Al-Ahram: A Diwan of contemporary life (595)
Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, did not work alone. He was helped by many trusted aides, 30 of whom we introduce to mark the bicentennial of his accession to the throne. In part seven of this nine-part series, Professor Yunan Labib Rizk presents the men who pitched in Mohamed Ali's colossal reform drive.
Among the plethora of documents and articles that appeared in Al-Ahram 's edition, commemorating hundred years since the death of Mohamed Ali, was a kind of who's who of his times. "The eminent figures of his age", as this item was called, was a collective endeavour by the Al-Ahram editorial staff, whose policy it was to solicit studies and commentaries on the Mohamed Ali phenomenon from outside sources and produce factual supplementary material themselves. This, however, is not to underestimate the value of the encyclopedic entries they collected on the persons who shaped the era of the founder of modern Egypt.
Today's readers may be struck by how few Egyptians made it onto the list. It is important to bear in mind, however, that for centuries before the advent of Mohamed Ali Egyptians had little to say in the running of their country, relegated as they were in general to farming the land. It was Mohamed Ali who set into motion the processes that would eventually lead Egyptians into key positions in government and the military.
Readers will also be struck by the odd melange of foreigners on the list -- Circassians, Armenians, Albanians and Europeans for the most part. But then, perhaps the boundaries between foreign and Egyptian were not so clear cut in those days. In all events, most of these, like Egyptians, were Ottoman subjects. More importantly, as Al-Ahram notes in its introduction to this article on "the eminent figures in the age of Mohamed Ali, the architect, standard bearer and inspirer of the Egyptian renaissance", the very diversity of these individuals seemed proof of the fact that "this great reformer was bent on a single purpose, which was to carry out his reform programme, towards which end he engaged those he regarded as best qualified to assist him, regardless of their national origins or religious affiliations. Of the many individuals who appeared in this catalogue, of the great men of Egypt of the early 19th century, we have chosen the following 30:
El-Sayed Omar Makram, Naqib Al-Ashraf (head of the Descendants of the Prophet) : Born in Assiout circa 1755, he was educated at Al-Azhar. Instead of joining the university's teaching staff after graduation he involved himself in public affairs. He mediated on behalf of Murad Bek and Ibrahim when Hassan El-Jazairli came to discipline them for insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. When the French invaded Egypt, Omar Makram was at the vanguard of the Egyptians that rose to defend their country. Following the defeat of the Mamelukes, he fled for fear of being hunted out for revenge by the occupiers. Bonaparte ordered that Makram be welcomed back to Egypt with full honours. In 1805, Makram declared his support for Mohamed Ali and helped him thwart the conspiracies to either kill him or have him expelled from Egypt. Later, however, he and Mohamed Ali fell into dispute over taxation matters, and Mohamed Ali had him exiled. He died in 1822.
Mohamed Bek the Defterdar: An in-law of Mohamed Ali and one of his most trusted friends, he was appointed defterdar (senior financial administrator) soon after Mohamed Ali's rise to power. He was noted for his valour, gallantry and intelligence. However, these qualities were eventually overshadowed by the reputation he acquired when avenging the death of Mohamed Ali's son, Ismail, in Sudan. His massacre of some 20,000 people, many of whom were subjected to cruel and diabolic forms of torture before their death, earned him widespread censure for his brutality. He conquered Sudan at the head of an army of 30,000. During this disciplinary campaign he had a map drawn up of the areas through which he passed. The map was widely admired for its detail and precision. Later, he was made a member of the National Geographic Society in Paris. He died in 1822.
Mohamed Bek Lazuglu: Katkhouda, or deputy viceroy of Egypt. One of Mohamed Ali's closest aides at the outset of his reign, he acted as charge d'affaires for Mohamed Ali when the pasha travelled to the Hijaz. Ever vigilant to protect the rights of the Mohamed Ali family, when Latif Pasha returned from Istanbul to instigate a coup d'état, Lazuglu foiled the conspiracy. He succeeded in luring Latif Pasha into a trap and killing him, after which he drove Latif's army into the sea. He was born in Egypt and died poor.
