Sultanate of Egypt – A Grand HistoryAs written by Nikodemus the PlagiaristicI. The Massacre of Jerusalem and the First Crusade
In the early 11th century the Great Seljuk Empire, centered around Baghdad, was the penultimate force in the Middle East. From their homelands near the Aral sea, the Seljuks had advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, and their Emperor ambitiously aimed for the conquest of all of Asia Minor. These plans were thwarted however when his armies were decisively defeated by the forces of Emperor Romanos IV at the Battle of Manzikert in August of 1071, halting the Seljuk advance into Byzantine territory. In the subsequent numerous border skirmishes Byzantine forces under commanders Nikephoros Bryennios and Theodore Alyates managed to drive the Seljuks out of Anatolia, securing the survival of the Byzantine Empire in its darkest hour.
Outraged by this setback and looking for a scapegoat to blame for the failure of the campaign against the Empire the Seljuk Sultan Malik Shah baselessly accused the Fatimid Caliphate of conspiring with the heathen Byzantines in order to secure his throne from disgruntled nobles. The Seljuks attacked the Caliphate, capturing Jerusalem in 1073. As retaliation for the supposed 'conspiracy', as well as the continued resistance offered to his forces by the Byzantines Malik Shah orders the Christians of Jerusalem decimated. Over the following days the Seljuk armies slaughtered a large part of the Christian population of the city in a terrible massacre.
When news of the massacre of Jerusalem reached Europe it shocked many of the Christian rulers to the core. The image of innocent pilgrims being slaughtered within the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem caused an uproar, and as it became clear over the next years that the Byzantines would not (or rather could not
, though this was conveniently ignored by the outraged Europeans) mount a campaign to liberate the holy land, Pope Urban II in 1095 called for a mighty Crusade to rid the Levant of the heathen Saracens.
Roman Emperor Alexios I, deeply suspicious of Urban's motives because the Papacy had failed to call for support of the orthodox Byzantines during the Seljuk invasions, naturally felt ill at ease with the idea that an immense army of knights and peasants from many nations in Western Europe would be passing through his lands. However it soon proved impossible to divert the Crusade and so the Emperor grudgingly allowed the holy warriors to pass through Constantinople and into the Seljuk-occupied Levant, although the devastation caused by foraging Crusaders in Byzantine lands further deepened the divide between roman-catholic Western Europe and orthodox Byzantium.
As fate would have it even before the Crusaders arrived the Great Seljuk Empire had dissolved into smaller, warring states after the death of Sultan Malik Shah in 1092. The fractured Seljuks were on the whole more concerned with consolidating their own territories and gaining control of their neighbors than with cooperating against the crusaders during the First Crusade. The Seljuks still handily defeated the untrained People's Crusade arriving in 1096, but could not stop the progress of the army of the subsequent Princes' Crusade, which took important cities such as Antioch, Aleppo and Latakia on its march to Jerusalem, which fell to the Europeans in July of 1099. That year marked the successful capturing of the Holy Land, and the victorious crusaders began to set up the first Crusader States: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, County of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Edessa.II. Saladin, the Fall of the Crusader States and the Third Crusade
When Malik Shah died in 1092, the Great Seljuk Empire split as his brother and four sons quarreled over the apportioning of the empire among themselves. The Seljuks were further diminished by the conquests of the Crusaders, although the County of Edessa was reconquered by the Seljuks in 1144. The Seljuk dynasty continued to rule from Baghdad, but within Seljuk territory Atabegs (regional governors) formed a number of dynasties and displaced the descendants of Seljukid emirs in their various principalities. These dynasties were frequently founded by emancipated Mamluks, slave warriors who held high office at court and in camp under powerful emirs. When the emirs died, they first became stadtholders for the emirs' descendants, and then oftentimes usurped the throne of their masters.
