The Database



This section provides access to a dataset of the quantitative data drawn from the 'History of the Fayyum'. It includes geographic, demographical and fiscal information about 125 villages and hamlets in mid-thirteenth century Fayyum, tabulated in approximately 200 categories.

Most of the fiscal data refers to the tax revenues from the year 641 AH (AD 1243). These are, almost always, actual tax payments that were confirmed and registered in the tax registers of the iqṭā‘ holders or the diwan.  

The taxes are divided into several principle categories: Land tax (in kind and in cash), commercial taxes, local fees, alms tax, poll tax, and other miscellaneous taxes. Allowances for local functionaries and distribution of seed advances are also recorded.  

The data from the 'History of the Fayyum' is presented in 17 Excel spreadsheets, which provide information about the 125 Fayyumi villages and about the city (Madinat al-Fayyum). The spreadsheets are divided into thematic categories (e.g., village details; land-tax in kind; sugar cultivation; etc.), and are accompanied by explanatory notes.

The data is given in the following units :

  • 1 gold dinar = 40 silver dirhams (the exchange rate specified in the work)
  • 1 ardeb (or irdabb) = about 90 liter
  • 1 feddan = 6368 square meters (m²) [different from the modern feddan].
  • 1 qabḍa (fist-length) of water = an opening in a weir of 1/6 dhira‘ = 6.25 inch/ 15.875 cm
  • Fractions: qarāṭ = 1/24; ḥabba = 1/3 qarāṭ = 1/72; daniq = 1/6 qarāṭ = 1/144.

In the dataset, the original fractions were converted to decimal points.

Some of the key data is also presented spatially, via 14 GIS-generated maps.  As base layer, we have used a map drawn by ‘Alī Shafei Bey, an amateur historian and the chief irrigation inspector of the Fayyum during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1940 he published a study of the ‘History of the Fayyum’, accompanied by a detailed irrigation and village map of the Fayyum at the time of al-Nābulusī. 

The maps have been geo-referenced, and the location of existing villages was confirmed by the use of modern maps (Google Earth).  

Shafei Bey's estimation of the lake level at – 30 below sea level is in line with recent archaeological surveys (Fakhri et al. 2006).

We have used ESRI® ArcMap™ 9.2 for the production of all the maps that follow.


Village details [.xls]

Most of the ‘History of the Fayyum’ consists of entries for more than 120 villages and hamlets. Each entry consists of detailed fiscal information, prefaced by brief general information about the village. This general information includes the following categories: 

  • The name of the village.
  • If the settlement is a hamlet, the name of its mother village.
  • The size of the village: Small / Medium / Large.
  • The geographical location of the village in relation to the city. Distance from the city is measured in hours of horse riding. Direction from the city in eight-rose directions (north, south, east, west, north-east, north-west, south-east or south-west).
  • The fiscal status of the village: Part of the private domain of the sultan (khāṣṣ) / endowed for the benefit of a religious institution (waqf) / granted as iqṭā‘ to army officers, which are sometimes named. The vast majority of the villages were granted as iqṭā‘.
  • For most villages, a fiscal value in army dinars (‘ibra jayshiya) is given. This sum represented the estimated fiscal value of the village, calculated by the Army Bureau (dīwān al-jaysh) for the purpose of managing the grants of iqṭā‘.  Fiscal value was calculated by assessing average fiscal revenue in cash and in kind, and commuting the revenue in kind from wheat and barley into a monetary value according to a fixed formula (see Cooper 1973: 317-8).
  • When several villages were grouped together as an iqṭā‘, the joint fiscal value is listed rather than the individual value of the village. 
  • The ethnic and cultural identity composition of the village: Bedouin / Sedentary.
  • For a Bedouin village (the absolute majority of the Fayyumi villages), the tribal affiliation of its inhabitants is usually mentioned. The tribal identity includes the Bedouin branch to which inhabitants belong, and the tribal confederacy to which the branch itself belongs.
  • If the settlement is sedentary, the tribal affiliation of its Bedouin protectors.
  • The irrigation method used in this village – Basin irrigation in the manner of Lower Egypt (al-rīf) / Open canal irrigation in the manner of Fayyum.
  • If the village irrigation is by open canals, the name of the canal and of the distribution weir (maqsam) from which the village gets its water.
  • Details about the canal:  Plastered / Not plastered.
  • Details about the canal: water quota, measured in qabḍas (fist lengths).
  • Sugar presses in the village: the number of stones that the press has (1 / 2 / 3), and the turning method of the stones (by water / by oxen).

