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					Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha (Arabic: ‫باشا محمد علي‬‎ (Mehmet Ali Pasha in
                                                                           )
                                                      [2]
Albanian; Kavalalı Mehmet Ali Paşa in Turkish) (4 March 1769 – 2 August 1849) was an
Albanian who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. Though not a modern
nationalist, he is regarded as the founder of modern Egypt because of the dramatic reforms in the
military, economic and cultural spheres that he instituted. He also ruled Levantine territories outside
Egypt. The dynasty that he established would rule Egypt and Sudan until the Egyptian Revolution
of 1952.
Muhammad or Mehmed
The spelling of Muhammad Ali's first name in both Arabic, and
Ottoman Turkish was consistent: ‫( محمد‬Muhammad). This is the
name by which he was known to his Egyptian subjects, and the
name used uniformly in Egyptian, and Arab historical scholarship.
However, given his original status as a commander in the Ottoman
military, his first name is often rendered as Mehmed, or Mehmet, as
this was the way in which his name was pronounced by his
Albanian co-nationals and the Turkish-speaking leadership. Current
English-language historical scholarship is divided as to which is
preferable, with the majority opinion favoring the former.
Typically, historians accentuating the Egyptian character of his rule
opt for 'Muhammad', whilst those accentuating the Ottoman
character opt for 'Mehmed', or 'Mehmet'. This distinction is an issue
for those writing in a Latin alphabet, but not in Arabic.[3]
Early life
Muhammad Ali was born in Kavala, in the Ottoman province of Macedonia (now a part of modern
Greece) to Albanian parents.[4][5][6][7][8] According to the many French, English and other western
journalists who interviewed him, and according to people who knew him, the only language he
knew fluently was Albanian.[9] He was also competent in Turkish.[10] The son of a tobacco and
shipping merchant named Ibrahim Agha, his mother Zainab Agha was his uncle Husain Agha's
daughter. Muhammad Ali was the nephew of the "Ayan of Kavalla" (Çorbaci) Husain Agha. When
his father died at a young age, Muhammad was taken and raised by his uncle with his cousins. As a
reward for Muhammad Ali's hard work, his uncle Çorbaci gave him the rank of "Bolukbashi" for
the collection of taxes in the town of Kavala. After his promising success in collecting taxes, he
gained Second Commander rank under his cousin Sarechesme Halil Agha in the Kavala Volunteer
Contingent that was sent to re-occupy Egypt following Napoleon's withdrawal. He married Ali
Agha's daughter, Emine Nosratli, a wealthy widow of Ali Bey.
In 1801, as a high ranking commander of an Albanian contigent of the Ottoman army, he was sent
to re-occupy Egypt following a brief French occupation. He was second in command under his
cousin Sarechesme Halil Agha in the Kavala Volunteer Contingent, which was itself part of a larger
Ottoman force. The expedition landed at Aboukir in the spring of 1801.[11]
The French withdrawal left a power vacuum in the Ottoman province. Mamluk power had been
weakened, but not destroyed, and Ottoman forces clashed with the Mamluks for power.[12] During
this period of anarchy Muhammad Ali used his loyal Albanian troops to play both sides, gaining
power and prestige for himself.[13] As the conflict drew on, the local populace grew weary of the
power struggle. Led by the ulema, a group of prominent Egyptians demanded that the Wāli
(governor), Ahmad Kurshid Pasha, step down and Muhammad Ali be installed as the new Wāli in
1805
Mamluk cavalryman
The Mamluks still posed the greatest threat to Muhammad Ali. They had controlled Egypt for more
than 600 years, and over that time they had extended their rule extensively throughout Egypt.
Muhammad Ali’s approach was to eliminate the Mamluk leadership, then move against the rank
and file. In 1811, Muhammad Ali invited the Mamluk leaders to a celebration held at the Cairo

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Citadel in honor of his son, Tusun, who was being appointed to lead a military expedition into
Arabia. When the Mamluks arrived, they were trapped and killed.[15] After the leaders were killed,
Muhammad Ali dispatched his army throughout Egypt to rout the remainder of the Mamluk forces.