One of these many Atabegs was Nur ad-Din, a member of the Zenghid dynasty who ruled the Syrian province of the Seljuk Empire. It was his dream to unite the various Muslim forces between the Euphrates and the Nile to make a common front against the crusaders. After the failure of the Second Crusade in 1149 during which Nur ad-Din helped defend Damascus, he united Syria and he conquered Egypt in 1169, where he appointed a relatively young Sunni as vizier to the Fatimid Caliph al-Adid of Egypt, called Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb – who would go on to become known to the world as Saladin.
After the death of Nur ad-Din in May 1174 Saladin expanded his rule over the realm of his former master, capturing Damascus in that same year and finally conquering all of Syria in 1176. After securing Mosul he began a campaign against the Crusader States in 1182. The crusaders counter-attacked; Raynald of Chatillon, in particular, harassed Muslim trading and pilgrimage routes with a fleet on the Red Sea, a water route that Saladin needed to keep open. In response, Saladin built a fleet of 30 galleys to attack Beirut in 1182. Raynald then threatened to attack the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In retaliation, Saladin twice besieged Kerak, Raynald's fortress in Oultrejordain, in 1183 and 1184. Raynald in turn responded by looting a caravan of pilgrims on the Hajj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, in 1185.
The confrontations between Saladin and the Crusader States came to a head on July 4, 1187, at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin faced the combined forces of Guy of Lusignan, King Consort of Jerusalem and Raymond III of Tripoli. In this battle the Crusader army was largely annihilated by the motivated Muslim army. It was a major disaster for the Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades. Saladin captured Raynald de Chatillon and was personally responsible for his execution in retaliation for his attacking Muslim caravans. Thereafter Saladin conquered most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, capturing the city itself after a siege on October 2, 1187.
In a historic turn of events, Saladin then signed a treaty with the Emperor of Byzantium Alexios II Komnenos. A Byzantine army attacked the Principality of Antioch just as the army of Saladin was attacking the last Crusader city of Tyre. Tyre managed to resist two sieges by Saladin's forces; Antioch was not so lucky, being captured by the Byzantines after a ruse. The betrayal of the Crusaders by the Byzantine Empire sealed the schism between the roman-catholic west and the orthodox east for good, coming to be considered by the pope and many of the European kings as base a betrayal of Christianity itself. The Byzantines, who had little but scorn for the barbaric Europeans, failed to care much for the rantings of the Patriarch of Rome.
In early 1189 however Pope Gregory VIII called for a Third Crusade against the Muslims and Byzantines both. Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, Philip Augustus of France, and Richard the Lionhearted of England allied themselves to reconquer Jerusalem and lay waste to Anatolia and Constantinople itself, hoping to root out both of the eastern heresies once and for all.
The Crusaders from Tyre and the Ayyubids under Saladin fought near Acre that year when the Crusaders were joined by the reinforcements from Europe, who gained the upper hand in the fighting. From 1189 to 1191, Acre was besieged by the Crusaders, and despite initial Muslim successes, it eventually fell to Richard's forces. However at that point the Byzantines under Alexios II marched south and besieged Tyre, forcing Richard to withdraw from Jaffa. Richard managed to drive the Byzantines away from Tyre but at the cost of hard-won Acre, which reverted back to Ayyubid control by 1992. In August of that year the Muslim and Byzantine armies met up near the Golan Heights, and proceeded to jointly lay siege to Tyre. Richard realized his position was untenable and began evacuating the city, which fell to the besieging armies on the February 6, 1193. Thus ended the Third Crusade with the fall of the last of the Crusader States. It was the last major effort of Saladin's career, as he died later that year. III. Rise of the Mamluks and the Mongol Invasions
After Saladin's death his sons fell to squabbling over the division of the Empire, and each attempted to surround himself with larger expanded retinues of Mamluk slaves. By 1200 Saladin's brother Al-Adil succeeded in securing control over the whole empire by defeating and killing or imprisoning his brothers and nephews in turn. With each victory Al-Adil incorporated the defeated mamluk retinue into his own. This process was repeated at Al-Adil's death in 1218, and at his son Al-Kamil's death in 1238. Thus the Ayyubids became increasingly surrounded by the power of the mamluks, who became so influential they acted semi-autonomously as regional governors, and soon became involved in the internal court politics of the kingdom itself.
