Muslim Egypt Part III

By | January 21, 2022

The Ottoman conquest was undoubtedly harmful to Egypt; but perhaps its deleterious effects have been exaggerated. In reality, the decline had already begun earlier; and if the interruption of commercial relations with the northern Mediterranean was a serious blow to the prosperity of Egypt, it should be remembered that it coincides with the general phenomenon of the movement of the great trade routes towards the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The government of the Ottomans was not substantially different from that of the Mamluks: on the contrary, they largely retained their power, if not as sovereigns, as members of the d ī w ā n (council), who assisted the pasha sent by the government of Constantinople and who very often managed to keep the will of the central government in check. When then this, starting from the end of the century. XVIII, began to be considerably weakened, the power of the pasha ended up being only nominal, and the Mamluks constituted an oligarchic “camarilla”, true mistress of Egypt. There was no shortage of insurrectionary movements tending to detach its eccentric provinces from Turkey (the most notable is that of ‛Alī Bey, in 1771, who was for some time de facto ruler of Egypt and Syria), but the Ottoman government he always managed to tame them, albeit at the cost of concessions.

According to, the Napoleonic conquest of 1798 and the French occupation, which lasted until 10 July 1801, had brought a serious blow to the authority of the Mamluks, who proved unable to defend Egypt from foreign invasion, and at the same time made the Porta understand the need to keep Egypt under a stronger government, while, on the other hand, it revealed to the Egyptians the technical superiority of European civilization. Immediately after the departure of the French army, the Porte appointed Moḥammed Khusraw Pasha as governor of Egypt, with wide powers, with the task of canceling the last remnants of the power of the Mamluks; but his subordinate Moḥammed ‛Alī (Mehmet Alì according to the Turkish pronunciation), Albanian from Cavala, made himself the leader of a group of 3000-4000 Albanian soldiers, he succeeded in ousting his superior and then, on July 9, 1805, to be nominated governor by the Porta. He immediately revealed a brilliant and unscrupulous government talent. He got rid of the Mamluks in 1811 with a bloody massacre, reunited Egypt under his effective rule, and began to carry out a vast action of economic revival of the country, favoring agriculture and opening the country’s access to traders and industrialists. Europeans.

The great services he rendered to his government in suppressing the revolt of the Wahhābites in Arabia, and in fighting that of the Greeks, made him feel that he deserved greater recognition of his merits, and, since he could not obtain it by peaceful means, he broke the war. at the Gate (1831). A series of victories made him master of Syria and would undoubtedly have led him to complete triumph over his adversary and to the establishment of a completely independent Egypt, if the intervention of England and Austria had not forced him into a transaction, for which he had to content himself, against the payment of an annual tax, with the perpetual investiture of Egypt (and the title of Pasha of Egypt) with the right to pass it on to his descendants,

With admirable energy, the new sovereign awaited the development of the country, continuing to promote agricultural development (he was responsible for the introduction of the cultivation of cotton, fundamental for today’s Egyptian economy), industrial and civil; in all this he made full use of the work of Europeans, hired in his service, and by means of whom he also made the exploration of a large part of western Sūdān, which he had conquered and aggregated to Egypt. It is not without reason that it was said by C. Becker (1913) that modern Egypt is the work of Europe and the Khedive.

The administration of the state was reorganized on a firmly centralized basis, a rigid system of monopolies established, communications improved, an Egyptian army created; all with oriental despotism, placed however at the service of a grandiose plan of renewal of the country, which used foreign technical and scientific elements, but with vigilant and jealous political independence. However, Egypt could not be long in being attracted into the sphere of European interests. If in Moḥammed ‛Alī (died 1849) and his two first successors, his nephew‛ Abbās I (1849-54) and his son Sa‛îd (1854-63), he managed to maintain a double independence in the face of decreasing authority della Porta and the growing influence of Western powers, under Moḥammed ‛Alī’s other nephew, Ismā‛il l ‘

Ismā‛īl (1863-79), the first to bear the title of khedive conferred on him by the Porte, he explained an extraordinary activity in public works (under him, in 1869, the Suez canal was inaugurated) which ended up ruining the finances of the state, whose public debt rose in 1876 to almost 100 million pounds. The intervention of the powers forced the Khedive to accept control over the financial administration of British and French officials; a Frenchman was appointed Minister for Public Works, and an Englishman for Finance. And when Ismā‛īl, in 1879, refused to recall these foreign members of the dismissed cabinet, the powers provoked his deposition from the sultan of Constantinople (June 26, 1879). With the accession to the throne of his son Tawfīq, the crisis of the conflict between European interests, especially English, and the xenophobic nationalist movement matured; its resolution.

Muslim Egypt 3