Youssef Boghus: Took up residence in Rashid following the death of his father. However, he fled to Izmir following the French invasion of Egypt and only returned after they left. Accused of squandering Mohamed Ali's money, he was sentenced to death. However, the sentence was not carried out because Boghus had performed a number of services for the executioner. Several days later, the executioner learned that Mohamed Ali had come to regret issuing the order to have Boghus killed. He brought Boghus in to the pasha and Boghus begged forgiveness, which his master granted. Since that time, Boghus never left the pasha's side. He was his translator, minister of foreign affairs and minister of trade. On one occasion, Mohamed Ali said, "Boghus is the only man whom I trust completely and can fully depend on". Because of this confidence Boghus had great influence and his opinion always prevailed. When he died in 1844, Mohamed Ali ordered an official funerary procession.
Youssef Kamel Pasha: Son-in-law of Mohamed Ali through his marriage of Mohamed Ali's daughter, Princess Zeinab, in 1846. Before his marriage he had occupied a key government position. Under the Khedive Abbas (viceroy from 1848-1854) he was appointed minister of education to replace Adham Bek, but was soon dismissed. He then took up residence in Istanbul, where he rose through government ranks until he became Grand Vizier. Kamel Pasha was a highly erudite man and a poet. He wrote a history entitled Kamal al-Kamal (The Perfection of Perfection) and translated Telemac into Turkish. He died in 1876.
Motosh Pasha: His real name was Mustafa; however, it was the custom among some peoples of Anatolia and Macedonia to abbreviate names. Thus, Mustafa was shortened to Motosh. Before coming to Egypt he worked on trading vessels. Appointed admiral of the navy by Mohamed Ali, he took part in the campaign against Acre. When Osman Noureddin resigned, Mohamed Ali elevated him to Chief-Admiral of the Egyptian navy. He held this post until he died in 1843.
Ismail Jabal Tareq (Gibraltar): The first fleet admiral of the Egyptian navy. Of Turkish origin, he learned several languages and was highly erudite, even if his knowledge of naval matters was weak. He fell in Rhodes and died on board the ship that was taking him to Alexandria. As the ship approached the port of Damiatte, his body was placed in a wooden coffin and thrown into the sea. However, the coffin did not sink and was carried by the waves onto the shore. It was fished out of the water and he was buried on land.
Mohou Bek: Again, the Turkish custom was to use an abbreviated form for Mohamed. Originally from the land of the Kurds, Mohou Bek was a close friend of Mohamed Ali who charged him with dangerous secret missions to be carried out along the northern Syrian border. His success was such that the sultan mistrusted his presence among the Kurdish tribes and demanded he be relocated. Mohou Bek succeeded Othman Bek as governor-general of Sudan. Regarded there as a just and merciful ruler, he built the army barracks in Khartoum and had wells dug along the desert roads remote from the Nile to serve the people and travelling caravans.
Muharrem Bek: An in-law of Mohamed Ali. Initially inspector of the construction of the naval yard, he became governor of Alexandria and then chief admiral of the Egyptian navy. Although he was not known for any particular naval engagement, he bequeathed to us a translation into Turkish of the Egyptian naval regulations. He died in 1847. The vast gardens of his palace in Alexandria became an attraction for foreign tourists who would spend their idle afternoons there until sunset. The neighbourhood that now stands there still bears his name.
Artin Bek: A member of the first study mission sent by Mohamed Ali to Paris. When he returned from France after completing his studies in law and administration he was appointed dean of the School of Engineering in Boulaq. He then became first secretary and translator for Mohamed Ali. Following the death of Boughous, he was appointed minister of foreign affairs. The British consul called him deceitful and an intriguer; however, the French praised him highly and he was one of their greatest supporters.
