Military Review

Mohammed Ali. The man who created modern Egypt

17 May 1805, the post of the wali (ruler) of Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire, was taken by Muhammad Ali - a man of amazing destiny and no less amazing personal qualities. To some extent, it was Muhammad Ali who could be considered the founder of Egypt’s path to political independence, since during his rule the influence of the Ottoman Empire on the affairs of its North African ownership was gradually minimized.

Mohammed Ali the Egyptian belongs to that rare breed of people who live not one life, but several. Up to thirty years, the life of this man was in no way connected not only with Egypt, but also with political and military affairs in general. Mohammed Ali was Albanian by nationality. He was born 4 March 1769, in the small town of Kavala in Macedonia (now the territory of Greece), in the family of the small landowner Ibrahim Ali. Parents died early and the boy was taken up in a foreign family, and having matured, he opened a small tobacco shop. It seemed that he was destined to the fate of an unknown tobacco merchant in the Macedonian town. Naturally, the young Mohammed Ali did not even think that he could become one of the most powerful rulers of the Muslim East. Everything changed the case. Mohammed Ali was sent as commander of a small Albanian military detachment to Egypt. This happened in 1798 year - then the French troops invaded Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Ottoman government, in need of additional troops, more and more troops in the Nile Valley. The Albanians, who had the glory of quite good warriors, served in large numbers in the Ottoman army. But Muhammad Ali, a man of will and purposeful, managed to make a dizzying career in a few years. In just seven years, it took yesterday’s tobacco merchant from Kavala to become the commander of a small Albanian unit, Wali, the vice-king of Egypt, directly subordinate to the Ottoman sultan.

The assertion of Muhammad Ali in power was accompanied by a deep political crisis in Egypt, caused by the constant confrontation between the various groups of Mamluks and Turkish officials. Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign demonstrated all the inefficiency of the former Ottoman military machine of Egypt, which inherited the traditions of the Mamluk army. The armed forces stationed in Egypt were separate Mamluk detachments, staffed by ethnicity and headed by commanders who competed among themselves for power and influence. The ethnic composition of the Egyptian Mamluk army was very colorful - it was the Albanians, Circassians, Megrels, Kurds, Bosnian Muslims. Many of them could communicate only in their native languages, which seriously complicated the command.

In 1804 in Egypt, the contradictions between the Mamluk group of commanders aggravated. Desperate to restore order, the Turkish governor-general summoned hired troops from Syria, staffed with Kurds, Alawites and Druze, to help. The Syrians treated the local population badly, as they were alien and confessional - the majority of Syrian mercenaries professed various directions of Shiism, while the population of Egypt was Sunni. After the Syrians killed one of the Albanian officers, clashes between Syrian and Albanian mercenaries began. In this situation, Muhammad Ali, who enjoyed great prestige among the Albanian soldiers, managed to negotiate with the Egyptian clergy, who actually played a decisive role in his assertion as the viceroy of Egypt. The Cairo ulama declared Muhammad Ali the ruler of Egypt. The acting governor tried to resist, but the desperate Albanian ordered to send artillery pieces to his residence at his residence. The governor retreated, and the Ottoman government had no choice but to confirm the appointment of Muhammad Ali to walt Egypt.

In this post, Muhammad Ali immediately established himself as a supporter of enhanced modernization of Egyptian society. And the way of life itself was very different from the corrupt and greedy Ottoman officials. It is said that in everyday life Muhammad Ali was very simple, if not ascetic. He treated the traditional Ottoman etiquette with ill-concealed disdain, tried to keep simply and with dignity. Despite the fact that Muhammad Ali had no education, he was well aware of the value of knowledge in the modern world and sought to follow the example of European countries.

- The extermination of the Mamluks. Antique engraving

First of all, Muhammad Ali embarked on military reform. Realizing that the Mamluk detachments - mercenaries are an extremely unreliable and ineffective army, whose weakness was revealed by the French invasion of Egypt, Muhammad Ali set about forming a regular army recruited by the Egyptian peasants - fells. In Egypt, military service was introduced, and foreign military advisers were invited to train officers. Creating a regular army staffed by the Egyptians, Muhammad Ali also solved another important task - he created the armed forces directly subordinate to him and practically independent of the central Ottoman government in Istanbul. The introduction of military service was carried out on the advice of Suleiman Pasha - the chief military adviser to the Egyptian ruler, who was French by nationality and before the adoption of Islam was called Joseph Sev. At the same time, Muhammad Ali at first strongly impeded the admission of Egyptians to officer positions, as he considered them to be lower than the Turks or Albanians. The recruitment of Egyptians for officer positions began only thanks to the adopted son of Muhammad Ali Ibrahim Pasha. Unlike Muhammad Ali, Ibrahim Pasha treated the Egyptians better than the Turks and believed that it was the Egyptian Arabs who were the most loyal and reliable military personnel. Convincing his father to open access for Egyptians to command positions in the army, Ibrahim Pasha became the actual founder of the Egyptian officer corps, which plays a crucial role in the political life of the country up to the present time (almost all Egyptian presidents in the 20th and early 21st centuries come from the military environment) . Nevertheless, for a long time, almost all the highest posts in the army were reserved by representatives of the Egyptian-Ottoman military elite, who spoke Turkish (Ottoman) language and adhered to the Ottoman way of life (this is understandable if only by analyzing the appearance of Egyptian officials and officers who wore famous "fez").