The total revenues of the village (irtifā‘). This is the total revenues that accrue to the recipient of the village's agricultural and commercial tax revenues, usually the iqṭā‘ holder.  It includes revenues generated from grains, cash crops, plantations, and commercial taxes, but excludes other categories, such as local fees, the alms-tax, the poll-tax or the chicken levy.  The sum total is divided into revenues in kind (measured in ardebs) and revenues in cash (in gold dinars).




Tribal / Sedentary [.xls] 

The population of the villages and towns of the Fayyūm consisted almost entirely of settled peasants, but these settled communities were divided into sedentary inhabitants (ḥaḍar) and Bedouins (‘arab). 

The number of sedentary people in the Fayyum was small, and they lived only in a handful of villages. Al-Nābulusī also informs us that they are 'under the protection' of Bedouins, for whom 'the humiliation of the sedentary population is both custom and law'. Many of the sedentary inhabitants in thirteenth century Fayyum appear to have been non-Muslims (i.e., Christian Copts), but the term 'sedentary' is not a synonym of 'non-Muslim'.

The Bedouin constituted the vast majority of the population, inhabiting more than 90 villages in the Fayyum. They were divided into three large tribal confederacies: the Banū Kilāb, the Banū ‘Ajlān and the Lawāta.

The Banū Kilāb resided in the Western part of the depression, and it included the following subgroups:  the Banū Ḥātim, the Banū  ‘Āmir, the Banū Majnūn, the Banū Ja‘far, the Banū Jawwāb, the Aḍābiṭa, the Banū Qurīṭ, the Banu Ghuṣayn and the Banu Rabī‘a.

The Banū ‘Ajlān resided on the Eastern part of the depression and consisted of the following tribal subgroups: the Banū Zar‘a, the Banū Jābir, the Banū Ka‘ab, the Qayāṣira, the Banū Muṭayr, and the Banū Samalūs.

The third group, the Lawāta, dwelled at the Lahūn gap and at the entrance to the depression, and it is consisted of the following tribal subgroups: the Hawwāra, the Banū Hānī, the Banū Munkanīt and the Banū Sulaymān.


Demographic Information[.xls] 

The tax register was not accompanied by a census of the inhabitants.  However, the ‘History of the Fayyūm’ does contain two indicators that enable us to estimate the relative size of villages.   

First, the author of the work labels villages as small, medium or large.  He also refers to some settlements as hamlets, indicating that they are satellites of larger villages.  This provides a rough estimate of the relative size of most villages.

A second and more accurate indicator of size comes from a levy of 100 shovels (jurrāfa) for the construction of a dike at the district of Giza, as detailed in a royal decree appended to the treatise.  The decree lists the contribution of each village, measured in the number of shovel 'units' (qiṭa‘) or fractions of units.  Al-Nābulusī does not explicate the actual method of payment, but it was probably commuted to monetary value, or to corvée labour.

This levy of shovels was probably calculated according to the relative population of the villages.  Therefore, the number of shovel ‘units’ per village, out of a total of 100 ‘units’, reflects an approximate share out of the total population in the villages (the inhabitants of the City of the Fayyum were exempt from this levy).  The map below presents the relative size of the villages of the Fayyūm according to this levy of shovels: 


Religious Buildings[.xls] 

Religious buildings were not subject to taxation, and al-Nābulusī listed them in his survey in order to prevent a decrease in the number of mosques or an increase in the number of monasteries and churches.  

