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Encyclopedia > Mehemet Ali
See Mehemet Ali (Turkey) for the Turkish foreign minister and regent.
Muḩammad `Alī

Muḩammad `Alī (many spelling variations, included Turkish Mehmet Ali, are encountered) (1769-August 2, 1849), was a viceroy of Egypt, and is sometimes considered the founder of modern Egypt.

Muḩammad `Alī, an Albanian born in Kavaja, 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 a powerful modernized, Industrial force in the Middle East.

While throughout his reign he was the nominal vassal of the Ottoman sultan, he acted independently. While he aided the sultan in fighting in the Greek War of Independence and put down a Wahhabi revolt in Arabia for him, later the two 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. Russian intervention led 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 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 of the following year. He was succeeded by two of his sons—Ibrahīm and `Abbās—but both were weak rulers, and, in large part because of his excesses, the country fell under the domination of Europeans.

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This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.



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