One of the most ambitious projects of Muhammad Ali was the creation of the Egyptian naval fleet. For a long time, Egypt did not have a real military fleet, which Muhammad Ali decided to correct, knowing full well that the fleet located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea is simply necessary. Like the army, the fleet was manned by the Egyptians, and officers were trained under the guidance of European military instructors.

Following the military reform, Muhammad Ali set about reorganizing the education system. During his reign in Egypt, a printing house appeared, newspapers began to be printed, schools organized according to the European model opened. These innovations caused a negative reaction from the traditionalist part of the Egyptian elite, above all - representatives of the clergy. But also the clergy Mohammed Ali, to the secular model of the state, dealt a serious blow. Many Ulama lost their posts, and Muhammad Ali confiscated their wealth and handed them over to the state treasury. By the way, Muhammad Ali acted against his opponents harshly, not disdaining by any means. So, back in 1811, on the orders of Muhammad Ali, six hundred Mamluks were killed, which put an end to the centuries-old participation of the Mamluks in the government of Egypt. Muhammad Ali ruthlessly dealt with his officials if he learned that they were building any intrigues or were engaged in embezzlement. As an outsider, not connected with the Egyptian elite, Muhammad Ali was not integrated into the intricate interweaving of clan ties and they did not represent value to him.

Mohammed Ali. The man who created modern Egypt

The foreign policy of Muhammad Ali was associated with the constant wars and numerous territorial acquisitions of Egypt. The first real success of Muhammad Ali as ruler and commander was the defeat of the British expeditionary force in 1807 year. As a result of the Anglo-Turkish War, British troops were forced to leave the territory of Egypt. In 1811-1818 Egypt as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire participated in the Turkish-Saudi war against the Saudis dynasty. Fast enough, the Egyptian troops managed to seize the coastal areas of the Hejaz, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In this war, the Bedouin tribes of Arabia, hostile to the Saudi dynasty, helped the Egyptians. In 1815, an agreement was signed on the transfer of Hijaz under Egyptian control, but then Muhammad Ali continued fighting against the Saudi state. 15 September 1818, after an eight-month siege, the capital of the Saudi state, Ad-Diriye, fell. The first Saudi state ceased to exist, and its emir Abdullah, who surrendered to the Egyptians, was taken to Istanbul. There he was beheaded, and a severed head was thrown into the Bosphorus.

In 1823, Egyptian troops captured Northern Sudan, after which it was turned into an Egyptian province. Subjugating Sudan, Muhammad Ali began to consider Egypt’s geopolitical interests and the origins of the Nile, Ethiopia and Equatorial Africa as a sphere. In the northeast, the ruler of Egypt was interested in Palestine and Syria, the inclusion of which in the Egyptian state Muhammad Ali was constantly thinking about. By 1830, Muhammad Ali, realizing his power and ability to resist the central Ottoman government, refused to pay tribute to the Turkish sultan.
In 1831, the first Turkish-Egyptian war began. The Egyptian army under the command of Ibrahim Pasha - the adopted son of Muhammad Ali invaded Syria. When the fortress of Saint-Jean d'Acr fell under the blows of the Egyptian army, all of Syria was under the control of Muhammad Ali. At the same time, the Egyptian Wali managed to reach an agreement with the militant tribes of Lebanon, who were dissatisfied with Turkish domination and hoped, with the help of Muhammad Ali, to gain relief from the yoke of the Turkish administration. In the battles of Goma and the Beidan Pass, between Syria and Asia Minor, the troops of Ibrahim Pasha defeated the army of Hussein Pasha sent by the Turkish sultan to liberate Syria.

After the defeat of the army of Hussein Pasha, the sultan sent more numerous Reshid Pasha troops against the Egyptians, but they too were defeated in the Battle of Konya, and the Pasha himself was captured. The Egyptian troops, victoriously marching along Asia Minor itself, were ready to seize the European possessions of the Ottoman Empire. The Russian Empire intervened, which in fact saved its centuries-old enemy - the Ottoman Empire - from being destroyed by the army of Muhammad Ali.