Finally in 1250, when the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt as-Salih Ayyub died shortly after the failure of the Seventh Crusade and its attempted invasion of Egypt, the mamluks who were owned by him murdered his son and heir Turan-Shah, and the widow of as-Salih became the Sultana of Egypt. Under pressure from the mamluks she married their commander in chief, Emir Aybak, and then abdicated her throne. Thus Aybak became the first mamluk Sultan. Over a period of ten years the mamluks consolidated their newly gained power and eventually established the Bahri dynasty. They were helped in this by the Mongols' sack of Baghdad in 1258, which effectively destroyed the Abbasid caliphate, the only power left actively opposing the mamluks. Cairo became more prominent as a result and remained a Mamluk capital thereafter.
It was at this point that the Mongol armies reached Mamluk territory. Möngke Khan had become Great Khan in 1251, and upon his ascension to power had immediately set out to implement his grandfather Genghis Khan's plan for world empire. To lead the task of subduing the nations of the West, he selected his brother, another of Genghis Khan's grandsons, Hulagu Khan.
Assembling the army took five years, and it was not until 1256 that Hulagu was prepared to begin the invasions. Operating from the Mongol base in Persia, Hulagu proceeded south. Mongke Khan had ordered good treatment for those who yielded without resistance, and destruction for those who did not. In this way Hulagu and his army had conquered some of the most powerful and longstanding dynasties of the time. Other countries in the Mongols' path submitted to Mongol authority, and contributed forces to the Mongol army. The Hashshashin in Persia fled to the west, the 500-year-old Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad was destroyed, and it soon turned out that the Ayyubid province of Syria was no match for the Mongols either. Damascus fell, and Hulagu's plan was to then proceed southwards through Palestine towards Egypt, to confront the last major Islamic power, the Mamluk Sultanate.
In 1260, Hulagu sent envoys to Sultan Qutuz in Cairo, demanding his surrender:
From the King of Kings of the East and West, the Great Khan. To Qutuz the Mamluk, who fled to escape our swords. You should think of what happened to other countries and submit to us. You have heard how we have conquered a vast empire and have purified the earth of the disorders that tainted it. We have conquered vast areas, massacring all the people. You cannot escape from the terror of our armies. Where can you flee? What road will you use to escape us? Our horses are swift, our arrows sharp, our swords like thunderbolts, our hearts as hard as the mountains, our soldiers as numerous as the sand. Fortresses will not detain us, nor arms stop us. Your prayers to God will not avail against us. We are not moved by tears nor touched by lamentations. Only those who beg our protection will be safe. Hasten your reply before the fire of war is kindled. Resist and you will suffer the most terrible catastrophes. We will shatter your mosques and reveal the weakness of your God and then we will kill your children and your old men together. At present you are the only enemy against whom we have to march.
Qutuz responded by killing the envoys and displaying their heads on one of the gates of Cairo. Qutuz then allied with a fellow Mamluk, Baibars, who wanted to defend Islam after the Mongols captured his former power base of Damascus. He also sent envoys to the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Komnenos, who however instead opted to conserve his forces rather than commit them to battle against the Mongols.
In late August, the Mongol forces met their Mamluk counterparts at Ain Jalut. The two armies fought relentlessly for many hours, with Baibars most of the time implementing hit-and-run tactics, in order to provoke the Mongol troops and at the same time preserve the bulk of his troops intact. The Mamluks eventually were able to lure the mongols into a trap amd surrounded them. A desperate Mongol counter-attack nearly managed to break the flank of Baibars' encircling forces, but Sultan Qutuz at that point personally entered combat, rallying the army around him. When the battle finally ended, the Mamluk heavy cavalrymen had accomplished what had never been done before: beating the Mongols in close combat.
