Through a microhistory of a small province in Upper Egypt, this book investigates the history of five world empires that assumed hegemony in Qina province over the last five centuries. Imagined Empires charts modes of subaltern rebellion against the destructive policies of colonial intruders and collaborating local elites in the south of Egypt.
Abul-Magd vividly narrates stories of sabotage, banditry, flight, and massive uprisings of peasants and laborers, to challenge myths of imperial competence. The book depicts forms of subaltern discontent against “imagined empires” that failed in achieving their professed goals and brought about environmental crises to Qina province. As the book deconstructs myths about early modern and modern world hegemons, it reveals that imperial modernity and its market economy altered existing systems of landownership, irrigation, and trade— leading to such destructive occurrences as the plague and cholera epidemics.
The book also deconstructs myths in Egyptian historiography, highlighting the problems of a Cairo-centered idea of the Egyptian nation-state. The book covers the Ottoman, French, Muhammad Ali’s, and the British informal and formal empires. It alludes to the U.S. and its failed market economy in Upper Egypt, which partially resulted in Qina’s participation in the 2011 revolution. Imagined Empires is a timely addition to Middle Eastern and world history.
Imagined Empires A History of Revolt in Egypt
Ottomans, Plague, and Rebellion
In 1785, the Ottoman sultan received a report on the state of affairs in Egypt that revealed unpleasant news. Egypt, one of the shiniest jewels in the empire's crown, was not one intact province under the sultan's full hegemony. The eminent officer who compiled the report described the existence of an autonomous state in the south. Seemingly enjoying no access to this state, the Ottoman officer gave brief and incomplete information about its government. According to the report, the autonomous regime in Upper Egypt was ruled by its own Arab tribal regime that did pay an annual tax to the sultan, but Cairo's Ottoman governor exercised no authority over it. About one of its legendary leaders, the report stated,
The Arab named Shaykh Hammam is resident in ... the province of Upper Egypt. He always has in his side four thousand Arab troops, and he controls by right of inheritance most of the villages of Upper Egypt. They [Hammam and his sons] never come to Cairo.... They always pay in full all the money and grains required for the treasury from their village, and they never oppose the tax collection. They themselves appoint and send twenty governors annually to the towns and provinces under their authority, and they collect approximately several thousand purses every year.
Stories about this mysterious independent state recorded by other Ottoman officers reveal more surprises. Interestingly, the peasants who inhabited southern Egypt exercised a degree of leverage over their government to the extent that, on occasions of discontent, they could demand that the ruling elite pack up and leave. Highly impressed with this state, contemporary French observers and, later, Egyptian intellectuals of the nineteenth century called it a republic. In one incident, in 1695, the ruling Hawwara tribe formed an alliance with separatist military factions in Cairo and went to war against the Ottoman governor. Amid the conflict, plague broke out and was exacerbated due to severe food shortages throughout Egypt. The discontented peasants of Qina, the capital of the southern state, asked their Hawwara leaders to take their belongings and families and leave. "We are people of plowing and harvesting, and more than half of us died. We will no longer fight and disobey the sultanate,"said the farmers.The leaders of the tribe departed for the eastern mountains bordering the Nile, but they came back shortly afterward-despite local resentment-with the support of the Ottoman sultan and restored their regime.
The existence of this state without a doubt comes as surprising news to many historians of the Ottoman Empire. Ottomanists traditionally have viewed Egypt as a unified province, controlled centrally by Cairo's military elite and the efficient imperial bureaucracy in Istanbul. Recent theoretical trends add that the imperial "core" in Istanbul made Egypt, along with other provinces in eastern Europe and the Arab lands, into a dependent "periphery." The entire new province was thus incorporated into a hegemonic Ottoman "world economy" that prevailed in the Mediterranean. For Upper Egypt-a whole half of Egypt, in fact the richer half then-this is a mere myth. For three continuous centuries, ever since Sultan Selim's conquest of Cairo in 1517, an autonomous regime formed in the south under a local dynasty. Moreover, the south was a key part of what many world historians call the Indian Ocean world economy, the global hegemonic system of that period, of which the Ottoman Empire itself was a known dependent.
