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(1517 - 1798 AD)

Egypt felt to the Ottomans in 1517 after an unsuccessful defense effort led by the Mamluk sultan, Tuman Bey II who was later hanged by Ottoman sultan, Selim the Grim.

The defection of some Mamluks and the collaboration of others decreased the hostility felt by Ottomans towards them upon invading Egypt.
Moreover, they set about employing Mamluks in the administration. They even gave them control of several provinces in Egypt, based on the belief that they are more experienced to manage them.
This policy was miscalculated by the Ottomans as it proved to be inefficient and drove the country to three centuries of instability.
Ottomans chose a Mamluk traitor, Khair BeyWhat does it mean?, as the first governor of Egypt in 1522, but after his death the governor or the pashaWhat does it mean? (Turkish title) was sent from the Ottoman Porte, or the government in Turkey.

A window from the Ottoman era
Photo by Raymon Kondos ©
The country was stricken in the seventh century by plagues and famine, which was compounded by factional feuds among the Mamluks.
The Ottoman governor's post was often limited to 3 years, something that tempted them to plunder as much as they can before leaving the governorship. This privilege justified the selling of the governorship post for the highest bidder in some periods.
Mamluks were collecting huge taxes, giving their dues to the Ottomans and take the rest to their own interests, which was actually the bigger portion of the levied amount.

The real victim amid all this was the ordinary Egyptians who were completely exploited and trapped between the Ottoman pasha and the Mamluk beys (bey is an Ottoman rank which means lord)
The instability among the Mamluks resulted in the formation of different factions. The same thing happened to the Ottoman garrison. Continued alliances and conflicts led to the Great Insurrection in 1711, in which various factions fought for supremacy.

After the incident, things began to get out of Ottomans' control when several Mamluk beys assumed the position of Sheikh El-Balad (the master of the country) which granted them power vis-à-vis the Ottoman governor.
In 1757, Ali Bey the Elder became Sheikh El-Balad. Ali Bey expelled the Ottoman governor to replace him as the de facto ruler of Egypt in 1768. Dreaming of reestablishing a Mamluk empire, Ali Bey began expanding his territories in the Arabian Peninsula (in present-day Saudi Arabia), and suppressing uprisings in upper Egypt.
Ali Bey's commander, who was on a campaign in Syria, betrayed him after being tempted from the Ottoman Sublime Porte.

Murad Bey
Portrait of Murad Bey
image 2004 ©
In 1772, Ali Bey was displaced by Abul Dahab and died the next year while attempting to regain his position.
3 years later Abul Dahab died and a Mamluk duumvirWhat does it mean? of Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey held authority. They were displaced before getting back their power in 1790.

Once again a plague hit the country and the population revolted against the rulers demanding the easiness of the unbearable taxes.
Ottomans attempted to restore control from Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey but at no avail. Nevertheless, they both failed to defend Egypt against the French invasion led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798. A fierce battle took place between the two sides near Imbaba in Cairo. The Mamluks were defeated, while those who survived from the battle defected the country including both Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey who carried their treasures and hastily left Egypt.

French Expedition
(1798 - 1801 AD)

The eighth century saw an Anglo-French race over trade. The race developed to be a strife over strongholds in the world. The French, who realized the strategic importance of Egypt, decided to invade it.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte
image 2004 ©

In July 1798, a French fleet headed by Napoleon Bonaparte landed in AbuWhat does it mean? Kir Bay in Alexandria. The French troops then marched inland and met the Mamluks in a battle near Cairo. Both the Mamluks and the population showed some resistance but couldn't really do any progress facing sophisticated French weapons that they never saw.

Eventually Cairo fell to the French troops in July. Meanwhile, the British fleet was chasing the French fleet to Abu Kir. In August of the same year, British Admiral Nelson sank the French fleet.
In Cairo, Napoleon set about running the country, sending for sheikhsWhat does it mean? of the city and informing them of his arrangements.
He also began taking over the strategic buildings like the citadel and start to impose taxes.

Napoleon's interference in the internal affairs of Egyptians stimulated them to revolt. Their rebellion was brutally suppressed by Napoleon's forces. French troops set up cannons in the citadel and began firing at Cairo. Furthermore, French cavalries entered Al-Azhar mosque and killed a number of people inside. The move was grave since the mosque is one of the most sacred places for Moslems and foreigners were not welcomed inside.

On the other hand, Napoleon encouraged scientific researches. He opened centers like Institut d'Egypte and the French Academy to make an exhaustive record on Egypt. Scholars who accompanied the expedition started the massive work that covered different themes of Egypt and was later published as volumes of Description de l'Egypte.
Napoleon wanted to expand his conquest, so he marched to Gaza in 1799 and the east but stopped at Acre.

The Ottoman army, helped by the British, defeated the French forces that was also stricken and decimated by a plague.
The Ottomans also attempted to attack Egypt at Abu Kir but were turned back by the French troops.

General Kléber
General Kléber
image 2004 ©

Napoleon finally left back to France and turned over the command in Egypt to General Kléber. General Kléber realized he could not withstand Ottomans and the British troops.
In 1800, he began negotiating with the British and he finally signed on an agreement to evacuate the country.
Kléber had no choice but to agree on such a deal. He was trapped as supplies received from France were cut and he had no idea how to leave the country. The resentment of the population worsened his position.
The same year, Kléber was assassinated by Seliman Al-Halabi (the Aleppan), a Syrian who was later executed. He was succeeded by General Jacque Menou.

In March 1801, an Anglo-Ottoman combined forces landed in Egypt to force the evacuation of the French troops, which finally capitulated and accepted the terms of their enemies.
By October, all French troops evacuated and only the Ottoman troops were left with nominal control over Egypt.

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