In 1833, a peace treaty was concluded between Muhammad Ali and the Turkish Sultan. In accordance with the requirements of the treaty, Syria was transformed into the vassal possession of the wali of Egypt, and Adana was transferred to Egypt under temporary administration. But the Sultan was in no hurry to fulfill the requirements of Muhammad Ali, so the second Turkish-Egyptian war began in 1839. Despite the fact that the headquarters of the Sultan's army were experienced European military advisers, including the famous Prussian commander Moltke, Istanbul was again defeated. Ottoman Admiral Ahmet Fenzi was forced to hand over the Turkish Navy to Egypt, which further strengthened the position of Muhammad Ali. After that, the Egyptian ruler demanded that the new Sultan Abdul-Majid pass on to him as hereditary possession not only Egypt, but also Syria, Adana and the island of Crete.

The confrontation between the Ottoman Sultan and the Egyptian Wali turned into a world-class problem, for the solution of which a conference of representatives of the five leading powers was held in London. She offered to transfer Muhammad Ali to Southern Syria and to provide hereditary power for his descendants in Egypt, but only if Muhammad Ali was recognized to be subordinate to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and to resume payment of the tribute. Naturally, such conditions of the Egyptian Wali did not suit and he refused to recognize the conference's verdict. After that the ships of the navies of Great Britain and Austria-Hungary approached the Egyptian coast. Mohammed Ali, fearing the military invasion of the European armies, was forced to recognize the decision of the conference and in 1840 resumed paying the tribute to the Ottoman Empire.

The world powers that saw in the activities of Muhammad Ali a danger to their own interests in the Middle East and Africa were interested in weakening the rapidly developing Egypt. The Ottoman Empire, loose and shaken by internal conflicts, was easier for the British, French, Austro-Hungarian governments to deal with than the unpredictable Muhammad Ali, who was concerned about modernizing Egypt and turning it into a strong power. Nevertheless, failures in foreign policy did not affect the course of reforms in the internal life of Egypt itself. It was under the leadership of Muhammad Ali that the foundations were laid for the further modernization of all aspects of life in Egyptian society. The last years of his long life, Muhammad Ali was seriously ill. He died in Alexandria 3 on April 1849, at the age of 80.
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  1. ovod84
    ovod84 17 May 2016 07: 28
    There was a great man who carried out reforms and fate in the end betrayed him, his son went into debt and the country occupied Britain.
  2. Nicola Bari
    Nicola Bari 17 May 2016 07: 54
    Thank you so much for the article!
    1. alexej123
      alexej123 17 May 2016 10: 10
      I wonder who threw the minus? Colleague, I agree. I am fond of history. But I was not familiar with this "page". Thank you for the article.
      1. Spnsr
        Spnsr 17 May 2016 13: 53
        Quote: alexej123
        I was not familiar with this "page". Thank you for the article.

        too, grateful to the author for the article!
        we can emphasize that the end of the 18th century, the beginning of the formation of the map of the Middle East that we are observing now, from the fragments of the Ottoman Empire, which as such appeared from a larger state several centuries earlier!
        the same fragmentation can be seen on the European part of the continent, but a century earlier, and at the time of the events described, the European part of the continent has already managed several times to gather into one state and disintegrate again!
        it could also be the same with the territory occupied by Russia, despite the fact that all the prerequisites for this were created and, above all, the arrival of Islam on this territory! but first Ivan the Terrible opposed this, and then the Romanovs, after the change of dynasty, gathered these lands again, lands that do not leave our western “partners” alone
        and a similar view of the story emerges from the texts, including from this article and articles that were before ...
    2. The comment was deleted.
  3. tenere1200
    tenere1200 17 May 2016 08: 30
    Russia requires Mohammed Ali to be president. Honest and incorruptible. Able to bend stealing officials and the clergy. Ascetic in nature.
    1. razmik72
      razmik72 17 May 2016 12: 51
      Quote: tenere1200
      Russia requires Mohammed Ali to be president. Honest and incorruptible. Able to bend stealing officials and the clergy. Ascetic in nature.

      Such a ruler would suit us smile .
    2. qwert
      qwert 17 May 2016 13: 22
      Quote: tenere1200
      Russia requires Mohammed Ali to be president. Honest and incorruptible. Able to bend stealing officials and the clergy. Ascetic in nature.
      And someone minus. Probably, the stealing officials also read Topvar laughing
    3. kvd015
      kvd015 20 May 2016 23: 18
      But what about the present great and powerful ?????
  4. Alexy
    Alexy 18 May 2016 05: 19
    Interesting. I didn’t even know about such a person. And I thought in honor of whom Cassius Clay was renamed. Live and learn.
  5. tiaman.76
    tiaman.76 19 May 2016 20: 49