Unfortunately for the Sultan on the way back to Cairo after the victory at Ain Jalut, Qutuz was assassinated by several emirs in a conspiracy led by Baibars. Baibars became the new Sultan. The Mongols were again beaten at the First Battle of Homs less than a year later, and completely expelled from Syria.
In the following years internecine conflict prevented Hulagu Khan from being able to bring his full power against the Mamluks to avenge the pivotal defeat at Ain Jalut. After the Mongol succession was finally settled, with Kublai as the last Great Khan, Hulagu returned to his lands by 1262, and massed his armies to attack the Mamluks and avenge Ain Jalut. However, Hulagu suffered severe defeat in an attempted invasion north of the Caucasus in 1263 at the hands of Andronikos II Komnenos, and Hulagu was only able to send a small army to attack the Mamluks, which was repulsed.
Still, despite the ultimate victory the Mongol wars had greatly weakened the Mamluk sultanate. The Levant and the Syrian provinces had been devastated by the Mongols, and to the east Baghdad had been destroyed, the Caliph killed and the religious heart of the sultanate thus shattered. To add insult to injury in the aftermath the Byzantine Empire, seemingly barely scratched during the conflicts, seized Aleppo and Latakia as well as the northern run of the Euphrates, thus ending 150 years of Ayyubid hegemony in Syria. IV. The Burji Dynasty, the Timurian War and the 'resurgent' Abassid Caliphate
In 1377 a revolt broke out in Syria which spread to Egypt, and the government was taken over by the Circassians Barakah and Barkuk; Barkuk was proclaimed sultan in 1382, ending the Bahri dynasty. He was expelled in 1389 but recaptured Cairo in 1390. Permanently in power he founded the Burji dynasty.
Barkuk, a hot-head, soon became an enemy of Timur, the Sunni Mongol ruler of the Timurid Empire centered on Persia, after slaying one of Timur's envoys. When Barkuk died in 1399 Timur invaded Syria and expressed the ambition to conquer the Hejaz, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 1401 he conquered Damascus, but was brought to a halt by the forces of the Burji Sultan Abu ad-Din and when Timur died in 1405 the city was recaptured. The Sultan then wanted to move against Timur, but continually faced rebellions from the emirs of Syria and he was forced to abdicate in 1412.
Sultan Al-Ashraf came to power in 1453 and had friendly relations with the Byzantine Empire, who captured Tabriz later that year, causing great rejoicings in Egypt as the Mongols, and by extension the Timurids, were greatly hated. Under the reign of Sultan Khushqadam, who took power in 1461, Egypt began a long struggle against the Timurid Empire which finally led to the capturing of Baghdad in 1515 under Sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri. Between 1515 and 1520 the Sultanate fought a series of skirmishes with the floundering Timurids, but a peace treaty signed in 1520 put an end to hostilities.
The Timurid Empire collapsed shortly afterward in 1526 when their capital of Samarkand was captured by the Uzbeks. Peace was short-lived however because in its place the Sultanate now faced the rising Safavid Empire. Under Sultan Al-Ashraf the Sunni Mamluks opportunistically went to war against Shi'ite forces of Shah Ismail I after the Shah attempts to seize Tabriz but was beaten back by Byzantine forces. A thrust by Suleiman Al-Ashraf into Mesopotamia was initially successful and the Mamlukes conquered the cities of Nasiriyah and Al-Basrah. However Ismail rallied his forces and defeated the Sultan in Lorestan, driving his army back to Baghdad. Faced with an impending punitive expedition by the Byzantines Shah Ismail then sued for peace and withdrew his forces north to Ardabil near the Caspian Sea in order to cut off a potential Byzantine thrust toward central Persia.
For the next several decades the border with the Safavid Empire remained relatively quiet. The Sultanate used this time to pacify large areas of Mesopotamia, and finally incorporated the ancient port city of Kuwait in 1539. In 1541 the Mameluk Sultanate reached its absolute peak size, stretching from Tunis to the Persian border and from Hims in Syria to the Gulf of Aden.
