After the assassination
of Toran Shah, the last
sultan of the Ayyubids, by the Mamluks -with the encouragement of
his stepmother Shagaret El-Dorr-,
the rule of Egypt turned to the Bahari Mamluks (a.k.a. Mamelukes)
who were slaves of Turkic origin. They were brought to Egypt as
young boys. They resided in the barracks in a Nile island. Those
were called 'Bahari Mamluks' because of their residence by the Nile
River (Bahar El-Nile).
Other Mamluks of Circassian origin resided in quarters in the citadel
towers (Burg), thus called 'Burgi Mamluks.'
The latter will also rule Egypt.
Shagaret El-Dorr ruled for 80 days, to be the
only woman who ruled Egypt in Islamic eras. She was granted the title
of sultana. Under pressures from the Abbasid
in Baghdad, that couldn't imagine Egypt to be ruled by a woman, Shagaret
El-Dorr took Aybak, a Mamluk general, as her husband and conceded
the power to him.
Enamled mosque lamp
from the reign of Mamluk
Sultan Qalawun in 14AD
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©
Aybak ruled for 7 years but when his relation with his wife deteriorated,
she had him killed but his loyal Mamluks killed her for that. Aybak's
son, Ali, succeeded him as the next Sultan in 1257.
Meanwhile, Mongol hordes where advancing from central Asia, sweeping
and brutally crushing all cities they encounter.
In 1258, Mongol hordes led by Hulegu (a.k.a Hulagu) destroyed Baghdad,
killed the Caliph
and ended the Abbasid caliphate.
The following year they entered Syria, while in Egypt Qutuz, a Mamluk
general, disposed Sultan Ali and reinstated himself in throne.
In 1260, Qutuz commanded a big Mamluk army towards the Mongols and
seized Gaza on his way. Qutuz defeated the Mongols in the
great battle of Ain Galout. Mamluks were regarded as the saviors of
Islam for they were the only force that stopped the advance of the
Mongols invade Arab
empires one after another
Qutuz was assassinated in the same year by his commander, Baybars,
who declared himself the Sultan and annexed Syria to the Mamluk
Baybars was an active warrior. He embarked upon series of military
campaigns in Palestine, annexing several cities.
He defeated the crusaders at Acre in Palestine but finally clinched
a peace treaty with them in 1272.
Baybars also directed some of his campaigns towards the strongholds
of Mongols in Asia Minor. These were all successful.
After his death in 1279, Baybars was succeeded
by his son. However, power struggles on the throne erupted until Qalawun
finally seized the throne and declared himself a sultan.
Qalawun carried on successful campaigns against Mongols in the east
until he completely drove them away off the region.
Wood blanks incorporated in a mosque
of Sultan Qalawun propably made in
the Fatimid era
Photo by Raymon
Qalawun was succeeded by his son, Al-Ashraf Khalil, in 1291. Khalil
attacked Acre, besieged it and after a fierce battle with the crusaders,
he eventually succeeded to expel the last of them from the region.
Khalil was killed in 1293 and was succeeded by
his 9-year-old brother, Al-Nasser Mohamed, the next year. Al-Nasser
ruled for 30 years but eliminated the emirs
of his fathers from court after he suffered their influences in his
He then adopted a peaceful stance that later came at the expense
of the military power of the Mamluks, something they excelled in
for a long time.
Egypt saw prosperity during his reign and many trade tied were forged
Egypt and Europe. He was also a devoted builder who built mosques
and palaces. To fulfill these accomplishments, he used to levy taxes
on everything, which caused money to flow to the treasury.
Page extracted from
an Arabic manuscript of equisterian
Mamluk period from 14th cetury AD
by Raymon Kondos ©
the death of Al-Nasser in 1340, a series of weak and incompetent
In 1347, Sultan Hassan came to power and one
year later the Black Death
struck the country.
The plague was responsible for the d ecimation of the Egyptian population
and the Mamluks with no distinction.
By inheriting properties of the plagued victims, Sultan Hassan gathered
enough money to build an impressive mosque
in Cairo that highly reflects the art features of the Mamluk architecture.
Al-Hassan was killed in 1361 and power struggle
erupted as usual following his death. This was until a Burgi Mamluk
(Circassian) called Barquq came to the throne, after deposed the
last Bahari Mamluk, Hajji, in 1382. Thenceforth, the throne was
shifted to Barquq's faction, the Burgi Mamluks.