Egypt in the Middle Ages

Following the Islamic conquest in 639 AD, Lower Egypt was ruled at first by governors acting in the name of the Rashidun Caliphs and then the Ummayad Caliphs in Damascus, but in 747 the Ummayads were overthrown. Throughout the Islamic rule, Askar was named the capital and housed the ruling administration.[1] The conquest led to two separate provinces all under one ruler: Upper and Lower Egypt. These two very distinct regions would be heavily governed by the military and followed the demands handed down by the governor of Egypt and imposed by the heads of their communities.[1]

Egypt was ruled by various dynasties from the start of Islamic control in 639 AD and the end of it in the early 16th century. The Umayyad period lasted from 658 until 750. Next came the Abbasid period which focused on taxes and centralizing power. In 868 the Tulunids, ruled by Ahmad ibn Tulun, expanded Egypt's territory into the Levant. He would rule until his death in 884. After years of turmoil under Ahmad ibn Tulun's successor, many citizens defected back to the Abbasids and in 904 they would reclaim power from the Tulunids.[2] In 969 Egypt came under the control of the Western caliphate and the Fatimids. This dynasty would begin to fade after the death of their last caliph in 1171.

In 1174, Egypt came under the rule of Ayyubids. The Ayyubids ruled from Damascus, not the Fatimid city of Cairo. This dynasty fought against the Crusader States during the Fifth Crusade. Ayyubid caliph Najm al-Din recaptured Jerusalem in 1240. He introduced Mamluk forces into his army in order to hold off the crusaders. This decision would be one he regretted.

The Ayyubids were overthrown by their bodyguards, known as the Mamluks in 1252. The Mamluks ruled under the suzerainty of Abbasid Caliphs until 1517, when Egypt became part of the Ottoman Empire as Eyālet-i Mıṣr province.

Map of Ancient Egypt

Early Islamic period

Muslim conquest of Egypt

Map of expansion of Caliphate
The Age of the Caliphs
  Prophet Mohammad, 622-632
  Patriarchal Caliphate, 632-661
  Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750

In 639 an army of some 4,000 men were sent against Egypt by the second caliph, Umar, under the command of Amr ibn al-As. This army was joined by another 5,000 men in 640 and defeated a Byzantine army at the battle of Heliopolis. Amr next proceeded in the direction of Alexandria, which was surrendered to him by a treaty signed on November 8, 641. Alexandria was regained for the Byzantine Empire in 645 but was retaken by Amr in 646. In 654 an invasion fleet sent by Constans II was repulsed. From that time no serious effort was made by the Byzantines to regain possession of the country.

Administration of early Islamic Egypt

Following the first surrender of Alexandria, Amr chose a new site to settle his men, near the location of the Byzantine fortress of Babylon. The new settlement received the name of Fustat, after Amr's tent, which had been pitched there when the Arabs besieged the fortress.[3] Fustat quickly became the focal point of Islamic Egypt, and, with the exception of the brief relocation to Helwan during a plague in 689, and the period of 750–763, when the seat of the governor moved to Askar, the capital and residence of the administration.[4] After the conquest, the country was initially divided in two provinces, Upper Egypt (al-sa'id) and Lower Egypt with the Nile Delta (asfal al-ard). In 643/4, however, Caliph Uthman appointed a single governor (wāli) with jurisdiction over all of Egypt, resident at Fustat. The governor would in turn nominate deputies for Upper and Lower Egypt.[5] Alexandria remained a distinct district, reflecting both its role as the country's shield against Byzantine attacks, and as the major naval base. It was considered a frontier fortress (ribat) under a military governor and was heavily garrisoned, with a quarter of the province's garrison serving there in semi-annual rotation.[6] Next to the wāli, there was also the commander of the police (ṣāḥib al-shurṭa), responsible for internal security and for commanding the jund (army).[7]

The main pillar of the early Muslim rule and control in the country was the military force, or jund, staffed by the Arab settlers. These were initially the men who had followed Amr and participated in the conquest.[8] The followers of Amr were mostly drawn from Yamani (south Arabian) tribes, rather than the northern Arab (Qaysi) tribes, who were scarcely represented in the province; it was they who dominated the country's affairs for the first two centuries of Muslim rule.[3] Initially, they numbered 15,500, but their numbers grew through emigration in the subsequent decades. By the time of Caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), the number of men registered in the army list (diwān al-jund) and entitled an annual pay (ʿaṭāʾ) reached 40,000. Jealous of their privileges and status, which entitled them to a share of the local revenue, the members of the jund then virtually closed off the register to new entries.[9][8] It was only after the losses of the Second Fitna that the registers were updated, and occasionally, governors would add soldiers en masse to the lists as a means to garner political support.[10]

In return for a tribute of money and food for the troops of occupation, the Christian inhabitants of Egypt were excused from military service and left free in the observance of their religion and the administration of their affairs.

Conversions of Copts to Islam were initially rare, and the old system of taxation was maintained for the greater part of the first Islamic century. The old division of the country into districts (nomoi) was maintained, and to the inhabitants of these districts demands were directly addressed by the governor of Egypt, while the head of the community—ordinarily a Copt but in some cases a Muslim Egyptian—was responsible for compliance with the demand.