This chapter argues that the Ottoman was an imagined empire in Upper Egypt. In the south of the country the core/periphery relationship was reversed: the consumerist imperial core was dependent on a capitalist periphery. Furthermore, when the empire attempted to make an actual appearance in the south, its presence only brought about environmental crises, including the onset of the plague, and eventually triggered subaltern rebellion. This chapter follows the formation of government and economic systems that existed under the independent tribal regime of the south. This state reached its maturity in the eighteenth century, under the government of the legendary Hammam that almost amounted to an early "republic"-as contemporary French observers asserted. Whenever the Ottoman Empire attempted to manifest itself in the south, the chapter demonstrates, its appearance only disturbed the political stability and disrupted an existing social contract between this state and its subjects, which generated subaltern rebellion that the empire then helped to crush. More importantly, the empire's appearance in the south killed people, as it carried with it an "imperial plague" all the way from Istanbul.
One Sultan, Two States: Wilayat al-Sa'id
Shortly after Sultan Selim I conquered Egypt, a "two-state" system was born in the new province. The official rulers of Egypt were the Mamluk officers of Turco-Circassian origin who took over Cairo's citadel after the Crusades in the thirteenth century. Nonetheless, one fierce Arab tribe, the Hawwara, established de facto control over Upper Egypt beginning in 1380, when, after prolonged wars against the Mamluks, the tribe dominated agricultural properties, trade, and industries in the south. The sultan subscribed to the existing status quo as he concluded peace treaties with the Hawwara and was content to receive the tributes and generous gifts that the tribe sent to Istanbul annually. Meanwhile, the sultan kept the loyal officers of the former Mamluk elite in power in the north but under the authority of an appointed governor pasha sent from Istanbul. Thus, two separate states immediately took shape out of this postconquest arrangement: a settler, military regime in the north; and a native, tribal regime in the south.
Soon afterward, this two-state system was written into law. In 1525, when Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent issued the first book of imperial decrees to organize Egypt, Qanunname-i Misir, he regulated the administrative independence of Upper Egypt from Cairo. Wilayat al-Sa'id, or the province of Upper Egypt,was the official name the sultan used to refer to the southern state. According to the new imperial law, the appointed Ottoman pasha, Egypt's governor, in Cairo enjoyed no authority over the southern state's tribal rulers beyond tax collection, and he was not even authorized to punish them if they did not pay. The sultan reserved this right only for himself, and the Hawwara were to report directly to Istanbul. The imperial decree also laid out the Hawwaras' main administrative duties as rulers, including land reclamation, organizing irrigation, collecting taxes, sending annual gifts to the sultan, and crushing rebels from other Arab tribes.
Another imperial law would consolidate the autonomous power of the Hawwara: the landownership code. After conquering Egypt, Istanbul introduced tax farms, or iltizams, as a system of both landholding and tax collection. Each tax farmer won his piece of land, which could amount to several villages, through public auctions. The farmer would keep the land for a period of only three years, during which he maintained its cultivation through local tenants. At the end of each year, the tax farmer collected the land's fixed annual tax, sent it to the Ottoman governor in Cairo, and kept the remainder of the revenue for himself. In the northern military regime, Mamluk officers were the tax farmers of the Delta villages. Hawwara tribal leaders were by far the largest, and at times the sole, tax farmers of the south. More importantly, as a sign of their independence, they maintained lifetime, hereditary rights to their landholdings. On the eve of the seventeenth century, they controlled about 65 percent of the land in Upper Egypt, and the Ottoman governor in Cairo collected revenue from the rest. From the second half of the seventeenth century and through the eighteenth, Stanford Shaw recounts, the Hawwaras' "rule was formalized by their appointments as hereditary multazims." In the mid-1700s, one Hawwara ruler, Shaykh Hammam, was the sole tax farmer inthe entirety of Upper Egypt, from Asyut, through Qina, to Aswan.
