Mamluk identity

Mamluk identity

The birth of the Mamluk System during the Abbasid Period

Al-Mu`tasim was the first Caliph to depend on the Turkish Slaves Soldiers (Ghulams), when as Amir he bought around 3000 Ghulams. They were Turkish prisoners of war, captured in Central Asia. The reasons were clear, from one side, he was already on bad terms with the Khurasanians, who were in favor of if nephew, and from the other side, he never trusted the Arabs due to their revolutionary attitude against the Caliphs in different occasions . When al-Mu`tasim became a Caliph the number of Ghulams reached 8000. Some other historians estimated 18000 Ghulams .

Al-Mu`tasim gave his Ghulams very important court positions and increased their influence and their privileges in Baghdad which lead to a tremendous hatred towards them from the people and the Caliph was threatened by calling against him in the mosques. Al-Mu`tasim position became very weak and embarrassing in front of his people, so he built another city called Samarra’ and moved to it all the Ghulams dwellings.The Ghulams became so powerful that they often could interfere in the Caliphate's rule and sometimes even the Caliph himself had no power or control over them. They even had the power to dispose a Caliph and raise a successor according to their own preference and benefits. They killed 4 caliphs in 10 years in the 860's. The experiment of Mu‘tasim ended in a disaster and clearly, the system has to be changed: the Mamluk system was then invented, at the end of the 860's from the Ghulam system: the difference between the two systems is that, while the Ghulams were Soldiers, already grown up when they entered the Islamic world, the Mamluk system relied on young Turks, who could be more easily trained and moulded and could be more reliable. [] This new system was spread by the prestige of the Caliphs.

The Mamluk Dominance of Egypt

Ahmed Ibn Tulun was a Turkish Mamluk whose father was sent as a gift to the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma’mun in (263 H. / 877 A.D.) He was sent to Egypt as a ruler under the loyalty of the Abbasid Caliphate, that he quickly formed an army consisting of 24,000 Turkish Mamluk soldiers . Chronologically, he became the first Mamluk to rule Egypt but the court Amires had not yet had the opportunity to succeed him and to establish their rule in Egypt. Due to Ahmed Ibn Tulun’s power, he did not find any real difficulties to claim independence of Egypt without the Caliphate interference. Many of the Mamluks where given their freedom to constitute another special army to improve the ruler power and to maintain his rule in internal affairs and they were responsible for his own safety.

The Mamluks during the Akhshid Period (323 - 358 H. /935 - 969 A.D)

During the Akhshids, nothing has changed that would affect the strategy of keeping the Mamluks around, as a symbol of power to the ruler. During the reign of Muhamad Ibn Taghj al-Akhshidi -the founder of the Akhshid Dynasty- the number of Mamluks reached 8000 Mamluks and it was believed that he used to sleep guarded by 1000 Mamluks , which most probably is an exaggeration.

The Mamluks during the Fatimid Period (358 H. 969A.D).

Although the Fatmids were Shi`as, they employed their sunni Turkish Mamluks in the court. Al-`Aziz. The Fatimid Caliph (365-386 H. 975-996 A.D.) made his Turkish Mamluk Mingutokeen the leader of his army then promoted him to be the governor of al-Sham, which made some of the Fatimid leaders aware of the incremental gain in influence of Turkish Mamluks. During the time of Al-Haiku who realized the threat of the Mamluks’ increasing influence (386-411H. 996-1020 A.D.), so he bought many black slaves from Sudan in order to compensate the difference in the numbers of black slaves against the Turkish ones. He succeeded to limit the influence and the power of the Turkish Mamluks in Egypt but not for long . During the time of al-Zahir the Turkish Mamluks regained power and the Turkish Aushtakin became the governor of Al-Sham. A Mamluk to be a governor is something that occasionally happened during different episodes through the Mamluk history; this means that the Mamluks could reach very important positions regardless of their slavery origin, but being a Sultan was something unacceptable, since the kingdom had to be ruled by a noble free man.

The Mamluks during the Ayubid Period (567 H. /1171 A.D)