The list of mosques, churches and monasteries provided by al-Nābulusī conveys a clear picture of Muslim dominance in the province: There were 78 mosques (most of which congregational mosques, in which a Friday prayer was conducted).

Christian presence was in decline. The map below shows that Christian worship places existed only in 13 villages. There were 21 churches and 7 monasteries listed, but only 14 churches and 6 monasteries were active, and the others were deserted.

Combined with the information regarding the poll-tax that was paid in the Fayyum by non-Muslims (see below), it is clear that by the mid 13th century the province was predominantly Muslim.


Land-Taxes in kind[.xls] 

The cultivation of the staple grains of wheat, barley and broad beans was taxed in kind, through sharecropping contracts. The two share-cropping contracts prevalent in the Fayyum were known as 'munājaza' and 'mushāṭara'. 

The difference between the two contracts is not clear.  In munājaza contracts, this percentage was probably set through negotiation and bargaining; in mushāṭara, the produce was almost certainly divided by half: half to the land holder(s) and half to the tenants. As indicated by the map below, munājaza cultivation was much more prevalent in Fayyumi villages then mushāṭara cultivation. 

The map also indicates that most grain production was located north of the city, along the 'green belt' of the Fayyum.

The staple crops of wheat, barley and broad beans amounted to about 95% of the taxes in kind raised through the sharecropping contracts. In addition, these contracts were also used for the cultivation of other grains, such as rice, sesame, cumin, coriander, caraway, rape, Jew's mellow, turnip, and chickling vetch. 

The land-tax derived from these share-cropping contracts was paid in kind and measured in ardebs (1 ardeb=ca. 90 liters).   

Plots of land that were cultivated under these sharecropping contracts were not subject to the annual land survey (misāḥa). Accordingly, the acreage of the land subject to share-cropping contracts is not mentioned by al-Nābulusī.

Two additional taxes in kind are mentioned in a small number of villages. One is a category of ‘additional’ tax (wafr), set at 3% of the revenue from the sharecropping contract. The second is a variable transport fee, which was paid in ardebs of grains.

The monetary value of grain production in mid-13th century Fayyum fluctuated widely. The prices of an ardeb of wheat cited in this period range from as low as 15 dirhams and as high as 100 dirhams (Ashtor-Strauss 1969). The average price for an ardeb of grains, as indicated by the administrative literature of the period, was 30 dirhams for an ardeb of wheat (0.75 dinar), and 15 dirhams for an ardeb of barley or broad beans (0.375 dinar). According to these averages, the estimated monetary value of taxes in kind on wheat, barley and beans amounted to approximately 73% of the total fiscal revenues of the province.


Land-Taxes in Cash on orchards and plantations[.xls] 

The irrigation system of the Fayyum made it possible for local cultivators to grow considerable amount of perennial crops.  Indeed, according to al-Nābulusī's survey, orchards and vineyards were to be found in no less than 50 villages, contributing in some of them a significant percentage of the revenues.

Taxes on orchards and vineyards appear under the twin category of 'tax on perennial plants and tax on lands subject to long-term lease' (kharāj al-rātib wa’l-aḥkār). Both taxes refer to plots of land on which orchards, vineyards and other perennial trees were being grown, but in the second category the land was subject to a longer lease term, and often located near residential property.

The tax was paid in cash, according to predetermined rates and by acreage. The tax on fully grown vineyards was five dinars and a third per feddan. The rate for fully grown trees was 2 dinars per feddan. The tax-rate on the category of lands subject to long term lease was set at a lower rate of 1 dinar per feddan.

Land survey on lands designated for perennial plantation was conducted every three years. Plants which were not fully grown (that is, less than 3 years-old) during the previous survey were included in a category of 'recently planted' or 'unconfirmed' orchards and vineyards. The rate for these younger trees was 1 dinar per feddan, half of the rate for fully grown trees.

An 'addition' (iḍāfa) of 12.5% was added to the 'land tax on perennial plants' (kharāj al-rātib). 