Aspiring to limit Hawwara power, the Ottoman pasha in Cairo appointed a governor-a Mamluk officer-in northern Upper Egypt. The city of Girga, closer to Cairo, was made into the seat for this new governor. Official records often referred to Upper Egypt as the province of Girga, or Wilayat Girga, in hope that the city's governor would impose control over the south. Nonetheless, the Hawwara not only established hegemony over incoming governors, they also controlled the very process of appointment in Cairo. When the Hawwara did not approve of a candidate, they blocked the grain tax intended for Istanbul. The Ottoman pasha and the Mamluk elite in Cairo were always forced to concede to the Hawwara. In one incident, in 1696, the Hawwara vetoed the candidacy of Mustafa Bey by threatening to forgo sending grain to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Hijaz, which would damage the sultan's image as the caliph of Muslims. Cairo's council thereafter excluded this candidate. Furthermore, when the Hawwara did not approve of a governor already in office, they simply terminated his tenure by ending his life. In general, the Mamluk governor of Girga stayed in power for an average of only one to three years. Around 1659, one governor, known for his despotic policies, managed to stay for five and a half years; however, his tenure ended abruptly with his murder. His successor faced a similar fate.
The secret behind the rise of the Hawwaras' regime, from the Mamluk through Ottoman times, was the geographic importance of their seat of power: Qina Province, deep in the south of Upper Egypt. The capitalist commercial, agricultural, and industrial wealth of this province constituted the necessary material foundations for an independent state, as it allowed the Hawwara to rise first as an entrepreneurial and then as a political elite. Qina Province was an integral part of the Indian Ocean world economy, the old global system that encompassed the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, East Africa, and the entirety of the Indian Ocean. As Andre Gunder Frank, Janet Abu Lughod, and many theorists of world economy assert, this was the hegemonic economic system from the rise of Islam until the nineteenth century, after which it was disrupted and replaced by a modern European-led system. Through the Red Sea ports of 'Aydhab and Qusayr, the towns of the province (including Qus, Isna, Qina, and Farshut) were connected to Arabian and Yemeni ports and received important global commodities such as spices and coffee. The same towns also received East African trade, either via Nile sailboats or overland caravans, including luxury goods such as gold and slaves. These towns then served as Nile ports that reexported oriental and African commodities north to Cairo and on to the Mediterranean.
Within the Indian Ocean world system, Qina Province was itself a major center of commercial agriculture. As a sugarcane, grain, and cotton producer, the province exported its own refined sugar and abundant grain to the north and sold its textiles to the regional market in East Africa. The Hawwara tribe had monopolized agriculture production in the province since the Mamluk period, and the capital the tribe accumulated allowed them to grow into a dynasty. In fact, the Hawwara initially rose to power as the owners of sugarcane plantations and sugar refineries, when sugarcane was the most important cash crop in Qina Province, especially in the area of Farshut. The Mamluk sultans granted Hawwara notables large lands in Upper Egypt as fiefs, or iqta'at, and the Hawwara soon transformed them into lucrative sugar plantations. Upper Egyptian sugar was consumed domestically and exported to Middle Eastern and European countries, including, Italy, southern France, Catalonia, Flanders, England, and Germany.B/B
Evidently, there was a reversed core/periphery relationship between Istanbul and Qina, where the imperial core was actually dependant on the capitalist periphery to provide both sustenance and luxury consumption. After the conquest, the imperial granaries in Istanbul relied primarily on the Upper Egyptian grain tax, especially on wheat, to sustain its immense annual needs. As Shaw asserts, "most of the muqata'at [districts] of Upper Egypt were obliged to deliver their land taxes entirely in grain, and it was these grain payments which provided the entire supply used by the Imperial Treasury to maintain those depending on it for sustenance." In addition, it was the grain of Upper Egypt that the sultan-the caliph of Muslims-relied on to feed the inhabitants and pilgrims of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina each year. Grain from the south was shipped from Qina to the Red Sea port of Qusayr, unloaded at the port of Jeddah in Arabia, and shipped from there to Mecca and Medina.
Furthermore, the sugar of Upper Egypt, especially from Farshut in Qina Province, arrived in Istanbul and Anatolia by land and sea in ever-increasing quantities in order to sustain the needs of the major Ottoman cities, as Shaw also points out. Istanbul annually requested and received hundreds of qantarsof Upper Egyptian sugar. The empire also received its essential provisions of Yemeni coffee and African commodities, including gold and slaves, from the Upper Egyptian Red Sea and Nile trade routes. Yemeni coffee came from the port of Mocha to Qusayr and Qina and from there was shipped north. A large portion of the gold and African slaves imported by Istanbul arrived via Upper Egyptian trade routes from the Sudan and Abyssinia.