The Ayubids were Kurds living under the prevalence of the Saljuks. The Ayubids were strengthening their army by the Turkish Mamluks, implementing them within the palace court and teaching them to be the best generals and officers. Nizam al-Mulk gave the Mamluks important lands to take care of, encouraging them to defend their lands and the whole kingdom; these Mamluks were called Atabeks or in other words Majordomo.Rapidly, each of the Atabek had established an independent rule on their given land and showed their loyalty to the Caliph just to legitimize their rule.The most well known Atabek was Imad al-Din Ibn Zinki the Atabek of Aleppo and Musul, whose father was a Mamluk for the Saljuk Sultan Malik- Shah in the early 12th century. Nur al-Din Ibn Zinki sent an army to Egypt (559 H. 1164 AD) to defend it against the Crusades under the leadership of Asad al-Din Shirqwa who was accompanied by his nephew Salah al-Din al-Ayubi known as Saladin in English text books. The title of Saladin was Al-Malik al-Nasir Abu’l Muzaffar Salah ad- Dunya wa’d- Din Yusuf Bin Ayub , which shows a lot of pride and admiration for his role in the Islamic history. These kinds of long titles became a tradition throughout the Mamluk reign and were carved on all of the mosques they have built in Egypt and Syria. After the failure of the Crusade to invade Egypt and the death of Asad al-Din in 564 H. -1169 AD. Salah al-Din became the minister of the Fatimid Caliph al-`Adid (555-567 H. 1160-1171A.D.), with the support of the Assadiyya Mamluks.Three years later, the Fatimid caliph died and Salah al-Din took over. Three days before the death of the caliph, Salah al-Din had already ceased saying the Fatimid caliph’s name in the mosques fulfilling the orders of Nur al-Din . In the same year Nur al-Din died leaving a boy of eleven years old, which made it easy for Salah al-Din to put him aside and take over Egypt and Syria with no competitor. The incident was not a struggle for the throne more than it was not an appropriate time for minors to rule, against the crusade threatening. During the Ayubid period the Mamluks began to play a role in the history of Egypt. The Mamluks were the ones who helped Salah al-Din in his wars to unify Egypt and Syria under his rule, and when Salah al-Din died in 589H. 1193 A.D , it was obvious that whoever could gain the Mamluks loyalty would seize the throne. After several fights between the sons of Salah al-Din and their uncle al-Malik al-`Adil, the brother of Salah al-Din, the latter succeeded in gaining the Assadiyya Mamluks to his side subsequently united Salah al-Din’s divided patrimony Egypt and Syria under one rule in (597H. / 1200 A.D.) After the death of al_Malik al-`Adil, his son al-Kamil became the Sultan in (615 H./ 1218 A.D.) and then he was succeeded by his son al-Adil the Second which was put aside by the Ashrafiyya and the `Adilyya Mamluks and they appointed al-Salih Nagim al-Din Ayyub as the new Sultan in (638H./ 1240 A.D .) Following this incident it was obvious that the Mamluks had become the dominating power in Egypt and Syria. The Mamluks now had the power to dispose a Sultan and appoint another, but no Mamluk would dare to aspire to the throne of Egypt due to their Mamluk origin. However, the new sultan bought more Mamluks, which had never been surpassed by any one of his Ayubid family.Al-Salih Ayub did not live in Cairo but instead he chose the Rawda Island to build his palace there in (638 h./1241AD.), he built another citadel for his Mamluks in the same island to guard him from any revolutionary movement. Some historians claim that the name Bahri Mamluks was derived from this incident, since they were living by the river Nile which was referred as Bahr or ‘sea’ . While other historians went so far to claim that this name of the dynasty “Bahri” is due to the seaway passage, the Mamluks used to pass through from the slavery markets in minor Asia to Egypt .When the Crusaders succeeded in taking Damiatta in (647 h. /1249 AD.), all the Muslim world was terrified and the Sultan was very angry and he hanged more than 50 Amirs who were responsible for defending Damietta . Shortly, after the fall of Damiatta the Sultan died from grief in (647 h. / 1249 A.D. ), and Turan Shah the son of al-Salih came to Egypt as the new Sultan and succeeded in defeating the Crusaders in Faraskur. The victory was achieved by the help of the Bahri Mamluks and Louis IX himself was taken as a prisoner. This was one of the incidents, which illustrates the power of the Mamluks in the region and threatened the Crusaders ambition in the Middle East. Turan set Louis IX free after paying the ransom - an action that was not appealing to the rest of the Mamluks . Turan continued his bad polices with the Bahri Mamluks whom he didn’t calculate their power and Shajarit al-Durr, he was pursued and slain leaving the throne with no real candidate but Shajarit al-Durr who was assigned as the new Sultan.