An additional tax-rate (zā’id al-qaṭī‘a) of 1 dinar per feddan was added to the basic tax on 'lands subject to long-term lease' (kharāj al-aḥkār),  effectively putting the tax-rate on these type of lands at the same level as the tax-rate on fully grown trees (2 dinars per feddan).


Land-Tax on Cash Crops[.xls] 

The category of 'land-tax on feddans in cash' (kharāj al-fudun/ mufādanāt/ kharāj fudun al-‘ayn) included land taxes on field cultivation, paid in cash and calculated by acreage. 

It included taxes on the following crops: Garlic, colocasia, alfalfa, green vegetables, flax, cucurbitaceous fruits (cucumbers and melons), carrots, chickling vetch, lentils, henna, indigo, Persian reeds and dates.

As illustrated by the map below, there was a geographical specialization in the cultivation of several of these crops: Flax, for example, was cultivated in the Lahūn Gap and in the entrance corridor to the Fayyum; garlic was cultivated towards the north-east; and cotton was cultivated at the center of the depression, both towards the west and towards the east.

Lease contracts for the cultivation of cash crops were signed following an annual land survey, described not by al-Nābulusī but by contemporary authors (al-Makhzūmī and Ibn Mammātī).  The survey was conducted in the autumn, before sowing time, and it determined the exact acreage of the land available for cultivation, as well as the quality of this land and its appropriateness for cultivation of specific crops. In accordance with these findings, a lease contract was signed between the land lord and the tenants.

The amount of tax to be paid was calculated according to the area of cultivation (given in feddans) multiplied by the tax-rate (qaṭī‘a), which depended on the crop being cultivated.  Tax rates were set by the central administration in Cairo. The rates were: 1 dinar per feddan for alfalfa; 2 dinars per feddan for garlic, green vegetables (khuḍar), henna, indigo, cotton and cucurbitaceous fruits; 3 or 5 dinars per feddan for colocasia; and 5 dinars per feddan for flax.

The cash crop tax category also included an ‘additional tax (iḍāfa)’, which was a 12.5% additional cash payment on top of the basic cash crop tax.


Commercial Taxes[.xls] 

Taxes were levied on a wide variety of commercial activities that took place in the province, particularly in the city. These were known as ‘lunar calendar taxes’ (al-māl al-hilālī), since they were not subject to the solar calendar of the agricultural year.

The entire annual revenues from commercial taxes in the Fayyum amounted to more than 3,600 dinar, of which about 45% originated in the city (Madinat al-Fayyum).

These revenues included taxes on the following commercial activities:

  • The merchandise warehouse (al-wakāla)
  • Chick hatchery (ma‘mal al-farrūj)
  • Tannery
  • Fulling and bleaching boards (‘ūd al-qiṣāra)
  • Rent of dīwānī (government owned) shops
  • Pottery kilns (qubāb al-fākhūra)
  • Perfume vendors
  • Bean sellers
  • Pits of weavers (ḥufar al-qazzāzīn)
  • Watermills
  • Flax retteries
  • Christ-thorn (sidar) – possibly on the sale of wood for construction
  • Ferryboats
  • Fishery and the berths of the fishermen (mawāqif al-ṣayyāḍīn)
  • Pasture tax (māl al-marā‘ī)
  • Chicken lease (ḍamān al-farrūj)

The pasture tax was often levied in addition to a local fee paid on the use of pasture land for grazing (see below).  The pasture tax is mentioned with regard to 40 villages, and we do not know how it was calculated.

The commercial tax on the lease of chickens, mentioned in six villages, was also in addition to levy on the breeding of chickens in these villages.

The map below presents the revenues from commercial taxes in the Fayyumi villages, in gold dinars (the city is excluded from this map).


Local Fees[.xls] 

The fees (rasm pl. rusūm) were payments in return for services that were provided at the local level. Some of them were paid in kind, others were paid in cash. When these local payments were in cash, they were always given in silver dirhams and not in gold dinars.