Suleyman Pasha (Colonel Sèves): Originally an officer in the army of Napoleon who served in the Battle of Waterloo. In 1819 he came to Egypt where Mohamed Ali charged him with searching for coal mines in the Eastern Desert and then with modernising the organisation of the Egyptian army. To him goes the credit for training the first Egyptian army. After his conversion to Islam, he took part in the Morea battle to supress the revolt of the Greeks of Morea, and married a Greek captive. He also took part in the first Syrian campaign, after which he returned to Egypt to organise the school system. In 1837 he returned to Syria to quell the Druze uprising and to reorganise the Egyptian army preparatory for the decisive battle. It was he who devised the strategy that led to the defeat of Ottoman forces at Nezib. After this battle, however, he fell out with Ibrahim Pasha and asked to return to Egypt. Mohamed Ali refused the request because of the delicacy of the military situation. Following the Treaty of London in 1840, Suleyman Pasha retired to a quiet life in his palace overlooking the Nile. In 1845, he travelled to France in the company of Ibrahim Pasha.
Khurshid Pasha: His was a life teeming with heroism and valiant deeds. Among the Mamelukes to enter into military service under Mohamed Ali, he was appointed governor of Sinar in 1830 and then deputy minister of war in 1835 after having been granted the rank of Bek. Two years later he returned to Sudan to take up the post of governor-general. He was, indubitably, one of the greatest, most widely reputed, most fondly remembered and longest lived governors of Sudan. He was indefatigable in his efforts to develop Sudan and ensure the safety of the lives and property of its people. He urbanised the city of Khartoum, in which he introduced construction with brick and wood, and he expanded Sudanese agriculture. Before returning the Sudan, Mohamed Ali elevated him to the rank of pasha. He remained in Sudan until 1837, when he was appointed minister of war. In addition to restructuring that ministry, he waged war on bribery, sloth and negligence. In 1838, he was obliged to go to the Hijaz to put down the rebel movement. His swift and astounding success at this deeply disturbed the British. Khurshid Pasha worshipped Mohamed Ali but he, in turn, was loved and admired by all members of the army.
Mustafa Bahgat Pasha: A famous engineer, he received his primary education at Qasr Al-Aini Preparatory School and then joined the School of Engineering. He was a member of the first study mission to France. Upon his return, he was appointed dean of Qasr Al-Aini then dean of the Artillery Academy in Tura. Later he became chief engineer of public works, in which capacity he was charged with facilitating navigation of the Nile cataracts. He also worked on the barrages construction project. He died towards the end of the reign of the Khedive Ismail.
Hassan El-Iskandarani: Born on the banks of the Black Sea in 1790, he came to Egypt in 1800. Mohamed Ali took him under his wing and employed him in the palace. Eventually, however, he stated his desire to join the navy. So, in 1817, Mohamed Ali included him in a study mission to France. Following his graduation from the Naval Academy at Toulon, he undertook three scientific expeditions on French vessels, in the course of which he visited Brazil, Norway and Sweden. Upon his return to Egypt in 1825, he commanded several Egyptian ships and took part in the naval campaign against Greece. In the famous Battle of Navarino, his ship exploded and he was spared death only by a miracle. In 1835, he was appointed Vice Admiral of the Egyptian Navy. He drowned at sea in 1852 during the Russian war.
Mustafa Mukhtar (Mohtar) Bek: The first minister of education in Egypt, he was a member of the first educational mission to France and one of its three leaders. In addition to his keen intelligence, he was noted for his inexhaustible energy, enthusiasm and scholastic inquisitiveness. He was appointed minister of education in 1837; however he did not serve long in this capacity for he died in 1839. Foreigners praised him highly, but it was his overindulgence in food and drink that hastened his death. He did not possess the excellent literary aptitude of most of his peers on the first educational mission, such as Rifaa El-Tahtawi.