Umayyad period

During the First Fitna, Caliph Ali (r. 656–661) appointed Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr as governor of Egypt, but Amr led an invasion in summer 658 that defeated Ibn Abi Bakr and secured the country for the Umayyads. Amr then served as governor until his death in 664. From 667/8 until 682, the province was governed by another fervent pro-Umayyad partisan, Maslama ibn Mukhallad al-Ansari.[11] During the Second Fitna, Ibn al-Zubayr gained the support of the Kharijites in Egypt and sent a governor of his own, Abd al-Rahman ibn Utba al-Fihri, to the province. The Kharijite-backed Zubayrid regime was very unpopular with the local Arabs, who called upon the Umayyad caliph Marwan I (r. 684–685) for aid. In December 684, Marwan invaded Egypt and reconquered it with relative ease.[12] Marwan installed his son Abd al-Aziz as governor. Relying on his close ties with the jund, Abd al-Aziz ruled the country for 20 years, enjoying wide autonomy and governing as a de facto viceroy.[13] Abd al-Aziz also supervised the completion of the Muslim conquest of North Africa; it was he who appointed Musa ibn Nusayr in his post as governor of Ifriqiya.[14] Abd al-Aziz hoped to be succeeded by his son, but when he died, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (685–695) sent his own son, Abdallah, as governor in a move to reassert control and prevent the country from becoming a hereditary domain.[15]

Abd al-Malik ibn Rifa'a al-Fahmi in 715 and his successor Ayyub ibn Sharhabil in 717 were the first governors chosen from the jund, rather than members of the Umayyad family or court. Both are reported to have increased pressure on the Copts, and initiated measures of Islamization.[16] The resentment of the Copts against taxation led to a revolt in 725. In 727, to strengthen Arab representation, a colony of 3,000 Arabs was set up near Bilbeis. Meanwhile, the employment of the Arabic language had been steadily gaining ground, and in 706 it was made the official language of the government. Egyptian Arabic, the modern Arabic accent of Egypt, began to form. Other revolts of the Copts are recorded for the years 739 and 750, the last year of Umayyad domination. The outbreaks in all cases are attributed to increased taxation.

Abbasid period

The Abbasid period was marked by new taxations, and the Copts revolted again in the fourth year of Abbasid rule. At the beginning of the 9th century the practice of ruling Egypt through a governor was resumed under Abdallah ibn Tahir, who decided to reside at Baghdad, sending a deputy to Egypt to govern for him. In 828 another Egyptian revolt broke out, and in 831 the Copts joined with native Muslims against the government.

A major change came in 834, when Caliph al-Mu'tasim discontinued the practice of paying the jund as they nominally still formed the province's garrison—the ʿaṭāʾ from the local revenue. Al-Mu'tasim discontinued the practice, removing the Arab families from the army registers diwān and ordering that the revenues of Egypt be sent to the central government, which would then pay the ʿaṭāʾ only to the Turkish troops stationed in the province. This was a move towards centralizing power in the hands of the central caliphal administration, but also signalled the decline of the old elites, and the passing of power to the officials sent to the province by the Abbasid court, most notably the Turkish soldiers favoured by al-Mu'tasim.[17] At about the same time, for the first time the Muslim population began surpassing the Coptic Christians in numbers, and throughout the 9th century the rural districts were increasingly subject to both Arabization and Islamization.[18] The rapidity of this process, and the influx of settlers after the discovery of gold and emerald mines at Aswan, meant that Upper Egypt in particular was only superficially controlled by the local governor.[19][20] Furthermore, the persistence of internecine strife and turmoil at the heart of the Abbasid state—the so-called "Anarchy at Samarra"—led to the appearance of millennialist revolutionary movements in the province under a series of Alid pretenders in the 870s.[21][22] In part, these movements were an expression of dissatisfaction with and alienation from imperial rule by Baghdad; these sentiments would manifest themselves in the support of several Egyptians for the Fatimids in the 10th century.[23]

Tulunid period

Kairo Ibn Tulun Moschee BW 7
Spiral Minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo

In 868, Caliph al-Mu'tazz (r. 866–869) gave charge of Egypt to the Turkish general Bakbak. Bakbak in turn sent his stepson Ahmad ibn Tulun as his lieutenant and resident governor.[24] This appointment ushered in a new era in Egypt's history: hitherto a passive province of an empire, under Ibn Tulun it would re-emerge as an independent political centre. Ibn Tulun would use the country's wealth to extend his rule into the Levant, in a pattern followed by later Egypt-based regimes, from the Ikhshidids to the Mamluk Sultanate. [25][26][27]

The first years of Ibn Tulun's governorship were dominated by his power struggle with the powerful head of the fiscal administration, the Ibn al-Mudabbir. The latter had been appointed as fiscal agent (ʿāmil) already since ca. 861, and had rapidly become the most hated man in the country as he doubled the taxes and imposed new ones on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.[28] By 872 Ibn Tulun had achieved Ibn al-Mudabirbir's dismissal and taken over the management of the fisc himself, and had managed to assemble an army of his own, thereby becoming de facto independent of Baghdad.[29] As a sign of his power, he established a new palace city to the northeast of Fustat, called al-Qata'i, in 870. The project was a conscious emulation of, and rival to, the Abbasid capital Samarra, with quarters assigned to the regiments of his army, a hippodrome, hospital, and palaces. The new city's centrepiece was the Mosque of Ibn Tulun.[30][31] Ibn Tulun continued to emulate the familiar Samarra model in the establishment of his administration as well, creating new departments and entrusting them to Samarra-trained officials.[32] His regime was in many ways typical of the "ghulām system" that became one of the two main paradigms of Islamic polities in the 9th and 10th centuries, as the Abbasid Caliphate fragmented and new dynasties emerged. These regimes were based on the power of a regular army composed of slave soldiers or ghilmān, but in turn, according to Hugh N. Kennedy, "the paying of the troops was the major preoccupation of government".[33][34] It is therefore in the context of the increased financial requirements that in 879, the supervision of the finances passed to Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Madhara'i, the founder of the al-Madhara'i bureaucratic dynasty that dominated the fiscal apparatus of Egypt for the next 70 years.[32][34] The peace and security provided by the Tulunid regime, the establishment of an efficient administration, and repairs and expansions to the irrigation system, coupled with a consistently high level of Nile floods, resulted in a major increase in revenue. By the end of his reign, Ibn Tulun had accumulated a reserve of ten million dinars.[35]

