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THE BASHMUR AREA – GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION منطقة البشمور، أرض الثورات القبطية

January 17, 2012

The Bashmur area in the Nile Delta (image taken on 17 September 2006 by NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite)


The Bashmur region is roughly the area in the northern part of the Nile delta, to the south of and around lake Burllus, and between the two main Nile branches in the delta, the Rosetta (corresponding to the Bolbitine) on the western part of the delta and the Damietta (corresponding to the Phatnitic) to the east.


We say roughly because there have been variations in the exact description of the location of the area by different authorities. We shall try to get the confusion reduced to the minimum as we proceed with this topic. But as a starter, I though there is nothing better to introduce the reader to the article in The Coptic Encyclopedia[i] by Randall Stewart under the title, “Al-Basmur”. Here it is:[ii]

BASHMUR, AL-, an area in Egypt in which the Christian inhabitants revolted against Arab rule in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Christianity in the area suffered greatly as a result of the Bashmurites’ final defeat by the Arabs, but it was not quashed completely, as evidenced by the visit of a presbyter from al- Bashmur in Cairo around 1200.

The exact boundaries of al-Bashmur are uncertain because the medieval sources are discrepant. The History of the Patriarchs says that the area was most easily accessible from Tida and Shubra. This statement would place al-Bashmur in the northern Delta, just south of Lake Burullus. Abu Salih the Armenian averred that in a later period at least the inhabitants of al-Bashmur and the inhabitants of al-Bashrud were the same people. The exact location of al-Bashrud is similarly uncertain, but it appears to have been northwest of Sakha.[iii] Ibn Hawqal stated that the lake in Nastaruh was also called Buhayrat al-Bashmur,[iv] suggesting that the region of the Bashmurites was near Nastaruh, that is, north of the cities known today as Disuq and Kafr al-Shaykh. Abu al-Fida, however, placed al-Bashmur between the Dumyat arm of the Nile and Ashmun Tanah.[v]

It is possible that the boundaries of al-Bashmur have not been constant throughout the centuries. Perhaps from the mid-eighth to the mid-ninth century, al-Bashmur encompassed the entire marsh region northeast of Fuwwah extending as far to the east as just north of Dikirnis. Later it may have been limited to the eastern part of this area. The name al-Bashmur survives in this region as the name of a Nile canal that breaks off about 4.5 miles (7 km) east of al- Mansurah by al-Salamun and runs through the area between the Damietta arm of the Nile and Dikirnis before emptying into the al- Sirw canal some 3.5 miles (5.5 km) south of Daqahliah.

[i] The Coptic encyclopedia, volume 2. Editor-in-chief, Aziz Atiya Suryal. The whole Encyclopedia has now been digitalised by Clarement University. You can find the article by Randall Stewart here:

[ii] I have made little presentational changes without touching the content of the article.

[iii] Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, Vol. 1, pp. 354-56. Wiesbaden, 1984; p. 360.

[iv] Maspero, J., and G. Wiet. Matériaux pour servir à la géographie de l’Egypte. Cairo, 1914-1919; p. 36.

[v] Maspero and Wiet, p. 44

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2014 12:46 am

    Hi! I was curious to know if you have some idea what the word “Bashmur” means, or what its etymology is. Thank you!

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      August 28, 2014 7:44 pm

      No clear answer to this. I have read before that it meant land of cattle breeders/shephards. Needs good study.

      • August 28, 2014 7:48 pm

        The reason I ask is because of the recent events in Iraq, the Kurdish “Peshmurgians” (those who face death) reminded me of the Coptic “Bashmurites”. I was curious to see if the words were similar in some way.

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        August 28, 2014 8:01 pm

        Would be interesting if there is connection but I should imagine it’s very unlikely.

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