In 1589 however a man surfaced in Baghdad who called himself al-Mansur, and claimed to be a distant relative of al-Musta'sim, the Caliph of Baghdad who was killed in 1258 by the Mongols. Increasingly charismatic, al-Mansur claimed that the infant son of the Caliph had survived the sacking of the city, and that his line had been hidden until Baghdad was recaptured by the True Faith. He then begins rallying the people of Mesopotamia to his cause, saying he strives to resurrect the Abassid Caliphate from the ashes of history.
Sultan Sayf ad-Din was none too pleased with this turn of events and, backed by the Caliph of Cairo, charged the army with the removal of the impostor. As the army marches on Baghdad however the Baghdad garrison revolts and chose the side of al-Mansur over the Sultan. In a series of bloody battles the would-be Caliph managed to defend Mesopotamia and drive the invading Mamluks back into Syria. He then marched north, taking Tabriz by surprise from the Byzantines before casting the Mameluks out of Mesopotamia.
The Safavids under Shah Abas, only a teenager at this time, used the internal division of the Sultanate to launch an invasion of Mesopotamia. Abas conquered Baghdad by the end of 1591. Facing a war on multiple fronts as the Byzantines marched south to punish him for the capturing of Tabriz the Caliph fled to Damascus, where he was apprehended and executed by Mameluk authorities. In the resulting conflict the Sultanate lost great tracts of Mesopotamia to the Safavids and the Byzantines.V. Dynastic Instabilities and Reform in Early Modern Times
In the late 17th century the Sultanate, diminished from its greatest size but still a formidable entity, entered a period of dynastic instabilities and civil conflicts.
After a series of weak rulers Sultan Al-Duranni was poisoned by his sons, Hasim and Azeez. For a short while the two brothers ruled in unison in the traditional way of the Mamluks and the Ayyubids before them: one in Cairo, another in Damascus.
However in 1688 the Caliph of Cairo died and Hasim and Azeez both supported different candidates to the exalted position of Caliph, a highly sensitive religious matter. The matter was resolved when Hasim, the older brother who held the title of Sultan, forcefully installed his own preferred candidate. Then in 1691 Hasim offended his brother when one of Azeez' sons was poisoned while being entertained by Hasim. Azeez mobilized his forces and moves against Egypt, seizing the fortress of Al-Ghazza, Eilat, Sudr and other places within the Egyptian province. His forces were eventually defeated by Hasim.
Azeez then tried to seize the throne by allying himself with the Austrian monarchy in the hopes of using their Mediterranean fleet against his brother. He thus became the first Mamluk ruler to try and gain power by allying with someone outside of Asia Minor. This caused significant disquiet among his officers, and shortly afterward Azeez was murdered in his bath by a Hashasheen assassin, and the alliance was blown off.
Throughout the quarrel with his brother however Hasim, now the unopposed Sultan, had become increasingly paranoid. Seeing conspiracies everywhere he started a war with the Byzantine emperor John IX Komnenos in the summer of 1694, claiming that the emperor had been conspiring against him. His armies drove from Syria into Anatolia, but were soon met with a devastating Byzantine counter-attack. The Mamluk armies were unfamiliar with modern warfighting techniques and were swiftly annihilated by the Byzantine army, the Mamluk cavalry charges proving to be no match for the Byzantine artillery and the Akritoi formations. The Byzantines then surged into Syria and the Levant. John IX personally marched into Damascus on May 16 1695 at the head of his army. He was welcomed as deliverance from the Mamelukes in what was for hundreds of years the second city of the Sultanate – a sign of the times indeed.
Thoroughly aggravated at the embarrassing loss of Syria and Damascus, a city which hadn't been conquered since the Mongol invasions, the court of Sultan Hasim turned to conspiring against him. Although several plots were foiled and the conspirators brutally executed, finally in August of 1695 the Sultan and between 600 and 700 of his Mamluk guards were ambushed and killed near the Al-Azab gates, in a narrow road down from Mukatam Hill. According to period reports, only one Mamluk survived the ambush when he forced his horse to leap from the walls of the citadel, killing it in the fall.