Ibn Tulun's rise was facilitated by the feebleness of the Abbasid government, threatened by the rise of the Saffarids in the east and by the Zanj Rebellion in Iraq itself, and divided due to the rivalry between Caliph al-Mu'tamid (r. 870–892) and his increasingly powerful brother and de facto regent, al-Muwaffaq.[36] Open conflict between Ibn Tulun and al-Muwaffaq broke out in 875/6. The latter tried to oust Ibn Tulun from Egypt, but the expedition sent against him barely reached Syria. In retaliation, with the support of the Caliph, in 877/8 Ibn Tulun received responsibility for the entirety of Syria and the frontier districts of Cilicia (the Thughūr). Ibn Tulun occupied Syria but failed to seize Tarsus in Cilicia, and was forced to return to Egypt due to the abortive revolt of his eldest son, Abbas. Ibn Tulun has Abbas imprisoned, and named his second son, Khumarawayh, as his heir.[37] In 882, Ibn Tulun came close to having Egypt become the new centre of the Caliphate, when al-Mu'tamid tried to flee to his domains. In the event, however, the Caliph was overtaken and brought him back to Samarra (February 883) and under his brother's control. This opened anew the rift between the two rulers: Ibn Tulun organized an assembly of religious jurists at Damascus which denounced al-Muwaffaq a usurper, condemned his maltreatment of the Caliph, declared his place in the succession as void, and called for a jihād against him. Al-Muwaffaq was duly denounced in sermons in the mosques across the Tulunid domains, while the Abbasid regent responded in kind with a ritual denunciation of Ibn Tulun.[38] Ibn Tulun then tried once more, again without success, to impose his rule over Tarsus. He fell ill on his return journey to Egypt, and died at Fustat on 10 May 884.[39]

Tulunids 893
Map of the Tulunid domains towards the end of Khumarawayh's reign

At Ibn Tulun's death, Khumarawayh, with the backing of the Tulunid elites, succeeded without opposition.[40] Ibn Tulun bequeathed his heir "with a seasoned military, a stable economy, and a coterie of experienced commanders and bureaucrats". Khumarawayh was able to preserve his authority against the Abbasid attempt to overthrow him at the Battle of Tawahin and even made additional territorial gains, recognized in a treaty with al-Muwaffaq in 886 that gave the Tulunids the hereditary governorship over Egypt and Syria for 30 years.[41] The accession of al-Muwaffaq's son al-Mu'tadid as Caliph in 892 marked a new rapprochement, culminating in the marriage of Khumarawayh's daughter to the new Caliph, but also the return of the provinces of Diyar Rabi'a and Diyar Mudar to caliphal control.[42] Domestically, Khumarawayh's reign was one of "luxury and decay" (Hugh N. Kennedy), but also a time of relative tranquility in Egypt as well as in Syria, a rather unusual occurrence for the period. Nevertheless, Khumarawayh's extravagant spending exhausted the fisc, and by the time of his assassination in 896, the Tulunid treasury was empty.[43] Following Khumarawayh's death, internal strife sapped Tulunid power. Khumarawayh's son Jaysh was a drunkard who executed his uncle, Mudar ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun; he was deposed after only a few months and replaced by his brother Harun ibn Khumarawayh. Harun too was a weak ruler, and although a revolt by his uncle Rabi'ah in Alexandria was suppressed, the Tulunids were unable to confront the attacks of the Qarmatians who began at the same time. In addition, many commanders defected to the Abbasids, whose power revived under the capable leadership of al-Muwaffaq's son, Caliph al-Mu'tadid (r. 892–902). Finally, in December 904, two other sons of Ibn Tulun, Ali and Shayban, murdered their nephew and assumed control of the Tulunid state. Far from halting the decline, this event alienated key commanders in Syria and led to the rapid and relatively unopposed reconquest of Syria and Egypt by the Abbasids under Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Katib, who entered Fustat in January 905. With the exception of the great Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the victorious Abbasid troops pillaged al-Qata'i and razed it to the ground.[44][45]

Second Abbasid period and Ikhsidid period

The Abbasids were able to repulse Fatimid invasions of Egypt in 914–915 and 919–921.

In 935, after repulsing another Fatimid attack, the Turkish commander Muhammad ibn Tughj became the de facto ruler of Egypt with the title of al-Ikhshid.[46] After his death in 946, the succession of his son Unujur was peaceful and undisputed, due to the influence of the powerful and talented commander-in-chief, Kafur. One of the many Black African slaves recruited by al-Ikhshid, Kafur remained the paramount minister and virtual ruler of Egypt over the next 22 years, assuming power in his own right in 966 until his death two years later. Encouraged by his death, in 969 the Fatimids invaded and conquered Egypt, beginning a new era in the country's history.[47][48]

Fatimid period

NE 1025ad
The near East in 1025 AD, showing the Fatimid Caliphate and neighbors.

Jawhar as-Siqilli immediately began the building of a new city, Cairo, to furnish quarters for the army which he had brought. A palace for the Caliph and a mosque for the army were immediately constructed, which for many centuries remained the centre of Muslim learning. However, the Carmathians of Damascus under Hasan al-Asam advanced through Palestine to Egypt, and in the autumn of 971 Jauhar found himself besieged in his new city. By a timely sortie, preceded by the administration of bribes to various officers in the Carmathian host, Jauhar succeeded in inflicting a severe defeat on the besiegers, who were compelled to evacuate Egypt and part of Syria.

Meanwhile, the caliph in 2 al-Muizz had been summoned to enter the palace that had been prepared for him, and after leaving a viceroy to take charge of his western possessions he arrived in Alexandria on May 31 973, and proceeded to instruct his new subjects in the particular form of religion (Shiism) which his family represented. As this was in origin identical with that professed by the Carmathians, he hoped to gain the submission of their leader by argument; but this plan was unsuccessful, and there was a fresh invasion from that quarter in the year after his arrival, and the caliph found himself besieged in his capital.

The Carmathians were gradually forced to retreat from Egypt and then from Syria by some successful engagements, and by the judicious use of bribes, whereby dissension was sown among their leaders. Al-Muizz also found time to take some active measures against the Byzantines, with whom his generals fought in Syria with varying fortune. Before his death he was acknowledged as Caliph in Mecca and Medina, as well as Syria, Egypt and North Africa as far as Tangier.