The most common categories are:

  • A fee for the supervision of endowments (shadd al-aḥbās), paid in cash. This represented a fee to religious functionaries.
  • A fee for the supervision of the land survey (shadd al-‘ayn), paid in cash.
  • Raking fee (rasm al-jarārīf), paid in cash.  This represented a fee for local irrigation works.
  • Harvest fee (rasm al-ḥiṣad), paid in cash at a fixed amount sum of 53 dirhams per village.
  • Protection fee (rasm al-khafāra) paid in cash at a fixed amount sum of 15 dirhams per village.
  • Grinding fee (al-midaqqāt), paid in cash.
  • Threshing-floor fee (rasm al-ajrān), paid in cash and in ardebs of grains.
  • Measurement fee (rasm al-kiyāla), paid in ardebs of grains, for the measurement of grain harvests.
  • Fee for the supervisor of the canals (rasm khawlī al-baḥr), paid in ardebs of grains.

A second group of fees included cash payments for the cultivation of specified cash crops, such as carrot, garlic and cumin.  These represented non-standard taxes which were set by ‘settlement’ (muṣālaḥa), and not levied on the basis of a land survey. 

It included the following categories: 

  • Carrot fee (rasm al-jazr)
  • Colocasia fee (rasm al-qulqās)
  • Garlic fee (rasm qaṭī‘a al-thūm)
  • Settlement of rape (muṣālaḥat al-saljam)
  • Settlement of cumin (muṣālaḥat al-kamūn)


Pasture Fee[.xls] 

A pasture fee (rasm al-marā‘ī) was levied in many of the villages of the Fayyum on the use of land for grazing.  It was considered a local fee, and was not part of the fiscal revenues (irtifā‘) allocated to the iqṭāʿ holders.

This fee on use of pasture land is in addition to alms tax paid on livestock (see the section on ‘alms tax’ below), and to a pasture tax included under the category of commercial taxes (māl al-marā‘ī; see the section on ‘commercial taxes’ above).

The pasture fee was levied in silver dirhams, per head of grazing cattle. It is mentioned with regard to 70 villages, with sums ranging from several dozen dirhams to several thousands. In terms of cattle heads, it ranged from less than 10 in some of the smaller villages to more than 2,600 (in Bamūya).

The rate of the pasture fee apparently depended on the age of the animal and its species (bovine, sheep, goats).  The following tax rates are mentioned:  

  • Fully grown livestock (rātib) – rate of 2.25 dirhams per head;
  • Young livestock (ṭāri’) at the rate of 1 dirham per head;
  • Young livestock (ṭāri’) at the rate of 0.70 dirham per head;
  • Young livestock (ṭāri’) at the rate of 0.60 dirham per head;
  • Young livestock (ṭāri’) at the rate of 0.50 dirham per head;
  • Young livestock (ṭāri’) at the rate of 0.30 dirham per head;
  • Young livestock (ṭāri’) at the rate of 0.25 dirham per head. 

In addition, the pasture fee also includes a 'government's agent fee' (rasm al-mustakhdamīn), calculated as 6.25 dirham per every 100 heads.

The map below presents the pasture fees in the Fayyumi villages:


Alms Tax (zakāt)[.xls] 

According to Islamic law, an annual alms tax (zakāt) is due from specified categories of property in private ownership of Muslims.  These included, in 13th-century Fayyum, alms-tax on livestock, calculated in heads of cattle but then commuted to their monetary value; and alms-tax on dates, vineyards and olive trees, paid in cash.

Alms tax on livestock:

The zakāt due on livestock, as determined by the major Sunni schools, is as follows:

  • Cows and oxen were taxed at a rate of a one year-old calf (tabī‘) for every 30 heads, and one two year-old cow (musinna) for every 40 heads.
  • Sheep and goats were taxed at a rate of one sheep or goat for 40-120 heads; two sheep/goats for 121-200 heads; three sheep/goats for 201-400 heads; four for 401-500 heads; five for 501-600 heads; and so on,  at a rate of one sheep/goat per 100 heads.
  • Camels were taxed at a rate of one sheep/goat for 5-9 camels; two sheep/goats for 10-14 camels; three sheep/goats for 15-19 camels; four sheep/goats for 20-24 camels. Beyond 25 camels the alms tax should be paid by camels and not by sheep/goats, but in the ‘History of the Fayyum’ all alms tax on camels was paid in heads of goats.