Muhammad Ali transformed Egypt into a regional power which he saw as the natural successor to
the decaying Ottoman Empire. He summed up his vision for Egypt as follows:
"I am well aware that the (Ottoman) Empire is heading by the day toward destruction...On her ruins
I will build a vast kingdom... up to the Euphrates and the Tigris
Reforming Egypt
Sultan Selim III had recognized the need to reform and modernize the Ottoman Empire along
European lines to ensure that his state could compete. Selim III, however, faced stiff local
opposition from an entrenched clergy and military apparatus. Consequently, Selim III was deposed
and ultimately killed for his efforts. Muhammad Ali, too, recognized the need to modernize, and
unlike Selim, he had dispatched his chief rival, giving him a free hand to mimic Selim’s attempted
reforms.
Muhammad Ali’s goal was to establish a powerful, European-style state.[17] In order to do that, he
had to reorganize Egyptian society, streamline the economy, train a professional bureaucracy, and
build a modern military.
His first task was to secure a revenue stream for Egypt. To accomplish this, Muhammad Ali
‘nationalized’ all the land of Egypt, thereby officially owning all the production of the land. He
accomplished the state annexation of property by raising taxes on the ‘tax-farmers’ throughout
Egypt. The new taxes were intentionally high and when the tax-farmers could not meet the
demanded payments, Muhammad Ali confiscated the lands.
In practice, Muhammad Ali’s land reform amounted to a monopoly on trade in Egypt. He required
all producers to sell their goods to the state. The state in turn resold Egyptian goods, within Egypt
and to foreign markets, and retained the surplus. The practice proved very profitable for Egypt with
the cultivation of long staple cotton. The new-found profits also extend down to the individual
farmers, as the average wage increased fourfold.
Beyond building a functioning, industrial economy, Muhammad Ali also made an effort to train a
professional military and bureaucracy. He sent promising citizens to Europe to study. Again the
driving force behind the effort was to build a European-style army. Students were sent to study
European languages, primarily French, so they could in turn translate military manuals into Arabic.
He then used both educated Egyptians and imported European experts to establish schools and
hospitals in Egypt. The European education also provided talented Egyptians with a means of social
mobility.
A byproduct of Muhammad Ali’s training program was the establishment of a professional
bureaucracy. Establishing an efficient central bureaucracy was an essential prerequisite for the
success of Muhammad Ali’s other reforms. In the process of destroying the Mamluks, the Wāli had
to fill the governmental roles that the Mamluks had previously filled. In doing so, Muhammad Ali
kept all central authority for himself. He partitioned Egypt into ten provinces responsible for
collecting taxes and maintaining order.[20] Muhammad Ali installed his sons in most key positions;
however, his reforms did offer Egyptians opportunities beyond agriculture and industry.
Cultural impact
In the 1820s, Muhammad Ali sent the first educational "mission" of Egyptian students to Europe.
This contact resulted in literature that is considered the dawn of the Arabic literary renaissance,
known as the Nahda.
To support the modernization of industry and the military, Muhammad Ali set up a number of
schools in various fields where French texts were studied. Rifa'a al-Tahtawi supervised translations
from French to Arabic on topics ranging from sociology and history to military technology, and
these translations have been considered the second great translation movement, after the first from
Greek into Arabic.


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In 1835, his government founded the first indigenous press in the Arab World, the Bulaq press. The
Bulaq press published the official gazette of Muhammad Ali's government.
Among his personal interests was the accumulation and breeding of Arabian horses. In horses
obtained as taxes and tribute, Muhammad Ali recognized the unique characteristics and careful
attention to bloodlines of the horses bred by the Bedouin, particularly by the Anazeh in Syria and
those bred in the Nejd. While his immediate successor had minimal interest in the horse breeding
program, his grandson, who became Abbas I shared this interest and further built upon his work.