Under the vizier al-Aziz, there was a large amount of toleration conceded to the other sects of Islam, and to other communities, but the belief that the Christians of Egypt were in league with the Byzantine emperor, and even burned a fleet which was being built for the Byzantine war, led to some persecution. Al-Aziz attempted without success to enter into friendly relations with the Buwayhid ruler of Baghdad, and tried to gain possession of Aleppo, as the key to Iraq, but this was prevented by the intervention of the Byzantines. His North African possessions were maintained and extended, but the recognition of the Fatimid caliph in this region was little more than nominal.

Al-Azhar (inside) 2006
The Al-Azhar Mosque, of medieval Fatimid Cairo.

His successor al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah came to the throne at the age of eleven, being the son of Aziz by a Christian mother. His conduct of affairs was vigorous and successful, and he concluded a peace with the Byzantine emperor. He is perhaps best remembered by his destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (1009), a measure which helped to provoke the Crusades, but was only part of a general scheme for converting all Christians and Jews in his dominions to his own opinions by force.

A more reputable expedient with the same end in view was the construction of a great library in Cairo, with ample provision for students; this was modelled on a similar institution at Baghdad. His system of persecution was not abandoned till in the last year of his reign (1020) he thought fit to claim divinity, a doctrine which is perpetuated by the Druze, called after one Darazi, who preached the divinity of al-Hakim at the time. For unknown reasons al-Hakim disappeared in 1021.

In 1049 the Zirid dynasty in the Maghrib returned to the Sunni faith and became subjects of the Caliphate in Baghdad, but at the same time Yemen recognized the Fatimid caliphate. Meanwhile, Baghdad was taken by the Turks, falling to the Seljuk Tughrul Beg in 1059. The Turks also plundered Cairo in 1068, but they were driven out by 1074. During this time, however, Syria was overrun by an invader in league with the Seljuk Malik Shah, and Damascus was permanently lost to the Fatimids. This period is otherwise memorable for the rise of the Hashshashin, or Assassins.

During the Crusades, al-Mustafa maintained himself in Alexandria, and helped the Crusaders by rescuing Jerusalem from the Ortokids, thereby facilitating its conquest by the Crusaders in 1099. He endeavoured to retrieve his error by himself advancing into Palestine, but he was defeated at the battle of Ascalon, and compelled to retire to Egypt. Many of the Palestinian possessions of the Fatimids then successively fell into the hands of the Crusaders.

In 1118 Egypt was invaded by Baldwin I of Jerusalem, who burned the gates and the mosques of Farama, and advanced to Tinnis, when illness compelled him to retreat. In August 1121 al-Afdal Shahanshah was assassinated in a street of Cairo, it is said, with the connivance of the Caliph, who immediately began the plunder of his house, where fabulous treasures were said to be amassed. The vizier's offices were given to al-Mamn. His external policy was not more fortunate than that of his predecessor, as he lost Tyre to the Crusaders, and a fleet equipped by him was defeated by the Venetians.

In 1153 Ascalon was lost, the last place in Syria which the Fatimids held; its loss was attributed to dissensions between the parties of which the garrison consisted. In April 1154 the Caliph al-Zafir was murdered by his vizier Abbas, according to Usamah, because the Caliph had suggested to his favorite, the vizier's son, to murder his father; and this was followed by a massacre of the brothers of Zafir, followed by the raising of his infant son Abul-Qasim Isa to the throne.

In December 1162, the vizier Shawar took control of Cairo. However, after only nine months he was compelled to flee to Damascus, where he was favorably received by the prince Nureddin, who sent with him to Cairo a force of Kurds under Asad al-din Shirkuh. At the same time Egypt was invaded by the Franks, who raided and did much damage on the coast. Shawar recaptured Cairo but a dispute then arose with his Syrian allies for the possession of Egypt. Shawar, being unable to cope with the Syrians, demanded help of the Frankish king of Jerusalem Amalric I, who hastened to his aid with a large force, which united with Shawar's and besieged Shirkuh in Bilbeis for three months; at the end of this time, owing to the successes of Nureddin in Syria, the Franks granted Shirkuh a free passage with his troops back to Syria, on condition of Egypt being evacuated (October 1164).[49]

Two years later Shirkuh, a Kurdish general known as "the Lion", persuaded Nureddin to put him at the head of another expedition to Egypt, which left Syria in January 1167; a Frankish army hastened to Shawar's aid. At the battle of Babain (April 11, 1167) the allies were defeated by the forces commanded by Shirkuh and his nephew Saladin, who was made prefect of Alexandria, which surrendered to Shirkuh without a struggle. In 1168 Amalric invaded again, but Shirkuh's return caused the Crusaders to withdraw.

Shirkuh was appointed vizier but died of indigestion (March 23, 1169), and the Caliph appointed Saladin as successor to Shirkuh; the new vizier professed to hold office as a deputy of Nureddin, whose name was mentioned in public worship after that of the Caliph. Nureddin loyally aided his deputy in dealing with Crusader invasions of Egypt, and he ordered Saladin to substitute the name of the Abbasid caliph for the Fatimid in public worship. The last Fatimid caliph died soon after in September, 1171.

Ayyubid period

Ayyubid Dynasty 1171 - 1246(AD)
The Ayyubid Empire at its greatest extent

Saladin, a general known as "the Lion", was confirmed as Nureddin's deputy in Egypt, and on the death of Nureddin on April 12, 1174 he took the title sultan. During his reign Damascus, rather than Cairo, was the major city of the empire. Nevertheless, he fortified Cairo, which became the political centre of Egypt. It was in 1183 that Saladin's rule over Egypt and North Syria was consolidated. Much of Saladin's time was spent in Syria, where he fought the Crusader States, and Egypt was largely governed by his deputy Karaksh.

