Mamluk night: A contribution to the history of daily life in Cairo and Damascus at the end of the middle ages

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.


Historians of medieval Islamic society have not paid the same attention to night activities as a topic for social history, as have specialists of the medieval west. Examining cases and narrative sources in Cairo and Damascus, this paper presents the complex reality of a Mamluk city that cannot be reduced to the dangers felt by its inhabitants at nightfall. A public lighting system and night markets in the Mamluk city facilitated circulation throughout the evening and for a great part of the night. Public spaces were monitored and controlled by authorities and neither Cairo nor Damascus should be seen as enclosed and partitioned spaces. Commercial exchanges, public entertainment and traffic contributed to extend daytime activities beyond nightfall and to cast the urban space as a place of socialization. Besides, Mamluk power and religious authorities also invested the city through celebrations and ceremonies performed by night which often turned into popular festivals and outlets while urban elites considered nighttime as an opportunity to perfect their social role in a more intimate way and to provide evidence of their elevated status. This paper describes the broad range of individual and collective night practices and restores these activities to their rightful place in Cairene and Damascene daily life.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
An important conclusion emerges from an examination of Venetian public acts of the late middle ages: noclurnal supervision became, from the thirteenth century onward, a necessary and permanent pre-occupation of government. This calls for a study of the definition of night-time and of the administrative framework, which reveals an evolution from traditional structures to magistratures specifically charged with maintaining public order. A question arises: fear of the night is ancient and profound; why did the desire to control and master it emerge so late? It seems that the Republic feared real violence less than political violence in the widest sense of the term. Because the night represented a kind of freedom, it had to be brought under control. This found its place within the more general plan of regulating behaviour, a logical result of the constitution of the Venetian state.