Establishing the Mamluk Ruling Dynasty in Egypt

Regarding most of the Arabs and the Islamic world’s negative opinion of the Mamluks and their policies in any country in which they had existed, the Arabs and the Muslims owe them two important strategic incidents:First, the Mamluks succeeded to stop the Crusades from completing their Christian mission of taking over the Muslim territories. Second, the triumph on the Kutbugha’s the chief of the Mongol army stopped the aggressive flow of the Mongols into the Islamic countries putting into consideration that the Mamluks were the only Islamic power left in the Middle East. These two incidents were enough to legitimize their rule within Dar al-Islam and with the blessing of the Abbasid Caliph. The Mamluk Ezz al-Din Aybak was chosen by the rest of the Mamluks to marry Shajarat al-Dur the wife of the last Ayubid Sultan. When Aybak was raised to the throne, the Mamluk dynasty was met with great dissatisfaction from all the Arab and Muslim world because of having a Mamluk as a Sultan. In fact, Aybak was not from the Bahri Mamluk neither was he the eldest in the royal court, but he was well known by his generosity and his wisdom, he was also known as a decision-maker. Aybak was promoted to be the royal Jashankir during the reign of al-Malik al-Salih, his duty was to taste the food before it was served to the Sultan. The Mamluks probably thought that Aybak lacked the influence of the other powerful Amirs had, which would have made it easier for them to dispose him if they needed to. Shajarat al-Dur not only vested him the crown, but she aimed to rule through a weak personality, as Aybak seemed to be. After a few years of an unhappy marriage, Aybak drew weary of Shajarat al Durr’s powerful personality, so he decided to marry the daughter of Badr al-Din Lu’ lu’ the Atabek of al-Musol . According to the circumstances, Shajarat al-Durr ordered five of her guards to kill him. He was killed in the Hammam in (1257 AD .) Shajarat al-Durr did not get away with it, the other wife of Aybak ordered his Mamluks to carry Shajarat a-dur to her and with the assistance of the servants, they killed her using the clogs and she was thrown naked in one of the citadel grooves for three days . Nur al-Din Ali the son of Aybak was assigned to be the new Sultan, two years later the Mu`eziyya Amirs assigned Saiyf al-Din Qutuz to become the new Sultan due to the nur al-Din young age and the unwiseness of for the new circumstances . With the death of Shajarat al-Durr, a Mamluk was assigned to the throne, which meant that there was no more need for an Ayubid interference to legitimize the throne.

Legitimizing the Mamluk Rule in Egypt

The early beginning of the Mamluks rule was opposed by most of the Muslim countries and even the Egyptians. The reasons were always the same: the Mamluks slavery origins. Due to this dissatisfaction, the Mamluks tried hard to legitimate their rule in Egypt and Syria, and undertook powerful steps towards this quelling opposition:1. Eliminating the internal revolution: Sultan Aybak - the first Mamluk Sultan - succeeded to eliminate the revolution by sending Faris al-Din Aqtai leading a Mamluk army to the rebellions under the leadership of Al-Sharif Hassan Al-Din bin Tha`lab . 2. Announcing the loyalty to the Abbasid Caliph.3. Taking the advice of the Abbasid Caliph and allying with their only competitors - the Ayubids - against a mutual enemy: the Mongols. An incident, which devastated any real objection against the legitimization of the Mamluk rule.4. The most important step forward was taking the oath of defending Egypt against non-Muslim enemies. After the great victory of the Mamluks against the Crusades and on the Mongols, most of the Islamic and the Arab countries accepted the Mamluks as the ruler of Egypt and Syria disregarding their slavery origin.5. A few years later the Abassid Caliph was killed during the Mongol ravage of Baghdad and the new non-ruler Abbasid Caliphate was declared by Abu Abdullah the Hafsid in Egypt under the protection of the Mamluks, which was the last step in legitimizing their rule .

The Characteristics of the Mamluk Dynasty in Egypt

It is important to know different policies of the Mamluks and their system of rule in Egypt during both eras: the Bahrite, which is the Turkish, and the Burji, which is the Circassian. Analyzing the policies of the Mamluks will shed the light on their historical background, to the system of their rule and how it is reflected on their art and architecture and the urban design.

The System of the Mamluk Rule in Egypt

It might seem that the Mamluk’s rule was by hereditary, because of the succession of many sultans’ sons to the sultanate. However, the sons usually stay no more than days until a powerful Mamluk takes over the sultanate. This was the case during the entire period with the exception of Sultan Qalaun dynasty. Thus the lucky sultan who succeeded in reaching the throne had to give lavish presents, real estate and gold to the Mamluks surrounding him in order to stay alive and to maintain his position. If the son of the preceding Sultan inherited the rule he would not consider the Mamluks of his father as his faithful servants, nor would the Mamluks of the Sultan’s father regard him as their most respected ustadth . The young Sultan had to buy other younger Mamluks with lesser experience, which makes them easy for him to control. If the sultanate was taken over by another powerful Mamluk not from the family of the preceding Sultan, he would immediately purge the power of the preceding sultan’s Mamluks, by removing them from their influential positions, they could be imprisoned, exiled or even executed .

