Biographic Sketch of Mohammad Ali, Pacha of Egypt, Syria, and Arabia


Biographic Sketch of Mohammad Ali (1769–1849), composed by an unknown author, was published in Washington in 1837. Muḥammad ʻAlī was pasha and wali (governor) of Egypt within the Ottoman Empire from 1805 until his death. The book begins by comparing him to Napoleon, noting that they shared the same birth year and the same “insatiate ambition.” The author describes Muḥammad ʻAlī’s military service under the Ottoman governor of Kavalla in Rumelia (northeastern Greece). Muḥammad ʻAlī also became a tobacco dealer during this period, an experience that probably inspired him to establish military and commercial monopolies during his rule in Egypt. The booklet recounts his murder of the surviving Mamluk beys (provincial governors) outside the Cairo citadel in 1811 after a military celebration in honor of his son, Ṭūsūn. The Mamluks were Egypt’s de facto rulers from 1760–98, and they were also Mohammad Ali’s last major internal rivals. The final portion of the book describes Muḥammad ʻAlī's campaigns in Syria against his nominal overlord, Sultan Mahmud II (1789–1839). The author expresses the hope that an independent Egypt ruled by Muḥammad ʻAlī would be enlightened and pro-European. Muḥammad ʻAlī did establish a local hereditary dynasty in Egypt, but neither he nor his successors secured complete independence from the Ottomans.

Last updated: January 10, 2014