forced into a battle in August 1516, in which he was severely hampered
by the defection to the Ottomans of his governor of Aleppo, Khayrbak.
The two armies met at Marj Dabiq but Sultan Qan~iil;t died of a stroke on
the battlefield. On the last day of 922 AH/23 Jan. 1517, Sultan Salim,
after some initial resistance, was in Cairo. Tuman Bay II, who had been
made sultan after the death of Qan~iil;t, offered some opposition but was
captured and hung in Cairo. Khayrbak, the former governor of Aleppo,
was made Ottoman governor of Egypt. The last khalif, Mutuwakkil III,
was sent to Istanbul, returning to Cairo some years later as a private
citizen. The rule of the mamliiks, it seemed, was finished.
It is one of the anomalies of history that during periods of political turmoil the art of
the chronicler flourishes. Egypt was no exception and although it was only one
aspect of the great Islamic literary tradition, through these authors the whole
history of the Mamliik period is documented. Four exponents were outstanding
and between them provide an unbroken chronicle of the Maml’iik domination
from its rise to its fall, if not through direct observation then through intercourse
with eye-witnesses and veterans or use of earlier journals.
The earliest was Abu 1-cAbbas Taqi al-Din AJ;imad al-Maqrizi (1364-1442)
who had a theological education and became a tutor and administrator. His access
to records of an earlier period extend his journal to the rise of the A yyubids in 1174.
The upbringing of Abu 1-Maha!?inJamfilal-Din Yusufibn Taghribardi (1409-70)
was very different. He was the son of the atabak Amir Taghribardi and was raised
in the court circle by his sister who was married to the chief qadi, while his cousin
Shinn married Sultan Barqflq. Thus he was admitted to the greatest houses in the
land and his journals reflect this fact.. Lastly Abu “‘I-Barakat Zayn al-Din
Mul;lammad ibn Al;lmad tbn Iyis ( 1448-1524) was also descended from a mamluk
family although of lesser degree and at a greater distance. His humbler training was main’ly in administration. The additional importance of his work is that it
spans the critical period of the downfall of the Maml’iik state and the first years of
the Ottoman occupation.
Another magnificent literary product of the period was Alf Laylah wa Laylah-The 1001 Nights. This corpus of stories had been in existence for many
centuries and displays diverse origins. At the core are stories from India and Persia
translated into Arabic early in the history of Islam. Grafted on to this is a collection
of tales from the golden age of Arabic literature during the cAbbasid Khalifate of
Baghdad. To these the Egyptians added from their own great fund of jokes and
folktales, some of which had been in existence since ancient times. All these tales
and romances, whatever their origin, were decorated with the appurtenances of
Mamluk society and in the 14C were written down much the form in which they
are known today.
(1516–1805). The Ottoman Turks were one of the
many Central Asian tribes of Turcomans, Mongols and Turks who had
moved westward during the course of the previous millennium. They
had gradually established themseI’ves by conquest and good fortune as
one of the most powerful states in W. Asia. Constantinople fell to them
in 1453 and; by the end of the 15C they were challenging Persia for
control of Mesopotamia. Egypt, as described, was taken by the
Ottomans in 1516, her provinces of Syria and Arabia also being
absorbed into the empire.
Thus, once more, Egypt became a dependancy of an immense
empire, ruled from the N. and playing little part in its triumphs and
glories. Burdened with a great tax and governed by generally
uninterested foreigners more concerned with furthering their careers
in Istanbul, it declined as a cultural centre, yet throughout the period
retained its importance as a religious fountainhead. It was administered from Istanbul by a series of governors distinguished by the title
Pasha, who were trained in the. capital as part of the imperial
household, their powers severely limited and their terms of office short,
thus having little opportunity to found independent dynasties, though
this did not stop one or two of them trying.
The importation of slaves from many areas, though mainly from the
Caucasus, and their assimilation into the military corps continued
unabated during the following centuries and-as under the
mamluks-it was this system which eventually dictated the administration. There were seven active military uchaqs (corps), two of foot,
three mounted and two which combined infantry and mounted forces.
The organisation of each was similar, commanded by an Agha (Lord)
assisted by the Katkhuda (Lieutenant) in whom generally the power
resided. Other officers included the Odahbasha (Chamberlain), Shurbagi (Steward), Katib (Secretary) and Yuldash (Private Soldier).
citadel of Cairo
The most powerful corps, though not the most prestigious, were the Janissaries,
called in Egypt Mustalµ~an (Guardians), or Inkshariyyah, the infantry corps.
responsible for the security of the walls and Citadel of Cairo. They occupied the
upper Citadel and acquired control over most of the high revenue agencies, the
granary, mint, and awqaf, and provided the principal officers of these. Their agha
was given precedence above those of all the other corps. Another infantry corps,
the cAzaban (Bachelors), had similar duties but at an inferior level. Their
particular responsibility was the protection of the approaches to Cairo, the
agricultural areas of Egypt and patrolling the mouths of the Nile. In the late 17C
they became extremely powerful and generally had the support of the other corps.
in opposition to the Mustalµ~an. They occupied the lower levels of the Citadel.