Saladin's son Othman succeeded him in Egypt in 1193. He allied with his uncle (Saladin's brother) Al-Adil I against Saladin's other sons, and after the wars that followed, Al-Adil took power in 1200. He died in 1218 during the siege of Damietta in the Fifth Crusade, and was succeeded by Al-Kamil, who lost Damietta to the Crusaders in 1219. However, he defeated their advance to Cairo by flooding the Nile, and they were forced to evacuate Egypt in 1221. Al-Kamil was later forced to give up various cities in Palestina and Syria to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor during the Sixth Crusade, in order to gain his help against Damascus.

Najm al-Din became sultan in 1240. His reign saw the recapture of Jerusalem in 1244, and the introduction of a larger force of Mameluks into the army. Much of his time was spent in campaigns in Syria, where he allied with the Khwarezmians against the Crusaders and Ayyubids. In 1249 he faced an invasion by Louis IX of France (the Seventh Crusade), and Damietta was lost again. Najm al-Din died soon after this, but his son Turanshah defeated Louis and expelled the Crusaders from Egypt. Turanshah was soon overthrown by the Mameluks, who had become the "kingmakers" since their arrival and now wanted full power for themselves.

Sultan Ahmed I Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Mamluk Egypt

The Mamluk's violent approach to power brought them great political and economic prosperity and to becoming the rulers of Egypt.[50] The Mamluk Egypt period began with the Bahri Dynasty and be followed by the Burji Dynasty. The Bahri Dynasty would rule from 1250 to 1382, while the Burji dynasty would last from 1382 to 1517.[50]

Cultural contributions of the Mamluk empire span across more than the religion. Literature and astronomy were two subjects which the Mamluks valued and participated in heavily.[51] They were a highly literate and educated society. Private libraries were a status symbol in Mamluk culture. Some of the libraries discovered show evidence

Mamluk manuscript

the remnants of thousands of books; the sum of that many books would have cost a large amount of a household's income.

The end of the Mamluk period was brought about due to things such as famine, military tensions, disease, and high taxation.

Bahri dynasty

Bahri Dynasty 1250 - 1382 (AD)
Bahri Mamluks at its greatest extent. Blue indicates the Ilkhanates.

Main article: Bahri dynasty Bahri Mamluks at its greatest extent. Blue indicates the Ilkhanates. The Mamluk sultans were drawn from the enfranchised slaves who formed the court and officered the army. The sultans were unable to effectively form a new dynasty, usually leaving behind infants who were then overthrown. The Bahri dynasty would go through 25 sultans in its 132 year period.[52] Many died or were killed shortly after being but in power; very few lived more than a few years into their rule as sultan. The first of these was Aybak, who married Shajar al-Durr (the widow of al-Salih Ayyub) and quickly began a war with Syria. He was assassinated in 1257 and was succeeded by Qutuz, who faced a growing danger from the Mongols

Qutuz defeated the army of Hulagu Khan at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, allowing him to regain all of Syria except Crusader strongholds. On the way back to Egypt after the battle, Qutuz died and was succeeded by another commander, Baybars, who assumed the Sultanate and ruled from 1260 to 1277. In 1291 al-Ashraf Khalil captured Acre, the last of the crusader cities.

The Bahris greatly enhanced the power and prestige of Egypt, building Cairo from a small town into one of the foremost cities in the world. Due to the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols, Cairo became the central city of the Islamic world. The Mamluks built much of the earliest remaining architecture of Cairo, including many mosques built out of stone using long, imposing lines.

Since 1347 the Egyptian population, economy, and political system experienced significant destruction as a result of the Black Deathpandemic whose waves continued to destroy Egypt up to the early 16th century.

In 1377 a revolt in Syria spread to Egypt, and the government was taken over by the Circassians Berekeh and Barkuk. Barkuk was proclaimed sultan in 1382, ending the Bahri dynasty. He was expelled in 1389, but recaptured Cairo in 1390, setting up the Burji dynasty.

Burji dynasty

The Burji dynasty (1382–1517) proved especially turbulent, with political power-plays designating short-lived sultans. During the Burji dynasty, the Mamluks fought Timur Lenk and conquered Cyprus.

The plague epidemics continued to destroy Egypt during this period; they attacked this country in 1388–1389, 1397–1398, 1403–1407, 1410–1411, 1415–1419, 1429–1430, 1438–1439, 1444–1449, 1455, 1459–1460, 1468–1469, 1476–1477, 1492, 1498, 1504–1505 and 1513–1514.[53]

Constant bickering contributed to the inability to resist the Ottomans.

The Ottoman Sultan Selim I defeated the Mamluks and captured Cairo on January 20, 1517, transferring the center of power to Istanbul. However, the Ottoman Empire retained the Mamluks as the Egyptian ruling class. The Mamluks and the Burji family regained much of their influence, but technically remained vassals of the Ottomans.

