In 1382, Barquq
displaced the last Bahari Mamluk
and installed himself in the throne to be the first of Burgi Mamluks
to rule Egypt.
Sultan Barquq began to distribute the important posts in the court
to the Circassian Mamluks. Those were residing in the citadel
Mamluks were good cavaliers
image 2004 ©
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,
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
On the other hand in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans to
mark the end of the Byzantine
Empire in the region.
In Egypt, Qaitbay (ruled 1468 - 1496) had passion
for building. He built roads, bridges and wonderful mosques. During
his reign Egypt saw relative prosperity.
Ivory Calligraphic panel bearing inscrpition
of the name of Sultan Qaitbay
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©
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.
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.
In Egypt, Tuman Bey
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.
Selim the Grim
Thenceforth, Egypt practically became an Ottoman province.
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.