Military campaigns
Though Muhammad Ali’s chief aim was to establish a European-style military, and carve out a
personal empire, he waged war initially on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud II, in Arabia, and
Greece. Subsequent thereto, he came into open conflict with the Ottoman Empire.
His first military campaign was an expedition into the Arabian Peninsula. The holy cities of Mecca,
and Medina had been captured by the House of Saud, who had recently embraced a form of Islam
called Wahhabism. Armed with their newfound religious zeal, the Muhammad ibn Saud began
conquering parts of Arabia. This Ottoman–Saudi War culminated in the capture of the Hejaz region
from the Ottoman Empire in 1803.
With the main Ottoman army tied up in Europe, Mahmud II turned to Muhammad Ali to recapture
the Arabian territories. Muhammad Ali in turn appointed his son, Tusun, to lead a military
expedition in 1811. The campaign was initially turned back in Arabia; however, a second attack
was launched in 1812 that succeeded in recapturing Hejaz.[21]
While the campaign was successful, the power of the Saudis was not broken. They continued to
harass Ottoman and Egyptian forces from the central Nejd region of the Peninsula. Consequently,
Muhammad Ali dispatched another of his sons, Ibrahim, at the head of another army to finally rout
the Saudis. After a two-year campaign, the Saudis were crushed and most of the Saudi family was
captured. The family leader, Abdullah ibn Saud, was sent to Istanbul, and executed.[22]
Muhammad Ali next turned his attention to military campaigns independent of the Porte, beginning
with Sudan which he viewed as a valuable addition resource of territory, gold, and slaves. Sudan at
the time had no real central authority and used primitive weaponry in its tribal infighting. In 1820
Muhammad Ali dispatched an army of 5,000 troops commanded by his third son, Ismail, south into
Sudan with the intent of conquering the territory and subjugating it to his authority. [23] Ali's troops
made headway into Sudan in 1821, but met with fierce resistance. Ultimately, the superiority of
Egyptian troops and firearms ensured the conquest of Sudan. Ali now had an outpost from which he
could expand to the source of the Nile in Ethiopia, and Uganda. His administration captured slaves
from the Nuba Mountains, and west and south Sudan, all incorporated into a foot regiment known
as the Gihadiya (pronounced Jihadiya in non-Egyptian Arabic). Ali's reign in Sudan, and that of his
immediate successors, is remembered in Sudan as brutal and heavy-handed, contributing to the
popular independence struggle of the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, in 1881.
Further information: History of Sudan (1821–1885)
While Muhammad Ali was expanding his authority into Africa, the Ottoman Empire was being
challenged by ethnic rebellions in its European territories. The rebellion in the Greek provinces of
the Ottoman Empire began in 1821. The Ottoman army proved ineffectual in its attempts to put
down the revolt as ethnic violence spread as far as Constantinople. With his own army proving
ineffective, Sultan Mahmud II offered Muhammad Ali the island of Crete in exchange for his
support in putting down the revolt.
Muhammed Ali sent 16,000 soldiers, 100 transports, and 63 escort vessels under command of his
son, Ibrahim Pasha.[24] Britain, France, and Russia intervened to protect the Greeks. On 20 October
1827 at the Navarino, while under the command of Muharram Bey, the Ottoman representative, the
entire Egyptian navy was sunk by the European Allied fleet, under the command of Admiral
Edward Codrington (1770–1851). If the Porte was not in the least prepared for this confrontation,
Muhammad Ali was even less prepared for the loss of his highly competent, expensively assembled
and maintained navy. With its fleet essentially destroyed, Egypt had no way to support its forces in

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Greece and was forced to withdraw. Ultimately the campaign cost Muhammad Ali his navy and had
not yielded any tangible gains.