See also


  1. ^ a b War and society in the eastern Mediterranean, 7th-15th centuries. Lev, Yaacov. Leiden: New York. 1997. ISBN 9004100326. OCLC 34515063.
  2. ^ N.), Kennedy, Hugh (Hugh (2004). The Prophet and the age of the Caliphates : the Islamic Near East from the sixth to the eleventh century (2nd ed.). Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman. ISBN 0582405254. OCLC 55792252.
  3. ^ a b Kennedy 1998, p. 64.
  4. ^ Athamina 1997, p. 102.
  5. ^ Athamina 1997, pp. 101–102.
  6. ^ Athamina 1997, pp. 102–103.
  7. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 65–66.
  8. ^ a b Athamina 1997, p. 104.
  9. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 64–65.
  10. ^ Athamina 1997, pp. 104–105.
  11. ^ Kennedy 1998, p. 69.
  12. ^ Kennedy 1998, p. 70.
  13. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 65, 70–71.
  14. ^ Kennedy 1998, p. 71.
  15. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 71–72.
  16. ^ Kennedy 1998, p. 73.
  17. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 158–159.
  18. ^ Brett 2010, pp. 550–556.
  19. ^ Brett 2010, p. 557.
  20. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 92–93.
  21. ^ Brett 2010, p. 558.
  22. ^ Bianquis 1998, p. 93.
  23. ^ Brett 2001, pp. 146–147.
  24. ^ Bianquis 1998, p. 91.
  25. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 89–92, 96.
  26. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 312ff..
  27. ^ Brett 2010, pp. 565ff..
  28. ^ Bianquis 1998, p. 92.
  29. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 92, 94.
  30. ^ Brett 2010, pp. 559–560.
  31. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 99–100.
  32. ^ a b Bianquis 1998, p. 97.
  33. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 206–208.
  34. ^ a b Brett 2010, p. 560.
  35. ^ Bianquis 1998, p. 98.
  36. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 94–95.
  37. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 95–99.
  38. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 100–102.
  39. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 102–103.
  40. ^ Bianquis 1998, p. 104.
  41. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 104–105.
  42. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 105–106.
  43. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 310.
  44. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 106–108.
  45. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 184–185, 310.
  46. ^ Bianquis 1998, p. 112.
  47. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 312–313.
  48. ^ Bianquis 1998, pp. 115–118.
  49. ^ Amin Maalouf (1984). The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Al Saqi Books. pp. 159–161. ISBN 0-8052-0898-4.
  50. ^ a b Hanna, Nelly (2008). The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society. Philipp, Thomas., Haarmann, Ulrich. Cambridge Univ Pr. p. 197. ISBN 9780521033060. OCLC 144525826.
  51. ^ Hanna, Nelly (2008). The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society. Philipp, Thomas., Haarmann, Ulrich. Cambridge Univ Pr. p. 200. ISBN 9780521033060. OCLC 144525826.
  52. ^ Lane-Poole, Stanley (1901). A History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Methuen. p. 254.
  53. ^ See, for example, The Black Death in Egypt and England by Stuart J. Borsch, Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2005; or Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends in Africa by Andrey Korotayev and Daria Khaltourina, Moscow: URSS, 2006. ISBN 5484005604


Citadel of Damascus

The Citadel of Damascus (Arabic: قلعة دمشق‎, translit. Qalʿat Dimašq) is a large medieval fortified palace and citadel in Damascus, Syria. It is part of the Ancient City of Damascus, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The location of the current citadel was first fortified in 1076 by the Turkman warlord Atsiz bin Uvak, although it is possible but not proven that a citadel stood on this place in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. After the assassination of Atsiz bin Uvak, the project was finished by the Seljuq ruler Tutush I. The emirs of the subsequent Burid and Zengid dynasties carried out modifications and added new structures to it. During this period, the citadel and the city were besieged several times by Crusader and Muslim armies. In 1174, the citadel was captured by Saladin, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, who made it his residence and had the defences and residential buildings modified.

Saladin's brother Al-Adil rebuilt the citadel completely between 1203 and 1216 in response to the development of the counterweight trebuchet. After his death, power struggles broke out between the other Ayyubid princes and although Damascus switched hands several times, the citadel was taken by force only once, in 1239. The citadel remained in Ayyubid hands until the Mongols under their general Kitbuqa captured Damascus in 1260, thereby ending Ayyubid rule in Syria. After an unsuccessful revolt broke out in the citadel, the Mongols had most of it dismantled. After the defeat of the Mongols in 1260 by the Mamluks, who had succeeded the Ayyubids as rulers of Egypt, Damascus came under Mamluk rule. Except for brief periods in 1300 and 1401, when the Mongols conquered Damascus, the Mamluks controlled the citadel until 1516. In that year, Syria fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Damascus surrendered without a fight and from the 17th century onward the citadel functioned as barracks for the Jannisaries—Ottoman infantry units. The citadel started to fall into disrepair in the 19th century and its last military use was in 1925, when French soldiers shelled the old city from the citadel in response to the Great Syrian Revolt against the French Mandate of Syria. The citadel continued to serve as a barracks and prison until 1986, when excavations and restorations started. As of 2011, excavation and restoration efforts are still ongoing.

The citadel is located in the northwest corner of the city walls, between the Bab al-Faradis and the Bab al-Jabiyah. The citadel consists of a more or less rectangular curtain wall enclosing an area of 230 by 150 metres (750 by 490 ft). The walls were originally protected by 14 massive towers, but today only 12 remain. The citadel has gates on its northern, western and eastern flanks. The current citadel dates primarily to the Ayyubid period while incorporating parts of the older Seljuq fortress. Extensive repairs in response to sieges and earthquakes were carried out in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.


Conscription, sometimes called the draft, is the compulsory enlistment of people in a national service, most often a military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names. The modern system of near-universal national conscription for young men dates to the French Revolution in the 1790s, where it became the basis of a very large and powerful military. Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–8 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

Conscription is controversial for a range of reasons, including conscientious objection to military engagements on religious or philosophical grounds; political objection, for example to service for a disliked government or unpopular war; and ideological objection, for example, to a perceived violation of individual rights. Those conscripted may evade service, sometimes by leaving the country, and seeking asylum in another country. Some selection systems accommodate these attitudes by providing alternative service outside combat-operations roles or even outside the military, such as 'Siviilipalvelus' (alternative civil service) in Finland, Zivildienst (compulsory community service) in Austria and Switzerland. Many post-Soviet countries conscript male soldiers not only for armed forces but also for paramilitary organizations which are dedicated to police-like domestic only service (Internal Troops) or non-combat rescue duties (Civil defence troops) – none of which is considered alternative to the military conscription.

As of the early 21st century, many states no longer conscript soldiers, relying instead upon professional militaries with volunteers enlisted to meet the demand for troops. The ability to rely on such an arrangement, however, presupposes some degree of predictability with regard to both war-fighting requirements and the scope of hostilities. Many states that have abolished conscription therefore still reserve the power to resume it during wartime or times of crisis. States involved in wars or interstate rivalries are most likely to implement conscription, whereas democracies are less likely than autocracies to implement conscription. Former British colonies are less likely to have conscription, as they are influenced by British anticonscription norms that can be traced back to the English Civil War.