The Internal Policies with the Egyptians

The Mamluks were isolated from the people of Egypt, or this, at least, is what most of the historians contend . On the contrary, there are some incidents, suggesting stronger bonds between the Mamluks and their subjects:Despite the fact that the Mamluks spoke Turkish for the royal court, they had to speak Arabic to the employees and the craftsmen. The Mamluks were very religious and many Sultans can recite the Qur’an - a fact which shows that they spoke Arabic occasionally and there were some Sultans who spoke fluent Arabic. They used to admire and respect the Imams of the four mazhab and used to take their opinion for the religious decisions .The Imams were mainly Egyptians and they interfered a lot in the decisions of the Sultan. Ibn Iyas has stated that the Amirs used to supervise their buildings by themselves giving orders to the architects and the workers. A fact that shows their interactivity with the common. Although the Rawda island was known as the power of elite, yet we will find that all the residences of the Amirs -through a topologic survey- including all the Madrases, palaces and the mausoleums of the Mamluk Amirs were scattered all over the city, none were located in the Rawda or in any other high class quarter. Unlike the Fatimids: who when they built Cairo forbid it to the common. The Mamluks’ relation with the Copts was always according to the Copts’ protesting movements or when they improve their relations with the Christian countries. In 847 H., after Sultan Jaqmaq had ordered the demolition of the Mu'alaqa Church, the king of Abyssinia threatened to cut the flow of the Nile to the Egyptian lands if the Christian Patriarch did not receive better treatment. In response to this threat, Jaqmaq pulled down another church in Qasr al-Shami' and transferred its parts to the mosque located beside it, converting the kursi of the Patriarch into a minbar . Jaqmaq then signed an agreement with the Christian Patriarch in Egypt forbidding support for any of the Abyssinian kings without a personal order from Sultan Jaqmaq himself.

The Mamluk Foreign Polices

With the Abbasid Caliph

Due to the critical conditions of the Mongol invasion to the Islamic countries, the Abbasid Caliph suggested the unity of the Muslims referring to the Ayubid and Mamluks to stand against the Mongols. A few years later, Baghdad was seized by the Mongols and the Caliph fled to Egypt, and the Abbasid caliphate continued as a non-ruling religious authority under the Mamluk protection. The election of the new Sultan among the Mamluks was to be confirmed by the four judges and the Caliph, the whole process was just formal representation than authentication. The Abbasid caliphate was practically ended by the fall of Baghdad but it was formally ended by the fall of the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt by the hands of the Ottomans in (1517 A.D.) and another Ottoman Caliphate was declared in Istanbul. the Rulers of Persia:Ahmad Tekuwador the son of Hulaku converted to Islam, and sent his messengers to Sultan Qalaun in the year 1282 (A.D. / 681H.) to start initiating relations based on Islamic brotherhood. This was a turning point in the relations between the two empires, which was reflected on the art and architecture of Egypt and Persia. After his death, the relations became worse than before due to the succession of Orgon as the new king of Persia. When Ghazan became the King of Il Khanids, he converted to Islam changing his name to Mahmud but this never abandoned the old hatred between the Mamluks and the Mongol successors. The circumstances changed with the succession of Olgai Tu to the throne and changed Persia’s policy towards the Mamluks to open the trade routes and establish mutual benefits. Their relations worsened during the reign of Tumerlane, who was of Turkish and Mongol origins. He established the Tumrid dynasty with a very aggressive attitude towards his neighbors: India from the east, the Ottomans from the west and the Mamluks from the south .

.With the Ottomans

During the Circassian Sultan Barquq (1382 A.D. 784 H.- 1399 A.D. /801 H.), the map of the middle east was as follows (fig. 1.1)The Ottoman Empire extended from the border of the Byzantine Empire dominating all of Anatolia to the borders of both the Mamluks from the south at the Syrian lands and the Tumurids from the east at Persia. The Tumirids were Turkish ruled by Tumerlan attempt to control the entire Islamic world under his rule a threat to both the Ottoman and the Mamluk Empires. The Ottomans were obliged to maintain good relations with the Mamluks in order to stand against the Tumrids threat, accepting the superiority of the Mamluks’ Islamic leadership, temporarily. The Mamluks considered the Ottoman expansion into Europe just a normal Islamic expansion with no doubts of any political ambitions. Relations began to sour after the death of Sultan Barquq, because the Mamluks refused to unite with the Ottomans due to the suspicious ambition of the Ottoman.The gestures kept going to and forth, Sultan Muhammad the second sent an expedition to congratulate Barsbay for the campaign on Cyprus. Ibn Iyas stated that Egypt had partied during the conquering of the Constantinople, and Sultan Inal sent a massage to the Ottoman Sultan to congratulate him on this conquest . These incidents didn’t help much when relations were devastated in the years 1483- 1491/ 888-896 H. After several fights between the Mamluks and the Ottomans for the border regions. A few years later, the Ottomans asked the Mamluks to support them in their fight with the Safavids because of their Shi’i Madthab or rite, but the Mamluks preferred to stay away from this war which will probably negatively affect their empire. After the Ottomans defeated the Safavids they turned to the Mamluks to finish their rule in Egypt and to reduce its role to include it within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.

The Mamluks’ Economical Power

Cairo was not only a military power or just a country full of natural resources but it was a main trade center. It was for long the passage between the east and the west, Europe and Asia. The valuable goods that came from Persia and India had to be transshipped through Suez and be taxed by the customs officials of the Sultan . The goods were loaded on to the Venetian ships at the port of Alexandria or Damiatta. The caravans passing through the Arabian Desert were loaded onto Nile boats from the port of Bulaq. This commercial dominance gave the Sultan of Egypt the opportunity to negotiate treaties with European powers .Cairo continued to be the wealthiest city in the Middle East and the world until the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope route by the Portuguese, which affected Egypt economically during the reign of Sultan Qunsua al-Ghuri. This incident was a turning point in the country’s economic condition.