Ahmed El-Mnikli Pasha: One of the great Egyptian commanders, he was reputed for his rare courage and profound devotion to Ibrahim Pasha. He was independent-minded and outspoken, so much so that Mohamed Ali once asked Ibrahim Pasha to "punish Ahmed El-Mnikli for his insolence in his correspondence". He was seriously wounded in the war against the Druze in 1838. After recuperating, he led the Egyptian infantry in the Battle of Nezib. Upon El-Mnikli's return from Syria, Mohamed Ali engaged him in various administrative positions. In 1846, Mohamed Ali sent him to Sudan to organise the government administration there. Upon assuming the throne in 1848, Ibrahim Pasha appointed El-Mnikli as minister of war and charged him with restructuring the army. Following Ibrahim's death, he was dismissed by Abbas I.
Hakakian Bek: Following the completion of his studies in public engineering in Britain, he returned to Egypt where, in 1836, he was appointed engineer of the paper factory. Two years later, he received the rank of bek and his brother-in-law recommended to Mohamed Ali that he replace the French engineer Linan. In 1842, Ibrahim Pasha suggested appointing Hakakian as supervisor of the construction of fortifications in Alexandria, on the grounds that Hakakian had specialised in this field of engineering during his eight years of study in England.
Mohamed Mazhar Pasha: A member of the first educational mission to Paris, Mazhar specialised in maths and engineering, at which studies he excelled, earning the praise of his instructors. Upon his return to Egypt he was appointed dean of the Artillery Academy in Tura. He built the Alexandria lighthouse, worked with the French engineer Mugel in the construction of the Qanater Kheiriya barrages and supervised the construction of the barrages on the Rashid branch of the Nile.
Ahmed Pasha Yegen: Son of Mohamed Ali's sister, he led the Egyptian campaign against the Hijaz in 1834, but failed to completely quell the rebellion. He was not well trained in military sciences. He was appointed director of the Buheira directorate, however Mohamed Ali suspended him soon afterwards, ordering an investigation into matters pertaining to his financial management. In 1848, he was appointed minister of war. Following Mohamed Ali's death, the Ottoman sultan appointed Yegen viceroy of Damascus. Yegen travelled to Istanbul to plead his inability to accept the post.
ï Salim Fathi Pasha: Famous for his part in the Crimean War, his star shone in the Battle of Obatoria. In the Mohamed Ali era, he first served as dean of the General Staff College then, in 1848, he was appointed commander of the infantry forces. Of all the military leaders, he was closest to the model of European sophistication.
Osman Nureddin Pasha: One of Mohamed Ali's Mamelukes. Admired by the Pasha for his intelligence and diligence, he was sent to Italy and France to be educated in the naval sciences and foreign languages. Upon his return to Egypt, he supervised translation activities, as well as the army, navy and administration. He had Mohamed Ali's full trust and confidence and he worked well with the foreigners, engaged in government administration, who appreciated his treatment of them. His last post in Egypt was commander of the Egyptian fleet. However, his failure to surround and defeat the Ottoman fleet at Rhodes, enabling the fleet to flee back to Istanbul, incurred Mohamed Ali's wrath. Perhaps fearing the consequences of the viceroy's anger, he took the occasion of the rebellion in Crete and Mohamed Ali's preoccupation with quelling the rebellion to tender his resignation. He then travelled to Istanbul where he was appointed to a high government post. He died a year later of plague.
Omar Bek: An Italian chemist, who assumed an Arabic name, he found a new method for extracting saltpetre without the need for firewood, using the heat from the sun instead. He founded a large saltpetre plant at Badrashin and using his new process succeeded in reducing costs from 10 to 0.4 piastres a kilogramme. Mohamed Ali expressed his gratitude through generous financial rewards and by bestowing on him the rank of bek. A French official said Omar Bek that he was the happiest foreigner in Egypt.
Cerisy Bek: The architect of the Egyptian navy yard and fleet. Mohamed Ali famously said of him, "France sent us the genius who within the space of three years created a great fleet and a vast arsenal". Cerisy Bek arrived in Egypt in 1829. Before then, he had constructed several ships that Mohamed Ali had commissioned in Toulon. When Mohamed Ali asked the government of France for someone to help him build the Alexandria naval arsenal, France selected Cerisy. Mohamed Ali gave him full powers to complete the work in the shortest time possible, and he furnished him with all the material assistance he required. In 1835, a quarrel between Cerisy Bek and Bisson Bek led the former to tender his resignation. Mohamed Ali tried in vain to persuade the French engineer to withdraw his resignation and deeply regretted his sudden decision.