A dahabeah, also spelled dahabeeyah, dahabiah, dahabiya, dahabiyah and dhahabiyya, as well as dahabiyeh and dahabieh (Arabic ذهبية /ðahabīya/), is a passenger boat used on the River Nile in Egypt. The term is normally used to describe a shallow-bottomed, barge-like vessel with two or more sails. The vessels have been around in one form or another for thousands of years, with similar craft being depicted on the walls of the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. Indeed, the name derives from the Arabic word for "gold", owing to similar, gilded state barges used by the Muslim rulers of Egypt in the Middle Ages.


Dotawo (Old Nubian: Lower Dau or Daw) was a kingdom that might have existed in the Beja Region of Lower Nubia (Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt) in the Middle Ages. It has long been known that a kingdom by this name is mentioned as existing during the collapse of the Kingdom of Makuria in the thirteenth century. It was reported to be one of the last surviving Christian states in the region.

Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic, locally known as the Egyptian colloquial language, Masri or Masry, meaning simply "Egyptian", is spoken by most contemporary Egyptians.

Egyptian is a North African dialect of the Arabic language which is a Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. It originated in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt around the capital Cairo. Egyptian Arabic evolved from the Quranic Arabic which was brought to Egypt during the seventh-century AD Muslim conquest that aimed to spread the Islamic faith among the Egyptians. Egyptian Arabic is influenced by the Egyptian Coptic language which was the native language of the Egyptians prior to the Islamic conquest, and later it had influences by other languages such as French, Italian, Greek, Turkish and English. The 94 million Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects, among which Cairene is the most prominent. It is also understood across most of the Arabic-speaking countries due to the predominance of Egyptian influence on the region as well as Egyptian media including Egyptian cinema which has had a big influence in the MENA region for more than a century along with the Egyptian music industry, making it the most widely spoken and one of the most widely studied varieties of Arabic.While it is essentially a spoken language, it is encountered in written form in novels, plays, and poems (vernacular literature), as well as in comics, advertising, some newspapers, and transcriptions of popular songs.

In most other written media and in television news reporting, Literary Arabic is used. Literary Arabic is a standardized language based on the language of the Quran, that is, Classical Arabic. The Egyptian vernacular is almost universally written in the Arabic alphabet for local consumption, although it is commonly transcribed into Latin letters or in the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics text and textbooks aimed at teaching non-native learners. Also, it is written in ASCII Latin alphabet mainly online and in SMSs.

Egyptian cheese

Egyptian cheese (Egyptian Arabic: جبنة‎ gebna pronounced [ˈɡebnæ]) has a long history, and continues to be an important part of the Egyptian diet. There is evidence of cheese-making over 5,000 years ago in the time of the First Dynasty of Egypt. In the Middle Ages the city of Damietta was famous for its soft, white cheese. Cheese was also imported, and the common hard yellow cheese, rumi takes its name from the Arabic word for "Roman". Although many rural people still make their own cheese, notably the fermented mish, mass-produced cheeses are becoming more common. Cheese is often served with breakfast, and is included in several traditional dishes, and even in some desserts.

History of early Islamic Tunisia

The History of early Islamic Tunisia opens with the arrival of the Arabs who brought their language and the religion of Islam, and its calendar. The Arab conquest followed strategy designed by the Umayyad Caliphate regarding its long-term conflict with the Byzantine Empire. The native Berbers eventually converted to Islam. They might have seen some similarities between themselves and the Arabs, in similar cognate culture, such as familiarity with a pastoral way of life. The first local Islamic ruling house, the Aghlabids, consisted primarily of rule by leading members of this Arab tribe. Fundamental elements of Islamic civilization were established. Although accepting Islam, many Berbers nonetheless resisted rule by the Arabs, establishing the Rustamid kingdom followiing the Kharijite revolt. Next in Ifriqiya (Tunisia) arose the Shia Fatimids, inspired by a few immigrants from the east yet consisting for the most part of Ifriqiya Berbers. The Fatimids later expanded their rule east, through conquest by Berber armies of Egypt, and established their caliphate there which came to include Syria and the Hejaz.

Index of Byzantine Empire-related articles

This is a list of people, places, things, and concepts related to or originating from the Byzantine Empire (AD 330–1453). Feel free to add more, and create missing pages. You can track changes to the articles included in this list from here.

Note: People are listed by first name. Events, monuments and institutions like "Battle/Siege/Council/Church/Duchy/etc. of NNN" are listed by the location/name.

List of former national capitals

Throughout the world there are many cities that were once national capitals but no longer have that status because the country ceased to exist, the capital was moved, or the capital city was renamed. This is a list of such cities, sorted by country and then by date. Where a city name has changed, the name of the city when it was a capital is listed first, followed by its modern name in brackets.


Mamluk (Arabic: مملوك mamlūk (singular), مماليك mamālīk (plural), meaning "property", also transliterated as Mameluke, mamluq, mamluke, mameluk, mameluke, mamaluke or marmeluke) is an Arabic designation for slaves. The term is most commonly used to refer to slave soldiers and Muslim rulers of slave origin.

More specifically, it refers to:

Ghaznavids of Greater Khorasan (977–1186)

Khwarazmian dynasty in Transoxiana (1077–1231)

Mamluk Dynasty (Delhi) (1206–1290)

Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) (1250–1517)

Bahri dynasty (1250−1382)

Burji dynasty (1382−1517)

Mamluk Dynasty (Iraq) (1704–1831)The most enduring Mamluk realm was the knightly military caste in Egypt in the Middle Ages, which developed from the ranks of slave soldiers. These were mostly enslaved Turkic peoples, Egyptian Copts, Circassians, Abkhazians, and Georgians. Many Mamluks were also of Balkan origin (Albanians, Greeks, and South Slavs). The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior class, was of great political importance; for one thing, it endured for nearly 1000 years, from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries.