Upon the death of the Sultan the conspirators installed his eight-year old son Mohammad on the throne, and installed their leader Badi as his vizier. A year later Mohammad died under in a horse riding accident, ending the Duranni dynasty. Badi was pronounced Sultan, but a year later is himself assassinated by a rival. In the next five years nine different men claim the title of Sultan, but are each in turn killed, many by Hashasheen assassins who in the whimsical, uncertain political climate of the late-17th century managed to accrue immense influence.
The constant changes in the government soon caused the army to get out of control, and at the beginning of the 18th century mutinies became common; in 1702 Sultan Ibrahim Pasha was murdered by his bodyguards, and his head set on the Bab Zuwaylah. Something like civil war broke out between the army and the emirs, who had on their side some loyal regiments and the Bedouins. The soldiers went so far as to choose a sultan, and to divide provisionally the regions of Cairo between them. They were defeated by Sheik Nasir ad-Din, one of the twelve Emirs of Egypt, who on February 5, 1704 entered Cairo in triumph, executed the ringleaders of the army coup, and banished many others to Yemen. He then proceeded to level several fortresses the Hashasheen had established in the Hejaz, and forced the Grand Master of the assassin cult to swear fealty to him.
Nasir was proclaimed then Sultan by the emirs, and elected a great financial reform, adjusting the burdens imposed on the different communities of Egypt in accordance with their means. Thus garnering immense popularity with the people of the Sultanate he went on to spark an Egyptian renaissance. VI. The Sultanic Restoration
Nasir ad-Din reformed the political structure of the Sultanate, which had previously been curiously archaic. Nasir also reformed the army and the navy, and introduced many other modernizations, mainly renaissance concepts imported from Europe.
In order to modernize the army for the first time in recorded history the Sultan sent observers to Europe during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) to witness new methods of warfighting. They watched Frederick the Great defeat and devastate the Austrian army at Leuben. This event, widely considered to be the most brilliant victory of the age, and Frederick's fiery strategies, shaped the thoughts about warfare for an entire generation of the Sultanate's commanders. Interestingly many Byzantine observers witnessed the same war on the Austrian side under the careful Count Leopold Joseph von Daun. As a result the skirmishes in the Levant that were to ensue later in the 18th century seemed in a way very similar to the Austrian-Prussian battles of that earlier war.
Armed with new tactics and weapons the armies of the Sultan surged south for the first time; traditionally the Sultanate had expanded east or west, but spurred on by European conquests in Africa Nasir ad-Din first conquered Nubia, then after a long series of skirmishes with African natives occupied the city of Sawakin. Whilst the Sultan stayed there in 1751 the city was besieged by a huge army sent by the Funj Sultan, which was annihilated by the army of ad-Din in the Battle of Sawakin. The Funj then sued for peace and Nasir ad-Din accepted the surrender of the last Funj Sultan, Badi III.
With the loyalty of the army and an important propaganda victory under his belt Nasir ad-Din managed to cement his position as the legitimate ruler of the Sultanate. One of his first reforms was the formation of the Diwan, a council of Emirs, Sheiks, Generals and of course Islamic scholars whose task it would be to advise the Sultan on important matters of state. Seated in the Diwan were regional governors, the most prominent (and loyal) generals of the army, a number of prominent Islamic scholars a number of Sheiks, a honorific bestowed upon those who ad-Din trusted particularly. The Diwan was headed by a Grand Vizier.
Between 1750 and 1762 this system worked excellently, until in '63 Grand Vizier al-Tariqah tried to usurp the throne of the elderly Sultan ad-Din by attempting to poison him. The plot was thwarted by the bodyguards of the Sultan and the Vizier was executed. Nasir ad-Din promptly proceeded to reconcile himself with the Hashasheen sect by offering Rashid ad-Din Sinan, the Old Man of the Mountain and Grand Master of Assassins, a seat on the council in return for ensuring that none on the Diwan would ever attempt such a thing again. The Grand Master accepted, bringing the assassin cult back into the good graces of the Sultan. Although the master of the holy killers rarely actually occupies his seat when the Diwan congregates, the members of the council must live in fear of the assassins, for over the course of history several ambitious generals or governors have died at their hands.
