual value to Copts since at one time it had been turned into a Coptic church. Furthermore it is of interest to the Muslims since it was built in Islamic style during the Era of the Caliphs. The Point of no return blog recorded that Ben Ezra synagogue is under a government preservation order and the government has decided to use its own funds to renovate the building.
marble desk and marble columns,
looking towards the ark