The five others were called the lesser corps. The three mounted corps; the
Gonulliyan (Volunteers) later called the Camulyan (Cameleers), Tufankciyan
(Riflemen) and the Cerkase (Cirassians), were mainly concerned with providing
protection for the provincial governors, delivering official messages and collectirtg taxes. The two corps which combined infantry and cavalry troops were chiefly
for the service of the Pasha and the diwan. Most prestigious of all the corps was the
Mutafarriqah, founded specifically to counterbalance the influence of the two
infantry corps. Its income exceeded that of the Mustalµ~an. with control of
several high revenue agencies. By the mid-17C, however, the Mustalµ~an and
cAzaban were powerful enough to appropriate most of their agencies and they
were, in effect, controlled by the Mustalµ~an. The Shawishan, created from
mamluks who declared their loyalty to the Ottomans, were similar to the latter
corps but in an inferior position. By the mid 17C they had also declined to a mere
appendage to the Mustalµ~an. From the ranks of all these corps were chosen the
amirs, the highest ranking of whom were called Bays and who, with the Pasha and
the Qac~II cAskar, the judicial officer sent from Istanbul, comprised the diwan
(council) of administration.
Slaves were collected outside Egypt and brought to the slave markets of Cairo
and Assylil, where they were purchased by the bays and amirs and maintained in
their households. They were educated and given military instruction and after
some years formally freed to obtain posts in one of the corps. In addition to these
slaves were the freemen who joined the household for a small salary and who were
also trained to the same end as the slaves. A system of transfer and promotion
ensured that the most able candidates reached the highest posts and entry into the
Although the troops had great’influence and by the end of the 16C were
capable of deposing a pasha who displeased them, in general the
Ottomans were capable of maintaining control of the government and
ensuring that the revenues were paid to Istanbul. In the early 17C
however, the power of the bays was such that a conflict with the pasha
was inevitable. Gradually they appropriated many of the financial
agencies which provided the taxes and by the mid-17C the pasha was a
mere official figurehead. For twenty-five years ( 1631-56) Rac;lwan Bay,
· the leader of the bays, was the real power, although he co-operated
with the governor. Each bay maintained a large household of retainers
who, although they may have been employed in one of the corps or with
other merchants, remained loyal to their first master.
Two great factions, of obscure origin, the Dhu 1-Faqariyyah and the
Qasi.miyyah, divided the bays. These were allied to similar factions
among the artisans and Arab tribes. Rac;lwan Bay was the leader of the
Faqartyyah and under his protection they became very powerful until,
in 1660, the pasha, at the urging of the Qasimiyyah, had all the leading
Faqari bays executed or exiled and then in 1662 turned on the
Qasimiyyah and murdered their leader, AJ:µnad Bay al-Bushnak. By
manipulating their mutual rivalry, the pashas for the next thirty years were able to control the bays.
In 1692 Kujuk Mul}.ammad, an Udah Basha of the Mustahfizan
supported by the Faqariyyah, rebelled against the senior office~s and
had them expelled from the corps and, although he was killed two
years later by the officers, the old rivalries were rekindled. The
Musta~an became overbearing and resented by the other corps and
there were several skirmishes between them. Afranj Al}.mad, another
Udah Basha of the Mustal}.fi~an, and again supported by the
Faqartyyah, in 1711 attacked the other corps led by the cAzaban
supported by the Qasimiyyah. The Mustal:tf~an were defeated and the
Pasha Ibrahim who had been their puppet was deposed and replaced
by Khalil Pasha. From this time absolute power resided with the Bays.
Isma91 Bay was the leader of the Qasim.iyyah who were all powerful
until his death in 1744 when they splintered into several factions. The
vacuum thus created was filled by the Qazdughliyyah, a client faction
of the Faqariyyah who, until this time, had possessed little power.
Ibrahim Bay Katkhuda, the leader of this faction, assumed the title
Shaykh al-Balad (Elder of the Town), a post that guaranteed the holder
almost royal status. This post and that of the Amir al-l;Iajj (Commander
of the Pilgrimage) were usually held by the two most powerful Bays
After Ibrahim’s deathin 1754 his subordinate, RaQ.wan Bay al-Galfi,
succeeded but his death was followed by a short period of conflict. In
1760 another of Ibrahim’s bays, cAli Bay al-Kabir-also called Bulut
Kapan (Cloud-catcher)-assumed the post of Shaykh al-Balad. cAli
reached this position with the help of c Abd al-RaJ:µnan, Katkhud& of the
Musta~an, who was probably the most influential man in Egypt,
although his own interests lay more in aesthetics than the pursuit of
power. Nevertheless in 1765 he was exiled by c AII Bay to the Hijaz as a
potential source of reaction. cAli Bay revealed himself as the great
avenger of his master and so unpopular did he become that he had to
flee to Palestine. However, with the support of one of his amirs,
Mul}.ammad Bay Abu 1-Dhahab, he disposed of the opposition. He was
recognised by the sultan as autonomous ruler, but was soon appropriating the tax sent t6o Istanbul. An attempt was made to invade Syria
but he was betrayed by Mul}.ammad Bay, who negotiated with the
sultan and, in 1772, ousted cAli from Egypt. Mul}.ammad Bay ruled as
Shaykh al-Balad for three years but died on a campaign in 1775.
Three protagonists emerged, lsma91 Bay, another former bay oi
Ibrahim Katkhuda, Ibrahim Bay and Murad Bay, two of Mul}.ammad
Bay’s household. The two latter emerged supreme and alternated the
posts of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-l:lajj between them. In 1786 the
Ottoman admiral, l;Iasan Pasha, occupied the Delta and installed Isma
c-11 Bay as Shaykh al-Balad, which post he held until his death in 1791.
Immediately Murad and Ibrahim returned from Upper Egypt and
resumed their dual ru.Ie and were still in power when Bonaparte
invaded in 1798.
With the death of lbnlyas in 1524 the great chronicle ofEgypt was discontinued. In
comparison to former times the history of the 16-11C is little known and must be
gleaned from official documents or letters. In the 18C however an Egyptian of
Somali descent, cAbd al-Ralµnan ibn J:lasan al-Jabar6 (1153-1825),