The monetary value of heads of cattle was then calculated in the following way:

  • Two-year old red cows (musinnāt): monetary value ranges from 1.8 to 3.15 dinars. 
  • One-year old calf (tabī‘): monetary value ranges from 1 to 2 dinars.
  • One head of sheep (bayāḍ): monetary value ranges from 1 to 1.125 dinars.
  • One head of goats (shi‘ārī): monetary value ranges from 0.5 to 0.562 dinar.
  • Camels (ibil): paid in heads of goats, but the monetary value per head was much lower than that of the previous category, and ranged from 0.14 to 0.155 dinar.

Since the alms tax payments appear to have been levied in strict accordance with the tax rates fixed by the Sunni jurists, it is possible to extrapolate the number of heads of cattle per village.  In the province as a whole, the total number of heads of pasturing sheep and cattle was around 113,000 heads.

The map below presents the number of heads of small cattle (sheep, goats and camels), that were levied as alms tax in each village. 

Alms tax on Plantations:

Alms-tax on dates, vineyards and olives appears in 43 villages. In accordance with Islamic law, the tax is calculated in advance, as an estimate (khirṣ).  The tax rate fixed in Islamic law is dependent upon the mode of irrigation: Where the crop has been irrigated without the employment of human or animal labour, the rate is one tenth (‘ushr); where watering is achieved by means of labour, the rate is half a tenth (niṣf al-‘ushr).

Actual payments in the Fayyum range from a fraction of a dinar to almost 100 dinars (Maṭar Ṭāris with 96 dinars has the highest payment). 

For further details on the Islamic law of zakāt, see A. Zysow, ‘Zakāt’, Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition, vol. XI, p. 412.


Poll Tax[.xls] 

According to Islamic law, annual poll tax (jizya) was due from all non-Muslim free adult males. In the ‘History of the Fayyum’, the payment was set at 2 dinars a year. 

Non-Muslims who were registered as having their domicile in the Fayyum, but who in fact lived outside the province, were noted as absentees. 

There were 1,142 registered non-Muslims subject to the poll tax. Of these, only 830 were actually present in the Fayyum, almost half of them in the city (Madinat al-Fayyum). Further 312 (28%) lived outside the province, in Upper or Lower Egypt. 

The map below presents the number of resident and absentee non-Muslims for every village in which poll tax was paid.

Included among these non-Muslims are 41 individuals known as 'chasers of beasts' (Ṭarradūn al-waḥsh), who received an annual allowance of half a dinar each. 


Miscellaneous Taxes[.xls] 

This category includes miscellaneous taxes which were not part of the main fiscal categories mentioned above:

  • Bundles of straw (shanīf, pl. ashnāf): this tax mentioned in most villages. The number of bundles ranges from several dozen in hamlets or small villages, to several thousands in large villages (Minyat Aqnā with 13,500 bundles is the largest village). This tax was levied on the stalks of grains that are left after the ears have been cut off.
  • Barley assigned for the sultan's stables (al-sha‘īr al-musallaf ‘alayhā bi-rasm al-iṣṭibalāt al-sulṭaniya). This tax is mentioned in 55 villages, but, according to al-Nābulusī, was due on all villages. The barley is described as given ‘as loan’ (musallaf).
  • A levy for the Ministry of Pious Bequests (dīwān al-aḥbās), paid in about half the villages. Payments are in gold coins (dinars), ranging from 0.5 dinar to 20 dinars (Bamūya).  This tax was probably for the upkeep of religious buildings in the village.
  • Cereal foodstuff tax (al-aṣnāf), mentioned in 20 villages. This was a tax in the form of three cooked cereal dishes: kishk (a dish made of groats), farīk (a dish made of green wheat), and sawīq (a dish made of parched and powdered barley or wheat).  It was calculated in ardebs, and ranges from 1 ardeb to 11.3 ardebs (in Ibshāyyat al-Rummān).  This is possibly a ‘hospitality’ tax, for the entertainment of tax officials.
  • An istinbāṭ land-tax was imposed on four villages in the North-East of the Fayyum.   The tax was paid in grains, in ardebs of wheat, barley, broad beans, sesame and cumin. The text specifies that the tax is levied for the benefit of the nearby large village of Sinnūris.  It seems akin to local fees. 
  • A levy ‘for the iqṭā‘ holders of the tithe known as Ibn al-Mihrānī' was due from six villages across the Fayyūm.  In one village, Dimashqīn al-Baṣal, it was levied in gold dinars, but in the remaining villages it was levied in kind.  The meaning of this levy is obscure.