Bisson Bek: French sea captain who was pensioned off because of his political leanings. He claimed that following Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, he offered to take Napoleon to the US on his (Bisson's) ship. When Mohamed Ali decided to build a navy, he asked France to loan him some naval officers. The French consul suggested to Bisson that he volunteer and Bisson agreed. Bisson performed great services in the Egyptian navy, for which he was rewarded the post of vice admiral. He shared the command of the Egyptian fleet with Admiral Othman Nureddin Pasha, Admiral Mutash Bek and Admiral Muharram. He died in 1837.
Mugel Bek: Mohamed Ali brought over this French public works engineer to upgrade the port in Alexandria. Pleased by Mugel's work he commissioned him to design the Qanater Kheiriya barrages. Mugel produced an entirely different project than that which Linan, the person who had been initially charged with this task, had designed. When Abbas I suspended work on the barrages due to lack of funds, Mugel returned to France.
Lampert Bek: French engineer who came to Egypt with the SaintSimonians and remained in the country after they left. He entered the service of the Egyptian government, and was appointed dean of the School of Engineering, after having participated in the Qanater Kheiriya barrage project. In 1849, he was promoted to amiralay and was granted the title bek. He left Egypt immediately following Mohamed Ali's death.
Jomil: A Frenchman brought over by Mohamed Ali to reorganise the textile industry. One day while in Mohou Bek's garden, he came across a high-quality fibre breed of cotton. He advised Mohamed Ali to augment the cultivation of this breed throughout the country. It later became known in Europe as Jomil and in Egypt as Mohou cotton.
Hamoun: French veterinarian who came to Egypt to help establish the School of Veterinary Sciences. He spoke Arabic fluently and was highly skillful in his work. However, he was brought up on charges of bribery and sentenced to banishment from Egypt. Hamoun avenged himself by publishing a book in which he lashed out against the policies of Mohamed Ali and against the Egyptian people in general. While still in Egypt his rivalry with Clot Bek was so intense that it evolved into a bitter enmity.
Clot Bek: He arrived in Egypt in 1824 to assume the post of chief physician for the Egyptian army. He was stationed at Abu Zaabel. When he realised how poor the general level of the soldiers' health was he persuaded Mohamed Lazuglu to build a new hospital and then to found a national medical college to enable Egypt to free itself of dependency upon foreign doctors. Clot Bek assumed responsibility for these tasks and ultimately succeeded after overcoming many difficulties. In 1837, the hospital and medical college he founded in Abu Zaabel were relocated to Qasr Al-Aini Palace. During his visit to Europe in 1839, he campaigned on behalf of Mohamed Ali and also published his invaluable Overview of Egypt, which had a great impact among political circles. It was he, too, who recommended moving the insane asylum from the Baimaristan to the new civil hospital that he established in Ezbekiya. He also founded an institute for midwifery and trained 10 Ethiopian women in this art. He was resolute in his fight against cholera, however, he mistakenly believed that the disease was not contagious.
Linan de Bellefont: Although he came to Egypt as an employee of the British Royal Geographic Society, he entered into the service of Mohamed Ali as an irrigation engineer. In this capacity, he supervised the construction of numerous small canals. He also produced a large map, highlighting the works Mohamed Ali undertook to improve irrigation in Egypt. In 1836, Mohamed Ali assigned him to supervise the construction of the Qanater Kheiriya barrages. However, his lack of experience led to its initial failure. In 1838, Artin Bek persuaded Mohamed Ali to hand de Bellefont's post to Hakakian Bek. Upon intervention of the French consul and many members of the French community in Egypt, Mohamed Ali reversed his decision. In 1846, Linan was awarded the rank of bek. He married two women, one Ethiopian, the other Oriental. He produced an enormous volume on the public works undertaken by Mohamed Ali and his descendants.