Over time, Mamluks became a powerful military knightly caste in various societies that were controlled by Muslim rulers. Particularly in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Mesopotamia, and India, mamluks held political and military power. In some cases, they attained the rank of sultan, while in others they held regional power as emirs or beys. Most notably, mamluk factions seized the sultanate centered on Egypt and Syria, and controlled it as the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517). The Mamluk Sultanate famously defeated the Ilkhanate at the Battle of Ain Jalut. They had earlier fought the western European Christian Crusaders in 1154–1169 and 1213–1221, effectively driving them out of Egypt and the Levant. In 1302 the mamluks formally expelled the last Crusaders from the Levant, ending the era of the Crusades.[1]

While mamluks were purchased as property, their status was above ordinary slaves but they were not allowed to carry weapons or perform certain tasks. In places such as Egypt, from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be "true lords" and "true warriors", with social status above the general population in Egypt and the Levant. In a sense they were like enslaved mercenaries.

Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)

The Mamluk Sultanate (Arabic: سلطنة المماليك‎ Salṭanat al-Mamālīk) was a medieval realm spanning Egypt, the Levant, and Hejaz. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. Historians have traditionally broken the era of Mamlūk rule into two periods—one covering 1250–1382, the other, 1382–1517. Western historians call the former the "Baḥrī" period and the latter the "Burjī" due to the political dominance of the regimes known by these names during the respective eras. Contemporary Muslim historians refer to the same divisions as the "Turkic" and "Circassian" periods in order to stress the change in the ethnic origins of the majority of Mamlūks.The Mamlūk state reached its height under Turkic rule with Arabic culture and then fell into a prolonged phase of decline under the Circassians. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, soldiers of predominantly Cuman-Kipchaks (from Crimea), Circassian, Abkhazian, Oghuz Turks and Georgian slave origin. While Mamluks were purchased, their status was above ordinary slaves, who were not allowed to carry weapons or perform certain tasks. Mamluks were considered to be "true lords", with social status above citizens of Egypt. Though it declined towards the end of its existence, at its height the sultanate represented the zenith of medieval Egyptian and Levantine political, economic, and cultural glory in the Islamic Golden Age.

Ottoman Tunisia

Ottoman Tunis refers to the episode of the Turkish presence in Ifriqiya during the course of three centuries from the 16th century until the 18th century, when Tunis was officially integrated into the Ottoman Empire as the Eyalet of Tunis (province). Eventually including all of the Maghrib except Morocco, the Ottoman Empire began with the takeover of Algiers in 1516 by the Ottoman Turkish corsair and beylerbey Oruç Reis. The first Ottoman conquest of Tunis took place in 1534 under the command of Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, the younger brother of Oruç Reis, who was the Kapudan Pasha of the Ottoman Fleet during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. However, it wasn't until the final Ottoman reconquest of Tunis from Spain in 1574 under Kapudan Pasha Uluç Ali Reis that the Turks permanently acquired the former Hafsid Tunisia, retaining it until the French occupation of Tunisia in 1881.

Initially under Turkish rule from Algiers, soon the Ottoman Porte appointed directly for Tunis a governor called the Pasha supported by janissary forces. Before long, however, Tunisia became in effect an autonomous province, under the local Bey. This evolution of status was from time to time challenged without success by Algiers. During this era the governing councils controlling Tunisia remained largely composed of a foreign elite who continued to conduct state business in the Ottoman Turkish language.

Attacks on European shipping were made by Barbary pirates, primarily from Algiers, but also from Tunis and Tripoli, yet after a long period of declining raids, the growing power of the European states finally forced its termination after the Barbary Wars. Under the Ottoman Empire, the boundaries of Tunisia contracted; it lost territory to the west (Constantine) and to the east (Tripoli). In the 19th century, the rulers of Tunisia became aware of the ongoing efforts at political and social reform in the Ottoman capital. The Bey of Tunis then, by his own lights but informed by the Turkish example, attempted to effect a modernizing reform of institutions and the economy. Tunisian international debt grew unmanageable. This was the reason or pretext for French forces to establish a Protectorate in 1881.

A remnant of the centuries of Turkish rule is the presence of a population of Turkish origin, historically the male descendants were referred to as the Kouloughlis.


Shawar ibn Mujir al-Sa'di (Arabic: شاور بن مجير السعدي‎, translit. Shāwar ibn Mudjīr as-Saʿdī; died January 18, 1169) was an Arab de facto ruler of Fatimid Egypt, as vizier, from December 1162 until his assassination in 1169 by the general Shirkuh, the uncle of the Kurdish leader Saladin, with whom he was engaged in a three-way power struggle against the Crusader Amalric I of Jerusalem. Shawar was notorious for continually switching alliances, allying first with one side, and then the other, and even ordering the burning of his own capital city, Fustat, just so that the enemy could not have it.

Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding

The Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding is a Qatari literary award for translation from and to Arabic. The total value of the award is $2 million. It is named in honor of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruling Emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013. It is among the world's richest literary prizes for translation.

Stanley Lane-Poole

Stanley Edward Lane-Poole (18 December 1854 – 29 December 1931) was a British orientalist and archaeologist. His uncle was Edward William Lane.

Turks in Egypt

The Turks in Egypt, also referred to as Egyptian Turks, Turkish-Egyptians and Turco-Egyptians (Arabic: أتراك مصر‎Turkish: Mısır Türkleri) are Egyptian citizens of partial or full Turkish ancestry, who are the descendants of settlers that arrived in the region during the rule of several Turkic dynasties, including: the Tulunid (868–905), Ikhshidid (935–969), Zengid (1127–1250), Mamluk (1250–1517), and Ottoman (1517–1867 and 1867–1914) eras. Today their descendants continue to live in Egypt and still identify as Egyptians of Turkish or mixed origin, though they are also fully integrated in Egyptian society.

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