Like other rulers of Egypt before him, Ali desired to control Bilad al-Sham (the Levant), both for its
strategic value and for its rich natural resources; nor was this a sudden, vindictive decision on the
part of the Wāli since he had harbored this goal since his early years as Egypt's unofficial ruler. For
not only had Syria abundant natural resources, it also had a thriving international trading
community with well developed markets throughout the Levant; in addition, it would be a captive
market for the goods now being produced in Egypt. Yet perhaps most of all, Syria was desirable as
a buffer state between Egypt and the Ottoman Sultan.
The Egyptians overran Syria easily with little resistance. Acre was captured after a six-month siege,
which lasted from 3 November 1831 to 27 May 1832. The Egyptian army marched north into
Anatolia. At the Battle of Konya (21 December 1832), Ibrahim Pasha soundly defeated the Ottoman
army led by the sadr azam Grand Vizier Reshid Pasha. There were now no military obstacles
between Ibrahim's forces and Constantinople itself.
On 25 May 1838, Muhammad Ali informed Britain, and France that he intended to declare
independence from the Ottoman Empire.[33] This action was contrary to the desire of the European
powers to maintain the status quo within the Ottoman Empire.[32] With Muhammad Ali’s intentions
clear, the European powers, particularly Russia, attempted to moderate the situation and prevent
conflict. Within the Empire, however, both sides were gearing for war. Ibrahim already had a
sizable force in Syria. In Constantinople, the Ottoman commander, Hafiz Pasha, assured the Sultan
that he could defeat the Egyptian army.
After the British, and Austrian navies blockaded the Nile delta coastline, shelled Beirut (11
September 1840), and after Acre had capitulated (3 November 1840), Muhammad Ali agreed to the
terms of the Convention on 27 November 1840. These terms included renouncing his claims over
Crete, and Hejaz and downsizing his navy, and his standing army to 18,000 men, provided that he
and his descendants would enjoy hereditary rule over Egypt and Sudan — an unheard-of status for
an Ottoman viceroy.[35]
Final years
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo, Egypt
After 1843, fast on the heels of the Syrian débâcle and the treaty of Balta Liman, which forced
Egypt to tear down its import barriers and the government to give up its monopolies, Muhammad
Ali's mind became increasingly clouded and tended towards paranoia. Whether it was genuine
senility or the effects of the silver nitrate he had been given years before to treat an attack of
dysentery remains a subject of debate.[36]
In 1844 the tax receipts were in and Sherif Pasha, the head of the diwan al-maliyya (financial
ministry), was too fearful for his life to tell the Wāli the news that Egyptian debt now stood at 80
million francs (£2,400,000). Tax arrears came to 14,081,500 piastres[37] out of a total estimated tax
of 75,227,500 pts.[38] Timidly he approached Ibrahim Pasha with these facts, and together came up
with a report and a plan. Anticipating his father's initial reaction, İbrahim arranged for Muhammad
Ali's favorite daughter to break the news. It did little, if any, good. The resulting rage was far
beyond what any had been expected, and it took six full days for a tenuous peace to take hold.
A year later while Ibrahim, progressively crippled by rheumatic pains and tuberculosis (he was
beginning to cough up blood), was sent to Italy to take the waters, Muhammad Ali, in 1846,
traveled to Constantinople. There he approached the Sultan, expressed his fears, and made his
peace, explaining: "[My son] Ibrahim is old and sick, [my grandson] Abbas is indolent (happa), and
then children will rule Egypt. How will they keep Egypt?"[39] After he secured hereditary rule for
his family, the Wali ruled until 1848, when senility made further governance by him impossible.
Tomb of Muhammad Ali in Alabaster Mosque in Cairo
By this time Muhammad Ali had become so ill and senile that he was not informed of his son's
death. Lingering a few months more, Muhammad Ali died at Ras el-Tin Palace in Alexandria on 2
August 1849, and ultimately was buried in the imposing mosque he had commissioned in the
Citadel of Cairo.

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