The Mamluk Struggle for the Dominance of Egypt

Security was one of the most important factors, which helped in developing Cairo in various aspects of civilization. Architecture was one of these aspects that security helped of building up a peculiar style. Investments were largely spread all over Egypt and Cairo in specific. Nonetheless, Egypt through history was hard to keep in hand, since two seas and an open flat desert from the south and the west, border it makes an easy land to conquer. Without a powerful army during the mediaeval era it was almost impossible to secure Egypt, but surprisingly the Mamluk did. The Mamluk success was not only because of the strong army and good fighters but the strategy was guineas. On land, the strongest armies are all coming from the east. So they chose Cairo, as the capital making who wants to reach Egypt has to pass through Syria and while he is busy conquering the cities they can walk to him and fight an exhausted enemy like what happened with the Mongols. While from the north the Mediterranean Sea the invader has to pass through buffer zone cities like Damyatta and Mansura like what happened with Louis the ninth and his army.The battles and campaigns of the Mamluk were as follows: In (1260A.D): The defeat of the Mongols by the Mamluks at the battle of `Ain Jallut breaking the invincibility of the Mongols.In (1281 A.D. 680 H.): The Battle of Hams between the Mamluks under the leadership of Sultan Qalaun and the Mongols. The Mongols where defeated and they withdrew to the other side of the Euphrates River which became the borderline between the two empires .Another battle between the Mamluks and Ilkhanids under the leadership of Mahmoud Ghazan, who succeeded to defeat the Mamluk army of the Sultan Muhammad Bin Qalun.In (1303 A.D. / 702 H.): The final battle between the Mamluks and the Ilkhanids where the latter was defeated and the Mamluks took over Aleppo and Damascus.In (1291 A.D. / 690 H.): The last Battle between the Crusades and the Mamluks. The Crusades were defeated and the Mamluks took over Antioch under the leadership of Al-Ashraf Khalil .In (1440-4 A.D.): Unsuccessful attempts to conquer Rhodes Island.In (1401 A.D.): Tamerlane ravaged Damascus and most of the Syrian cities.In (1422-38A.D.): The Egyptian conquest of Cyprus, defeating the Norman King in the reign of Sultan Barsbay. The Mamluks succeeded in keeping the dominance of the island until the Turks conquered them.In the 24th of August in the year (1517 A.D.): The defeat of Qunsua al-Ghuri from the Ottomans under the leadership of Salim. The battle was north of Aleppo in a place called Marg Dabiq.Al-Raydaniyya, the last Mamluk battle where the Ottomans defeated them. Egypt fell in the Ottomans’ hands and Toman Bay the Last Mamluk King was captured later, executed and his head was hanged on Bab Zuweila for three days.

Urban Fabric of Cairo as an Individual Practice during the Mamluk Period

The mechanism by which the Mamluks chose to allocate their residential area within a city was done by a series of individual decisions of some amirs, which collectively produced the urban pattern of Cairo. The urban planning of Cairo like many other medieval Islamic city was influenced by several factors. It was based on a balance of natural environmental restrictions with the social, economical, and political circumstances. Through the different solutions each city adopted in reaction to the different factors, a variety of urban styles became apparent as one moves from city to cit y. Al-Fustat was never meant to be the capital of Egypt since Alexandria had traditionally been the center of Egyptian government since the Polemic period. The shift in power occurred when Amr Ibn al-`Aas conquered Egypt. Caliph Omar Ibn al-khattab thought Alexandria’s opulence would make the army too complacent and as a result weaken its ability to defend the city from naval assaults. The logical solution was to create new settlements for his army away from Alexandria. Al-Fustat was chosen to be The major settlement for the army without any city development guidelines or restrictions. Funding for these army settlements came from khiraj or taxes paid by conquered cities. Rapid development and population of Al-Fustat soon spurred the development of other settlements such as Al-Qata`i’ during Ibn Tulun dynasty and followed by the Fatmid Cairo. The Fatmids constructed Cairo in the form of a fortress city in order to maintain rigid control of all outside access to the city. When Salah al-Din Al-Ayubi became the Sultan, access to the city was no longer restricted and Cairo was open up to general settlement. The rapid growth of the city eventually led to the gradual expansion of city boundaries and the absorption of surrounding cities Al-Fustat and Al-Qata’i`. The absorption of these two additional cities meant the necessary reorganization and redistribution of all existing services to maintain a unified city fabric.

