The Cairo Purim: a story of Jewish deliverance

For generations the Jews of Cairo celebrated the story of their own deliverance between Purim and Pesah:

After 1517 Egypt came under the rule of the Mamluks and became an Ottoman province. But the viceroy remained a Mamluk. Jews from Spain had taken refuge in Egypt after 1492. One was Abraham de Castro, whom the sultan of Constantinople, Selim 1st, had entrusted with minting new coinage.

But the viceroy, Ahmed Schaitan, wanted to get rid of the sultan’s control and seize power for himself in an independent Egypt. He ordered Abraham de Castro to produce new coins stamped with his likeness. De Castro pretended to obey, left Egypt for Constantinople and told the sultan of Ahmed’s rebellion.

Having got wind of De Castro’s denunciation, Ahmed seized several Jews, threw them in jail and pillaged the Jewish quarter. He kidnapped 12 community leaders and unless he was paid a hefty ransom threatened to kill them.

A delegation offered Ahmed what money they were able to collect. Ahmed had them locked up and told them they would be executed together with the rest of the community on that very day.

Before the execution, Ahmed took a bath. One of his vizirs, Mohamed Bey, seized the opportunity to try to get rid of the viceroy. Ahmed was seriously wounded, fled the palace, but was caught and beheaded. Mohamed Bey freed the imprisoned Jews. It was 28 Adar and the Jews of Cairo celebrated the day for generations to come as the ‘Cairo Purim.’

Read article in full on Arouts Sheva (French)


One Comment

  • thank you so much for this article. I’m doing an ISP on jews of egypt from the begining to nowadays. I couldn’t find any good sources for “Cairo Purim” until your article. It’s excellent-Yasher Koach!


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