Mamluk Empire

Mamluk Empire(1250-1517) was an empire based in Cairo, Egypt run by military slaves called Mamluks of mainly Turkish roots. They took power from the Ayyubids of Egypt and lost power after a battle with the Ottomans in Cairo in 1517.

Organization and Administration

Mamluks were slave soldiers, taken in when they were young. They were trained on horseback with bow and arrow and curved sword and shaped into a disciplined fighting force. After finishing training, the soldier would be freed and given promotion by the master, a sultan, in the military or goverment administration. The sultans were selected from leading emirs. Mamluks controlled the day to day activities of the government.


The Mamluks were big patrons of the arts. Their architecture was designed for charity and the public good. Many islamic schools were built called madrassas. One single identifying trait of Mamluk architecture was the use of very bright tiles. Mamluk Architecture was characterised by buildings with decorated sculptured stone, stucco, and marble collage and metal and wood furnishings, decorated with precious materials. Mamluk architecture was marked by tiered minarets, massive carved domes, entrance portals, and marble mihrabs.

They developed unique military architecture like the maydan or training grounds. The largest maydans were marked by columns, stone walls, wells, water wheels, palaces, stables for horses. The most famous of the maydans were Maydan al Salihi and Maydan al Zahiri.


Mamluk decline accelerated after the middle of the 1300s, the latter was due to diverse factors: military attacks, plagues, poor leadership. Plagues were major factors. Between 1347 thru 1349, Egypt was hit by the Black Death. The Black Death consumed numerous young Mamluks. Military attacks played a role. In 1400, Tamerlane (Timur) sacked Damascus and Alleppo. In 1403, Marshal Jean Boucicaut bombed the ports of Syria, in naval raids. The latter military attacks drained the economic resources of the empire. Egypt and Syria never recovered their previous economic prosperity. Bad leadership also lead to decline. Qansuh al Ghawri, the last major sultan was unable to deal with the Portuguese threat in the Indian Ocean, due to old age. The Portuguese disrupted regular sea route in the Indian Ocean. In 1516, the Ottoman Empire viewing the Mamluk Empire as a threat to its design, pulverized Mamluk army at Marj Dabiq and outside Cairo.

tags: egypt