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The Mamluk Sultanate (Arabic: سلطنة المماليك Sulṭanat al-Mamālīk), alternatively called the Cairo Sultanate, was a powerful Muslim nation, based in Egypt, which also used to control Nubia, Mecca, Medina and Syria in its own right. The Sultanate also controlled vassals in Yemen, Oman, Cicilia, Somalia, and the Swahili, while being in a Personal Union with the powerful Jalayirid Sultanate of Mesopotamia. The majority of the population and power, however, tended to be based around Egypt and Syria, the traditional homes of the ruling class, and the ethnic basis for most of the nation. In 1444, the Mamluk Sultanate and the Sultanate of Mesopotamia merged to form the Grand Sultanate of the Mashriq.
The Mamluk Sultanate has its origins in the ancient Egyptian cultures, the Hellenic world, and the Muslim empires, creating a diverse and unique population of cultured people. The location of Egypt, along the powerful Nile River, created the first civilizations in the region in 3772 BH (3150 BC), when Menes created the first of the Ancient Egyptian kingdoms.
The Old Kingdom, with the Great Pyramids, turned into the Middle Kingdom, with characteristic disunity, which finally ended with the New Kingdom, which had the most prosperity. The rest of the world took note, however. First the Achaemenid Persian Empire conquered Egypt, and by 927 BH (305 BC) the Ptolemaic Kingdom, a remnant of Alexander the Great's empire, ruled over the Hellenic Egyptians. Rule by Rome and Byzantium followed, lasting until 20 AH (641), and finally the Sassanid Empire ruled over Egypt for less than a decade.
Egypt was quick to become Muslim, and by 20 AH the various Caliphates had solidified their control over the region. With the fall of the Ayyubids in 628 AH (1250 AD), the Mamluks came into power in Egypt, and slowly expanded to the current size.
Government and Administration
The government of the Mamluk Sultanate was unique because all of the nobles were slaves. The social structure of Egypt used to be such that the Mamluks (special slaves) were considered to be the rulers over the freeborn Muslims. The social structure, which was highly codified, dictated many aspects of Mamlukean life.
- Mamluks - Considered to be the "True Lords," the Mamluks include knights and emirs.
- Imams and Muezzins - Considered to be the spiritual elite, the clergy is highly respected.
- Hajjis - Those who travel to Mecca, these people tend to have great wealth and influence.
- Muslim - Those who follow Allah, they are themselves subdivided based upon power.
- Dhimmī - These people, who are not Muslims, must pay a Jizya to practice their faith.
- Ghilmān - A dark slave, often from Nubia or elsewhere in Africa, they were very limited in freedom.
While the entirety of the Sultanate recognizes the Sultan as the Sovereign ruler, certain Emirs practice more autonomy, typically due to a period of integration, than others. This was the primary distinction between the Mamluk Sultanate proper and the vassal states of the Cairo-based state.
The Sultan was advised by a group of Mamluks, who were nothing more than slaves that were well educated and highly respected due to a stringent military culture that the Mamluks were placed into at a very young age.
Emirs, who were princely Mamluks, would have their own agendas but rarely challenge the Sultan head-on, because of strict religious beliefs that the Sultan received word from Allah.
In recent years, a radical new idea, Republicanism, has taken root in intellectual and trade-based communities, as well as regions that are opposed to strong central government, such as the Egyptian frontier. These republican amirates are led by Amirs, who are elected at varying intervals, dependent upon the region.
Currently, al-Bahr, Ifriqiya, Al-Sharqiyyah, Nobatia, Medina, and Socotra are led by amirs, while the other states are led by emirs.
The map to the right shows the main Emirates and Amirates of the Mamluk Sultanate. Each Emirate is either inherited or goes to election to most eligible Mamluk, in the case of no legal heir. Each Amirate is led by an Amir, who is elected in terms ranging from five years to an entire lifetime, depending on the regional customs.
Furthermore, each Emir or Amir has approximately ten Walis, who manage even smaller portions of land.
- Ifriqiya - Barka
- Al-Sharqiyyah - Farafra
- Nobatia - Aswan
- Egypt - Cairo
- al-Bahr - Alexandria
- Negev - Gaza
- al-Madīnah - Medina
- Palestine - Jerusalem
- al-Rūm - Tyre
- Sham - Damascus
- Syria - Aleppo
- Nubia- Dongola
- Ifat - Zeila
- Socotra - Tamrida
- al-Sumal - Mogadishu
- al-Swahili - Mombasa
- Yemen - Sana'a
- Oman - Muscat
- Cicilia - Adana
Bold indicates a semi-autonomous Emir.
As a result of large population, decent innovations, and connections to the Far East and Western Worlds, the Mamluk Sultanate and the greater Burji Dynasty controls a great majority of the most powerful trading cities in the Arab world.
These include: Alexandria, Aleppo, Baghdad, Mombasa, and Mogadishu. The important Red Sea Opening is also controlled by the Burji Dynasty. (See: Rules for Explanation of Economic Bonuses).
The Mamluk Sultanate makes most of its wealth from trade. This does not, however, mean that the production side of the economy has been neglected. Cotton is the main item produced in Egypt, and is grown along the River Nile.