Chicken Breeding[.xls] 

The commercial breeding of chickens was widespread and took place in 90 villages, which together produced, in the year 1243-4, more than 55,000 heads. The number of chickens that were bred in individual villages ranged from several dozens to almost 3,000 (in Ibshāyyat al-Rummān).

The chickens were usually shared between the iqṭā‘ holders, the central government (the dīwān), and the local breeders, who normally received one third of the heads that they bred. This third was deducted from the share of the dīwān.

The map below presents the amount of chicken bred per village, and the relative shares of the central government and the iqṭā‘ holders.

The chickens bred for the central government were sometimes assigned for the royal kitchen, as is explicitly mentioned in six villages.  In three of these villages, chickens were distributed between the 'established breeding' (mustaqarr tarbiyatahu) and the 'new' or 'arranged' breeding (mustajidd/murattab tarbiyatahu) for the royal kitchen. 

Two hatcheries appear to have been operative in the Fayyum: in the City and in Sinnurīs. They were subject to commercial taxes, known as ‘lunar calendar’ or hilālī taxes (see above). 



Local functionaries who received allowances (rizaq) are mentioned in the entries of 30 villages. These functionaries included sheikhs (local headmen), carpenters, watchmen of main roads and distribution weirs, village guardsmen, and dog handlers (kallābūn). Grants were made also in favor of local mosques and monasteries, as well as Muslim and Christian religious functionaries:  Friday Preachers, monks and unidentified officials called quṣṣāṣ (literally, story-tellers) and the Christian ṭarrādūn al-waḥsh (literally, those in charge of driving away beasts).  

The allowances were given as:

  • Tax-exempt plots of cultivable land, measured in feddans
  • Grants of grains, measured in ardebs. 
  • Water quotas, measured in units of width (qabḍa)
  • Plough-shares (miḥrath), probably a share in the communal village lands. 

In several villages, a tithe on allowances (‘ushr al-rizaq) in ardebs of grains (wheat and barley) is also mentioned.  It seems that land allowances were exempt from the kharāj land-tax extracted from tenents, and were instead subject to the tithe (ʿushr) levied on privately owned land.    

For a detailed discussion of the allowances in late medieval administrative practice, see Nicolas Michel, "Les Rizaq Ihbasiyya, Terres Agricoles en Mainmorte dans l'Egypte Mamelouke et Ottomane. Etude sur les Dafatir al-Ahbas Ottomans," Annales Islamologiques, xxx (1996), 105-98.


Seed Advances[.xls] 

Seed advances (taqāwī) were an important component of the agricultural production arrangements. Iqṭā‘ holders and/or the royal dīwān provided tenants with a loan of high-quality seeds, calculated in ardebs. This loan was to be returned, sometimes with interest, from the yield of the harvest.

These loans provided mainly for the cultivation of grains, under munājaza and mushāṭara contracts (see above).  Occasionally, small quantities of seed advances were also provided for cash-crops such as flax, indigo and watermelons.