City Limitations for Expansion during the Bahri Mamluks

The Mamluks took over Egypt after the Ayubids and chose Cairo to be their capital (fig. 1.2). Cairo was in great need of room for expansion and the once protective Salah al- Din walls now confine the city. The makeup of the population in Cairo was diverse. It includes people that fled from the various Muslim cities captured by the Mongols in the Middle East. It also included soldier from half of the original army under the Mongol leader Hulaku in (660 H./ 1261 A.D.) When the army was separated and the Mamluks were asked to provide for shelter, the half of the army that remained was housed at al-Luq. Add to that the Reconquista’s fight against the Ummayds took place in Spain. People found in Egypt a perfect sanctuary, through its status not only as the most powerful and wealthiest country in the Muslim world but also as the most strategically located gathering place for the Sufis, historians, and science researchers in the region.The expansion and development experienced by Cairo under the Bahri was unsurpassed by any other period during the medieval era . There are several factors that brought stability to the city to allow it populous to focus all its attention and energy on the growth of their city. The first of which was the plea for the Baybars to take control and rule the city. The second was the sense of security in the region after having defeated the Christians in the Crusades and then the Mongols. Third, the conversion of what was previously agricultural land to urban purposes also played a significant role in stimulating the development of the city . Finally, the confidence gained through protecting the Caliphate, and the encouragement to trade through Karimis, it was only natural that Cairo reached its peak economic development.

The Declining of Fustat and the Forced Northwest Expansion

The northwest unlike the south side of the city was not the natural growth and extension of Cairo. The northwest extension resulted after the demolition of the Fustat, the first Settlement City of the Muslim troops. A fire, which lasted 54 days, was started under the order of the minister Shawir (564 H. /1169 A.D.) to prevent Fustat from being captured by Amuri the king of Jerusalem . At the end, Amuri did not advance towards Fustat under the threat that Shirqwa and his army will retaliate by advancing towards Jerusalem. The most serious consequence of the struggle for power between Amuri and Shawir was the abandonment of Fustat . When Salah al-Din assigned Bahaa al-Din Qaraqush to build the walls containing Al-Fustat and Cairo in (572 H./ 1176 A.D.), the extension of the city wall was directed at an area near the Nile called al- Maqs. Cairo lost its royal glory when the king Al-Kamil Muhammad moved the royal residence to the Citadel (604 H. / 1207 A.D.) However, the move of the royal residence by the King allowed even more people to populate Cairo and new markets to be established within. The city continued to expand westward along its natural topographic route where river deposits along the banks of the Nile gave rise to additional land for the city’s expansion. Al-Maqs was filled in and Bulaq the new harbor was established taking its place . Additional public works done by al-Nasir Muhammad further stimulated the city’s expansion towards the northwest. One example of the public work done was the construction of a canal in the western suburb on the land of Jazirat al-Fil had exposed. Actual construction of the canal began in (1313 A.D.)

Neighboring the Center of Power by Eastward Expansion

The other extension of Salah al-Din’s wall was eastward towards the fortification of the Muqattam hilltop in protection of his citadel. This hilltop fortification is one of the most well known traditional fortification sights in the Muslim world. The project was of such a grand scale that Salah al-Din died before his project was finished. The fortification of the hilltop was never completed since no external threats were ever severe enough to justify the prohibitive cost of completing the construction. The Mongol threat ended with the defeat of Hulaku army at `Ain Gallut, and the crusaders were defeated at al-Mansura. Hence, people did not find any need to stay contained within the walls of Salah al-Din. By the time of al-Nasir Muhammad 1298-1340, the area outside the walls was highly developed. By the end of the al-Nasir Muhammad, the area between Bab Zawiyla, the citadel, and the mosque of Ibn Tulun had become the most heavily populated sector in Cairo . In the late Auybid period, there were huge palaces overlooking Berkat al-Fil, which lies between the citadel and the southern walls. It was not until the reign of al-Nasir Muhammad that this area was widely populated. The area between Bab Zuwaiyla and the Mosque of Ibn Tulun with Saydah Nafisa in the south and stretching west from Al-Muqatam hill to the shores of the Nile was highly developed .The mosque of al-Zahir Baybars was the first building considered to be of pure Mamluk origin. The mosque was constructed outside the northwest of Fatmid City on polo grounds surrounded by greenery and overlooking al-Khalij . The site is a perfect example of what the Mamluks valued in building construction. For this mosque, it was obvious that the outside environment plays a key role in Mamluk architecture. A king like al-Zahir Baybars wished to construct a monumental mosque to commemorate his victory in the Crusades and against the Mongols.