Agricultural production is vital to the Mamluk economy, but little is exported. This is because the growing Mamluk population consumes a vast majority of the produced food. This reduces the need for imports, which the government tries to limit. Rice, wheat, sugarcane, sugar beets, beans, and onions are the main agricultural food items.
Trade plays a vital role in the Mamluk Sultanate, which is an extremely powerful nation economically in both the East and the West. With the Sultanate being strategically located between Europe and the riches of the Orient, the Sultanate connects goods provided by India, the Indies, and China to both Eastern and Western Europe.
The main Western trading partner of the Mamluks is Venice, which operates out of the ports of Alexandria and Tripoli, which controls the Syrian trade from Aleppo and Damascus.
In 1428, trade in the Mamluk Sultanate greatly increased with the creation of two semi-private trading corporations, both of which were granted royal charters by Sultan al-Mansur Mostafa Hazem.
The first of these companies is the Swahili Trade and Exploration Company, sometimes called STEC, based out of Suez, Negev. It focuses on the Swahili region, and most of Africa.
The second company is the Indian Association of Free Arab Traders and Merchants, which is based out of Muscat, Oman. The IAFATM, or just the Free Arab Traders, focuses more in India and the Indies. IAFATM, as well as STEC, both played key roles in continuing the spirit of exploration engendered by Halil bin Sana.
Recently, the Mamluk Sultanate entered the Mediterranean Trade League, which was founded by Venice and the Roman Empire.
Public records and contemporary estimates put the population of the Mamluks Sultanate at 12.5 million at integration with Baghdad in 1444. Current statistics on the former Mamluk Sultanate can be found in the Mashriqi Census.
- Total Population: 12.5 million
- Total Muslims: 6,180,000
- Total Christians: 5,900,000
- Total Copts: 2,200,000
- Total Nubian Christians: 530,000
- Total Jews: 420,000
ReligionThe primary religion in the Mamluk Sultanate was Sunni Islam. Sunni Islam had been practiced in the Sultanate since its creation, and all of the land of the Sultanate has been Muslim since the Muslim Conquests of Egypt and Syria. A small Coptic Christian community lived in Alexandria, yet their numbers are small when compared to the total Muslim population.
In years prior to the formation of the Grand Sultanate, under the Sultan Nasir-ad-Din Faraj Burji, the Sunni religion had been organized under the Caliph of Mecca, who has ecumenical control over the Great Imams of Alexandria, Cairo, Damascus, and Aleppo. The move to centralize Islam is largely based upon the Roman Catholic Church, and was an attempt to unify Sunni doctrine and religious power.
As a response to this centralization, and in the wake of the Republican Revolutions, Saadiq Assaf, a local cleric from Yemen began to "modernize" the Muslim faith, calling for the elimination of violence, jihad, the jizya tax, and many other policies. Saadiq Assaf's reforms were reinforced with the ascension of the Third Caliph.
The main ethnic group of the Mamluk Sultanate was the Arabic ethnicity. The Arab population is still spread out across the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula (including Yemen, Oman), throughout Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt.
Another major ethnic group were the Berbers.
Art and Architecture
The art and architecture of the Mamluk Sultanate was very typical of the Middle East.
While the most important piece of literature was the Qu'ran, other literature was also commonly read by the nobles, especially the Muslim intellectuals that were often found in Cairo, Alexandria, and Damascus, the three largest cities.
MilitaryThe military of the Mamluk Sultanate controls great power over the state. Under the current system of government, in which Mamluks rule, the military warriors, who ride on horseback and follow a strict code of Furusiyya control the civilian government as well, albeit under the Sultan.
Recently, however, the Mamluk orders have begun to be reformed, with the integration of gunpowder, stricter adherence to Furusiyya, and even the entrance of a number of non-Mamluks to the elite military units.
In addition to the elite Mamluk troops, the Mamluk Sultanate also employs regular infantry, regular cavalry, and are starting to use artillery in limited amounts. Since siege warfare is popular in the deserts, the Sultanate also has specially trained siege units.
List of Engagements
- Yemeni Invasion of the Mamluks
- A surprise invasion by Yemen forced the emerging empire to band together. The overwhelming technological and population advantages of the Sultanate, coupled with lack of political will by Yemeni allies, managed to repel the invasion. The army continued, however, and went on to take Yemen and force them into vassalage.
- Ottoman-Mesopotamian War
- After the Timurid Civil War, the Ottomans and Mesopotamians (who were in a personal union with the Mamluks) both began to expand into the power void. Tensions along the borders and with vassals led to conflict. The first few years saw Mamluk gains into Turkey, but the decision by the Golden Horde and Georgia to join the Ottomans sealed the Mamluk fate, forcing the Treaty of Adana.
- Republican Revolutions
- Great Mamluk Restoration
- Since the Republican Revolutions, and even prior to that in the case of Nubia, internal fighting, largely out of the control of the Sultan, had overwhelmed much of the Sultanate. This reached a boiling point in the mid- to late- 1430s, when Oman and Yemen both declared independence, following a similar move made by al-Swahili and al-Somal.