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Burgi Mamluks
(1382 - 1517 AD)

In 1382, Barquq displaced the last Bahari Mamluk and installed himself in the throne to be the first of Burgi Mamluks to rule Egypt.

Mamluks were good cavaliers
Mamluks were good cavaliers
image 2004 ©

Sultan Barquq began to distribute the important posts in the court to the Circassian Mamluks. Those were residing in the citadel towers (Burgi).
They had different attributes than the Bahari Mamluks. They didn't adopt any form for hereditary succession. The only qualification in the contest to rule was to be stronger than other rivals.
During their reign, Egypt felt in turmoil, and power struggles became regular after a death or a murder of a sultan.
The incompetence of sultans caused hardships to the country. Of course power abuse and harsh taxation policies worsened situations.

On the other hand, Ottomans in Europe were expanding their rule by annexing many territories. On the other hand, a new dangerous force emerged in the east; Tamerlane (a.k.a. Timur Lenk or Timur), a Tartar conqueror, was leading an invasion to the region.

Tamerlane entered the Mamluk territories in the east in 1400 seizing Malatya, Baghdad and Aleppo. He finally seized Damascus and carried out a large-scale devastation and slaughtered many.
The Mamluks watched the fall of Syria, which was part of their empire, helplessly.
The worse, Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in 1402. This brought fear to the heart of Mamluks.
Nevertheless, Tamerlane's death in 1405 ended the threat of Tartars for both Mamluks and Ottomans.

Burgi Mamluks continued to carry on shortsighted economic policies, imposed severe taxes and monopolized several commodities to their own benefit.
On the other hand in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans to mark the end of the Byzantine Empire in the region.

Ivory Panel
Ivory Calligraphic panel bearing inscrpition
of the name of Sultan Qaitbay
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©
In Egypt, Qaitbay (ruled 1468 - 1496) had passion for building. He built roads, bridges and wonderful mosques. During his reign Egypt saw relative prosperity.

In 1488, a Portuguese navigator discovered the route of Cape of Good Hope. This offered an alternative route for the one that used to path through the Egyptian lands. Consequently, Egypt, which used to levy tolls on European trade convoys passing through its lands, suffered an economic lapse. Qaitbay had to impose a capital tax to flow some money to the treasury. Tragically, another plague swept over Egypt in 1492 that also claimed lives many Mamluks. After the death of Qaitbay in 1496, a new wave of power struggle erupted.

In 1501, Qunsowah Al-Ghouri assumed the throne at the age of 60. In his reign, the power of the Mamluks began declining, while that of the Ottomans was strengthening. Ottomans advanced and seized the Euphrates area and Syria. Al-Ghouri stopped short at reacting with the events, as he believed it's better not to provoke Ottomans.

In 1512, Selim the Grim became the Ottoman sultan. He led the Ottomans to a victory over the Persians at Chaldiran in 1514.

This time, Al-Ghouri commanded a Mamluk army to Syria to fight Ottomans. In 1516, the two armies met and the Mamluks were badly defeated at the battle of Marj Dabek to the north of Aleppo. Al-Ghouri died in the battle.

Selim the Grim
Selim the Grim
In Egypt, Tuman BeyWhat does it mean? II was chosen as a sultan. He soon led the defense of Egypt before the Ottomans but he failed. In 1517, Egypt finally felt to the Ottomans. Selim the Grim captured Tuman Bey and had him hanged from one of the gates of Cairo.
Thenceforth, Egypt practically became an Ottoman province.

The reason of the Ottomans' superiority over the Mamluks was because of their use for advanced weapons in comparison to the Mamluks who regarded the gunpowder as unmanly. Mamluks were good chivalries, which make them no good in facing cannons.
Having suffered from taxation and hardships, the Egyptians simply welcomed the Ottomans.

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