Having thus stabilized the political balance of the Sultanate, Nasir ad-Din in his last years attempted to reconcile Egypt with its once-ally, Byzantium. Although the two empires still regularly clashed over the Levant the Sultan and Emperor Gregorios II Komnenos in 1788 met in Jerusalem and came to an accord there that marked the beginning of a friendship between the two great nations of Asia Minor that would last until this very day.
Nasir ad-Din died in 1780 after a forty-four year reign. Upon his death the Sultanate mourned him greatly. His body was interred in a marble mausoleum, and the first act of his son after he was proclaimed Sultan was to order a great mosque built over his father's grave in order to commemorate his rule. Built near the Saladin Citadel in the middle of Cairo, the minarets of the Sultan Nasir ad-Din The Restorer mosque are to this day a prominent part of the Cairo skyline.VII. The 19th Century: Stability and Progress
In sharp contrast with the ages that had come before the 19th century was a time of quiet stability for the Sultanate. Although there were still minor skirmishes with the Byzantines over the Levant they had become almost a ritual of maneuver and counter-maneuver, far more like a chess game with live pieces than actual war. In fact in the 1850s the Sultanate, with ample Byzantine help, began preliminary work on the Suez Canal. Initially international opinion was skeptical and Suez Canal Company shares did not sell well overseas, and so the project remained primarily an Egyptian-Byzantine venture. Although much political infighting and squabbling resulted when the project turned out to be vastly more expensive than originally anticipated, and the Sultan more than once threatened to eject the Byzantines from the project, the Canal was finally completed in 1869. To this day the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company continues to be jointly owned by the two nations that dug it.
Even as the attention of the Sultan was focused on Suez however scheming Dutchmen and a two-faced Bedouin prince caused the Sultanate to embarrassingly lose control over a part of the Libyan coastline in the 1875 Crisis of Horses. Although the territorial losses were not very important the Sultan still saw fit to dispatch the Hashasheen, who killed the prince and the newly arrived European governor. Although this did not reverse the loss itself the Sultan felt he had sufficiently restored his honor. The Sultanate did begin heavy fortifications of Benghazi however, turning what was now the easternmost tip of the Sultanate into an impregnable fortress.
The losses of the Crisis of Horses meanwhile was more than compensated for by the signing of the historic Treaty of Antioch on October 2, 1887, the anniversary of the historic conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin. In this treaty the Byzantine Empire and the Sultanate of Egypt negotiated the spheres of influence in the Middle East. Byzantium ceded Jerusalem to the Sultanate, and in return the Sultan relinquished his claim to Syria and Damascus. The treaty further specified that Mesopotamia and Persia would fall within the Byzantine sphere, with the exception of Kuwait and the emirates of the Persian gulf, whose Sunni majorities naturally fell under the sway of the Sultan and the Caliph of Cairo.VIII. The 20th Century: Dawn of a New Age
Even today the Sultanate continues to straddle the fault between Africa and Arabia. After the troubles of the 18th century it has grown strong again in the 19th; its cities are slowly reinventing themselves as centers of industry, its ports are brimming with international trade, and the Suez Canal has brought unrivaled prosperity to Egypt and its provinces. The armies of the Sultan stand guard over harbors as far-flung as Benghazi and Kuwait, and the three holy cities of Sunni Islam – Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem – are firmly under the control of the Sultan and the Caliph.
The current Sultan, Musa'ed Hashim al-Din ibn Abdulmuin, strives toward a careful balance between conservatism and modernization. As tradition dictates the Sultanate is loathe to entangle itself in the affairs of others, being content to slowly expand its sphere of influence across Arabia and western Africa.