The Expansion during the Burji Mamluks

By the time of Barquq, the first Circassian Mamluk Sultan (1382- 1399 A.D.) a lot of reconstruction needed to be done within the walls of the city in order to repair the damages incurred as a result of the plague. In (1384 A.D.) When Barquq started his madrassa in bayn al-qasrayn, markets were rebuilt, and Khan al-Khalili, the most famous touristic market in Cairo - was established .The Maqrisi showed that the northern cemetery, founded by al-Nasir Muhammad, contained no building at all before his third reign. When al-Nasir Muhammad in 1320 abandoned the area between Bab al-Nasr cemetery and Muqatam, a small number of buildings started to be built in the northern cemetery. Under the Burji Mamluks, northern cemetery became the new area targeted for the any new city expansion, since no ideological oppositions were found preventing the construction of dwelling within cemeteries. The lack of opposition allowed for the construction of striking religious buildings of monumental scale in the northern cemetery. Examples include Khanqa of Faraj Ibn Barquq, Madrasas of Inal, Qurqumas, Barsbay and Qaitbay (see fig. ). During the latter half of the 15th century, two final major transformations took place in Cairo: the port of Bulaq, and a district called al-Azbakiyyah in the northwest section of the city . The parameters of the city had been unchanged for the past 300 years according to the map done by the French expedition in (1798 A.D.) With the Baybars’s conquest of Cyprus in 1428, Bulaq became the major port of Cairo. By the end of the 15th century, Bulaq was even able to take over the role as the major commercial port from misr al-Qadima. Al-Azbakiyyah district was developed when Amir Azbak, one of Qaytbay’s princes, established stables and a residence of his own and excavated Berkat al-Azbakiyyah which was fed from al-Nasir’s western Canal. With Al Khalij always serving as the western boundary of the city and feeding nearby ponds, flooding would occur during the summer. After each flooding, surrounding lands would be transformed into lush green areas with vegetation. These beauty of the land in these areas were exquisite and the upper class fought over the each other for the first pick of the land to buy for the construction of their new palaces overlooking watery bodies such as Berkit al-Fil and Al-Azbakiyyah Pond .

1.3.5. Internal Policies and Centralization.
Cairo was referred to as Misr or Egypt many times in references, which gives the reader the impression that Cairo was considered to be synonymous to Egypt and all the other cities in Egypt were of no significance or incomparable . Meshullam Menahem wrote in 1481 “if it were possible to place all the cities of Rome, Milan, Padua, and Florence (all are Italian cities) with four other cities, they would not contain the wealth and population of half of Misr (Al-Qahira) . When the Arabs ruled Egypt, all the lands were assumed to be owned by the Caliph who distributed some among his military chiefs and farmed out the rest to its’ former proprietors in return for head tax required for non- Muslims . By Auybid’s period, the Iqta`a or feudal system was well established and was continued by Mamluks as an important source of revenue. Although the Mamluks Amires owned large pieces of agriculture lands in various parts of Egypt, they did not reside on them. In comparison with the European of that time, the majordomo residing on the land and managed it controlled the village rarely had the chance to go to the capital. The Mamluks used to visit their lands infrequently either for supervision or the collection of the profits. The Mamluks class was not a community, as Max Weber explains that class is a number of people have in common a specific casual component of their life chances. This component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income and is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labor markets . Cairo was the center of trade for the caravans, joining the east with the west and most of the profitable commercial deals were done in through its commercial centers. The Ambitious Mamluks preferred to live in Cairo seeking an economical power that guarantees a social class within the amires. This social benefit may lead to better position in the royal hierarchy. The conspiracies, murders and imprisoning were phenomenon that subsisted for the entire period of the Mamluk rule. Being in the midst of the political center will allow for greater political awareness of any conspiracies. Cairo as the capital had lots of religious institutions, Markets with the best goods that might not be available in the rural areas, Hammams and a social life that was never competed by any other major city in Egypt. The Mamluk Amir would like to enjoy all the luxuries services that were concentrated in the capital, treating himself to compensate the tough life that any Mamluk would have lived; a childhood slavery, battles and campaigns, high economic position struggle and political participation . As a result of the centralization practice, the distribution of people in Egypt were adversely affected since large percentage of the working class from rural cities and from all over the world strove to live in the Cairo were they could sell more and make more money. It is worth noting that this regime continues as an existing problem in contemporary Egypt.In order to stay in the city of Cairo, the Amires were tried hard to urbanize new areas, and the districts would bare their name. Amir Azbak Tatakh al-Zahiry constructed the western area from the khlaij in (880H. / 1476 A.D.) and the region was named al_Azbakiya. Gamal al_Din Yusuf Al-Ustadar constructed the area Rahbat bab al-`id and supplied it with water from al_khaij al-Nasiri and called it Al-Gamaliya .A brief survey of any famous Mamluk street would show that there was a competition among the Amires not only in the acquisition by Mamluks to gain or maintain power but also in the construction of buildings to show off their wealth and power. Some of the Amires were more popular as builders than their Sultans like al-Qadi Yahiya by the time of sultan Jaqmaq (1438-1453 A.D .)

