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Ayyubid Dynasty
(1171 - 1250 AD)

After the death of the last Fatimid caliphWhat does it mean?, Saladin Al-Ayyubi strengthened his grip over Egypt. He was very ambitious. He undertook moves to restore to Egypt the SunniWhat does it mean? faith, after the Shi'iteWhat does it mean? rule of Fatimids, by founding religious
image 2004 ©

schools to promote the Islamic teaching based on the Sunni faith.
Theoretically, Egypt as part of reign of the Damascus ruler, Nour El-Din, since Saladin was his general.
However, when Nour El-Din died in 1174, he left his young son in the throne. This caused a struggle of power, which was an appropriate moment for Saladin to interfere.

Saladin left his brother in charge in Egypt and marched to Syria, restored order and annexed it to his emerging empire. He was dreaming of forming a strong united front to face the crusaders.

The Saladin initiated building of the citadel on a strategic hill in a place that overlooks Cairo. He also expanded the walls of Cairo to link between the citadel and the old city of Al-Fustat.
He then embarked upon launching campaigns against the crusaders, winning a number of battles and losing others. He also clinched some truces with his foes.

Coptic Art
Bas relief of a lion
dated to the Ayyubid era
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©
In 1186, the crusaders breached a truce with the Ayyubids which provoked Saladin. The great battle of Hittin took place between the two sides in Palestine in 1187. This battle was just a prelude to further gains for the Ayyubids. Saladin began to seize a city after another until he finally liberated Jerusalem.

Friendly negotiations took place between Saladin's brother, Al-Adel, and Richard the Lion-Hearted of the crusaders in 1192. The talks were concluded by a peace treaty that recognized Saladin's gains but left the crusaders a narrow strip on the coast in Palestine.
In 1193, Saladin died of fever at 55-years old.

Coptic Art
Marble foundational slap
mentioning the construction of
a building by orders of Saladdin
in 1187 AD
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©

After Saladin's death, tension grew between his sons over the succession. In 1200, Al-Adel, Saladin's brother displaced the competing brothers and reunited Egypt and Syria under his rule.

Al-Adel had to face a severe famine that hit Egypt and new attacks by the crusaders. In his reign, his son, Al-Kamel, defeated the crusaders in 1221.

In 1218 Al-Adel died and was succeeded by his son, Al-Kamel. Al-Kamel had cordial negotiations with Crusader King Fredrick II. The two sides reached an agreement that ceded Jerusalem to the crusaders in 1229. The treaty was very much unpopular among radicals and thus was dropped soon after.

In 1238, Al-Kamel died and was succeeded by his son, Al-Adel II. Al-Saleh Negm El-Din, the other son of Al-Kamel, ruled after his brother in 1240.
To reinforce his army, Al-Saleh began to build a new army of Turkic slaves. Those were called the "Mamluks" or (the owned). Those later played a very important role in the Egyptian history.

Al-Saleh married Shagaret Al-Dorr (the tree of pearls), a sharp-witted Mamluk lady. On the other hand, Al-Saleh sent his son Toran ShahWhat does it mean? on campaigns in Iraq.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Saint-Louis IX, king of France,
released from capture
image 2004 ©

In 1249, Saint-Louis IX, king of France, landed his troops in Damietta in the Egyptian delta in a new crusade. Nevertheless, Al-Saleh was gearing up for the battle died abruptly. Shagaret Al-Dorr found herself in an ordeal; her husband died and his son is outside Egypt. So she concealed the news of Al-Saleh's death to give Toran shah some time in order to return back and claim the throne.
The crusader army was defeated and Louis IX was captured but was later ransomed.

Toran shah wanted to substitute the Mamluks in his court with his own men and because of that they killed him in 1250. He was succeeded by his stepmother, Shagaret El-Dorr.
This marked the end of the Ayyubid dynasty and a start of a new Mamluk dynasty ushered in by a woman.

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