Three types of seed advances occur:

1. Royal seed advance (taqāwī dīwāniya/sulṭaniya). This type of seed advance was distributed to the iqṭā‘ holders from the royal silos. It is mentioned in 40 villages.

2. Customary/local seed advance (al-taqāwī allatī jarat al-‘āda bi-iṭlāqihā li’l-naḥiya). This type of seed advance was distributed from the revenues of the iqṭāʿ holders. It is mentioned in 28 villages.

3. Reclaimed seed advance (al-taqāwī al-murtaja‘). This probably relates to seed advances for the sowing of reclaimed land.  It is mentioned only in five villages.

The seed advances normally represent 3% to 10% of the grain collected as tax in a given village.


Sugar [.xls] 

The cultivation of sugarcane was labor- and water-intensive. It required all year-round irrigation, as well as hot and humid climate. 

Sugarcane was planted in March, and harvested on January (first harvest); when ratoons (sugarcane shoots) re-emerged, they were irrigated until they were harvested again in November-December (second harvest).  The value of the first harvest was higher than of the second harvest, and the two are listed separately.

Sugarcane was of growing importance, and in several villages other crops, such as rice, were abandoned in favor of sugarcane.  There were no less than 12 sugar presses operating in Fayyum at the time, most of which were located in villages with substantial sugar cultivation (see map below).

Contracts for the cultivation of sugarcane differed from all other agricultural contracts in the Fayyum, as the cultivators were usually not taxed. Instead, the tenants (muzāri‘ūn) or quarter-share labourers (murābi‘ūn) received wages in cash. These wages were known as ‘seed advances’ (taqāwī). 

The wage paid for the cultivators, as mentioned in two villages, was 2 dinars per feddan for first harvest cultivation and 3/4 dinar per feddan of second harvest cultivation. Wages in kind are also mentioned (ardebs of wheat, barley or broad beans).

Because the cultivators of sugarcane received wages but were not taxed, there is no record of fiscal revenue derived from sugar. Instead, the acreage of the cultivated sugarcane, in feddans, is recorded. 

Much of the sugar cultivation was on crown domain lands (in 16 villages and in the city). In these cases, the land belonged to the dīwān, i.e., the state.  On these crown domains, villagers also cultivated alfalfa, broad beans and colocasia for the dīwānī cattle who were used in the procession of the sugar.

Additional sugarcane was cultivated locally, on the village lands (in 37 villages). In many cases, sugarcane was cultivated by tenants or workers from another village.

Land tax on sugar is mentioned only in five villages.  In four of these villages, this tax was paid in gold dinars, either at the rate of two dinars per feddan (Bāja), or one dinar per feddan (Minyat Karbīs, on sugar cultivated for the dīwān).  In one village, Jarfis, the land tax on sugar was paid in ardebs of wheat and barley.

The map below shows the division between crown domain and local cultivation of sugarcane in Fayyumi villages.



The ‘History of the Fayyum’ provides information about arrear tax payments due from 15 villages and from the city (Madinat al-Fayyum).  The arrears of six of these villages are listed in entries for nearby larger villages, because they had been part of the same fiscal unit at the time for which the arrears were due. 

The information on the arrears typically includes:

  • The time period for which the arrear payments are due.  Arrear payments go as back as 628 AH (1230-1 AD), and the latest date form 641 AH (1243-4 AD).
  • The identity of the creditor – the royal diwān or the iqṭā‘ holder, who is usually named. 
  • The type of debt:
    • Unconfirmed payments (ḥāṣil) – Probably tax payments which were acknowledged, but for which there was no confirmation in the tax registers.
    • Withheld payments (mawqūf) – tax payments which were not paid due to the flight of the peasants, or because of damage caused by force majeur (e.g., fire, mice).
    • Outstanding payments (bāqī) – due tax payments which were not paid.
  • The type of payment, either in cash (dinars) or in kind (ardebs), according to the categories of the crops. The lists of arrears include some categories of agricultural produce which are not mentioned in the main lists of tax categories, such as safflower and honey. 

The total arrears in cash and in kind per village are presented in the map below.


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