External Polices and Legitimization

The previous brief history of the Mamluks shows the complexity they had in order to legitimize their rule in Egypt. Building religious institutions and complexes played two roles within the Mamluk legitimization process. First, was achieving internal peace among the Egyptians showing them their holiness and strong Islamic faith by building numerous institutions teaching and serving the people of Egypt religiously. Second is showing preeminence over the whole Islamic world and especially the Ayubids. After hosting the Abbasid Caliphate these two problems were solved and the Mamluk rule was legitimized but the competition of building these institutions continued more aggressively as a sort of expressing their power. Islamic culture has always been basically urban, the expression of power within the Fatmids was by building a new royal city forbidding it to the common, but during the Mamluks it took another form. The Mamluk expression of power was through the location and design of monuments, which they are not connected, with the function of Authority . Shari` Bayn al-Qasrayn was one of the famous street during the Fatmids but after their decline the Mamluks Sultans and amires built the madrasas and khanqas on the same street justifying their expenditure by exhibiting its presence along a major street in Cairo. Squeezing the buildings in very irregular pieces of land, puling down buildings and put their madrasas instead. Sultan Hassan pulled down the palace of Yulbugha alyihyawy to build his madrasa in such peculiar site . Sultan Hassan faced economical problems for building such madrasa but he was worried about his image as the sultan of Egypt and his capability to complete such edifice . The Mamluk did not need to express their physical power by doing military structures since it was already done by the Fatmids and the Ayubids. They did not seem even that they needed it and the citadel was inhabited only during the Burji period.Grabar argument about this kind of expression of power that the characteristic forms of buildings as the facades and minarets or portals and domes became formal expressions of presence and importance of their sponsors than the buildings . I agree that these kind of architectural features aquatinted with the founder became very symbolic to his power but the building itself is an institution which various kind of jobs and people belong too. Shops, carvansarays, hammams all were endowments for the institution which makes the people understand the importance of the building rather than some architectural features for any user passing by. This expression of power and wealth certainly affected the concept of design and helped of finding out solutions to the irregular piece of lands and the orientation and to set a style very distinctive in form and shape and concept.


The search for identity and where we do belong in a changing world takes place as a contemporary problem in both a personal and a general quest. The sense of belonging with a particular place and culture is a fundamental aspect of the social stability and self-confidence. Hence it was worth discussing the Egyptian Mamluk historical identity in order to understand their roots and how much they were connected to the land that witnessed its and their glorious period in the history of Egypt. It might seem to many people that the Mamluks seized the throne of Egypt according to a plan they had in mind for years, but the circumstances doesn’t show that. Mamluks could have jumped to the throne after the death of al-Malik al-Salih since they were in control and their army was the victorious on the last crusade in Egypt. They accepted the son of Al-Malik al_Salih, Turan Shah as the successor of the Ayubid dynasty and his ingratitude to the Mamluks was obvious and his polices towards them was foolish enough to lead to his tragic end. They even accepted a woman to be a Sultan hostile to feminine power. Furthermore appointing a woman to rule in Dar Al Islam was unacceptable and this shows their lack of ambition to the throne. However, Ibn Iyas stated that many Mamluks did not want to jump up the throne due to their fear of being assassinated. What they were really cared about is the wealth they can achieve from the new sultanate. The marriage of Aybak to Shajarat al-Dur was not planned to be a sort of transition for the Mamluk to rule, because they neglect his non-Turkish origin thinking of their ability to control him . The Mamluks were gathered from different places of minor Asia, captured and sold with no real loyalty to a certain region, so they considered Egypt as their new home or their own property. We can conclude from this brief survey of the Mamluks and their different polices during their rule, that they sought an identity –legitimization and the approval of the Islamic world - for their existence as a power to be respected in which to allow them to rule as free men. They tried their best to change the negative idea of the Islamic world about their slavery origin and they appeared as the protectors of Islam by defending the Islamic countries and housing the Abbasid caliphate in their Capital. They were true sonni Muslims, and they were very religious and this is obvious from their respect for their Imams and judges. The culture that evolved during the Mamluk period was a mixture of Egyptian Muslim culture represented in the language, Islamic law, believes, and way of life. Egyptian Coptic Christian culture represented in the native art and skills, a Mamluk culture, which was a continuity of the Ayubid perceptions and principles. The first two cultures were already mixed and shared in the knowing of the land and the environmental constraints. These three cultural poles dominated Egypt for the two centuries of the Mamluks’ rule. The architecture of Egypt during the Mamluks was a direct reflection of these three gathered cultures in a homogenous forms and style. Even though the Mamluks had a feudal system for the distribution of land among the Amires, they did not invest in their lands or in an industry with the intent of guaranteeing future prosperity and revenue. However, the Mamluks economy depended on the commercial route between the east and the west, of which Egypt is strategically located in the middle. However, their connection to Europe was through Italian cities that dominated eastern goods, so when these cities lost their dominance of the market, it had adverse effects on the Egyptian economy. The Mamluks invested in Egypt huge amount of buildings and constructions and developed new districts for the expansion of Cairo, they did not monopolize any of the new areas for them selves but their generosity benefited the common as well.

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