After the death of the last Fatimid
Saladin Al-Ayyubi strengthened his grip over
Egypt. He was very ambitious. He undertook moves to restore to Egypt
faith, after the Shi'ite
rule of Fatimids, by founding religious
schools to promote the Islamic teaching based
on the Sunni faith.
image 2004 ©
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.
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.
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.
Bas relief of a lion
dated to the Ayyubid era
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©
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.
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
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 Shah
on campaigns in Iraq.
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.
Saint-Louis IX, king of France,
released from capture
The crusader army was defeated and Louis IX was captured but was
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.