- See Mehemet Ali (Turkey) for the Turkish foreign minister and regent.
Muḩammad `Alī Pasha the Great; (many spelling variations, included Turkish Mehmet Ali (Kavalalı Mehmet Ali Paşa), are encountered) (1769-August_2, 1849), was a viceroy of Egypt, and is sometimes considered the founder of modern Egypt.
Muhammad Ali was an Albanian born in Kavaja. In 1798 Napoleon destroyed the Mameluke rulers' army at the Battle of the Pyramids, but afterwards had to leave Egypt. This left a power vacuum, which Muhammad Ali filled. He was appointed Ottoman governor (Wali) of Egypt in 1805 and famously (and treacherously) massacred the Mameluke leaders. He introduced sweeping reforms to Egypt: he built an army from Egyptian peasants through conscription, using this force to expand Egypt's borders; he built much infrastructure, such as canals and roadways; and he established Egypt as one of the world's largest cotton producers. Muḩammad `Alī also introduced significant social reforms, including the creation of modern educational institutions. Most of his efforts, however, were focused on his successful strengthening of Egypt's armed forces. Egypt became temporarily a powerful modernized force in the Middle East.
Throughout his reign he was the nominal vassal of the Ottoman sultan, but he acted independently. He aided the sultan in fighting in the Greek War of Independence, but lost his navy at the Battle of Navarino, and Egypt has not been a naval power at any time since. He put down a Wahhabi revolt in Arabia for the sultan. Later he and the sultan fell out, going to war in 1831. Under his son Ibrahīm Pasha, Muḩammad `Alī's armies seized Palestine and Syria and were within a few days march of Constantinople. Russia intervened, leading to a negotiated solution in 1833, leaving Muhammad Ali in control of Syria and Palestine.
In 1839 Sultan Mahmud II resumed the war, but was decisively defeated by Ibrahim at Konya and died shortly thereafter. Once again, Egyptian armies neared Constantinople, and this time were turned back by multilateral European intervention (including the British Navy blockading the Nile Delta coast) that required Muhammad Ali and Ibrahim to give up Syria in 1841.
Muḩammad `Alī was deposed in July 1848 on account of mental weakness, and died in August 1849. He was succeeded by two of his sons (Ibrahīm and `Abbās), but both were weak rulers, and, in large part because of his excesses, Egypt fell under the domination of Europeans.
Last updated: 05-07-2005 06:02:00
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04