The stability of the southern regime was based on a social contract between the ruling tribe and different subaltern groups in Upper Egypt. Peasants were the most important social group to which the Hawwara granted political agency; it was upon their grain and sugarcane that the dynasty built its capitalist fortune and subsequent hegemony. The peasants of Upper Egypt were largely either from Arab tribal descent or were Coptic Christians. Arab peasants enjoyed considerable leverage based on tribal networks, making it difficult for rulers to control them. Arab peasants did not deal with the ruling elite in individual terms; rather, the entire clan of a village dealt collectively with their respective tax farmers. This tribal arrangement provided those peasants with considerable power vis-à-vis the Hawwara. Collective bargaining often forced the Hawwara to acquiesce to peasant demands.
This virtual social contract stipulated that Arab peasants would cultivate the land and pay dues to Hawwara tax farmers. In return, the Hawwara were obliged to provide security by protecting the villages against raids from unsettled Arab tribes. The Hawwara generally managed these tribal attacks more successfully than Mamluk tax farmersin the Delta. Shaw affirms, "Their [Upper Egyptian peasants] lot was never as hard as that of the cultivators in Lower Egypt, for their masters were much better able to protect them from raids of other Arab tribes than was the central government." Security was without question the main concern of peasants. When the Hawwara failed to deliver security, the legitimacy of the ruling dynasty was threatened. Whereas the relationship between Mamluk tax farmers and the peasants of Lower Egypt was notoriously oppressive, Upper Egyptian peasants enjoyed a more dignified experience. Shaw writes that "the administration of this tribe [Hawwara] was equitable and beneficent; cultivation was maintained and the welfare of the peasants promoted far better than in Lower Egypt."
The second group with which the Hawwara established a social contract were the Copts, the native Orthodox Christians of Egypt, especially the educated accountants among them. Replicating the model followed by Cairo-based Islamic empires ever since the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, the Hawwaras' administration relied on Coptic expertise to run the financial system in Upper Egypt. The Hawwara hired Coptic mu'allims to manage the registers of their tax farms and private commercial businesses as well. Nevertheless, the Coptic financial clerks were sometimes subject to persecution when their influence and fortune grew beyond the limits that the Hawwara permitted.
Finally, unsettled Arab tribes, or the 'Urban, were another important social group with whom a political pact was necessary in order to ensure the stability of the Hawwara regime. The 'Ababida were the main tribe roaming Qina Province. They attacked villages and towns during daylight, robbed people in market places, and freed prisoners from jail. Despite their criminal actions, the 'Ababida and their shaykhs, as many European observers who were acquainted with them witnessed, were not naturally immoral people. They committed these crimes mostly as rebellious responses to state injustice. The tribe's shaykhs were fine men known for their generosity and hospitality; they kept their word and fulfilled their promises, as contemporary European visitors noted. The Hawwara co-opted the 'Ababida through peace agreements and placed the 'Ababida in charge of security matters. The 'Ababida were tasked with protecting certain villages and defending the Qusayr port's trade routes against the raids of other Arab tribes.
Hawwara tax farmers organized their relationship with peasants within the rules of Islamic law. They leased land to peasants through sharecropping contracts, according to which the tenant was obliged to pay the land's tax and hand in a share of the crops to the tax farmer. In addition, Qina's peasants held usufruct rights (furugh wa nuzul) to theland and could pass them down to their heirs. They exercised the rights to buy and sell agricultural land, which took the form of obtaining or relinquishing usufruct rights. They also enjoyed the right to mortgage their landholdings. In addition, peasants rented plots from Hawwara notables who held usufruct rights to large farms. The lease periods in these cases were as short as one year and as long as nine years. Justice was carried out in shari'a courts in order to minimize the exploitation of peasants. Like their fellow Muslims, the Coptic peasants of Upper Egypt enjoyed usufruct rights, in accordance with Islamic law, and rented land from the tax farmers.Transactions in landholding occurred without discrimination between Copts and Muslims.
The shari'a courts of Upper Egypt, the primary place of adjudication in the Hawwara legal system, reflected the south's autonomy. The provincial courts of Grand Cairo and the Delta were part of the state apparatus, and their judges often acted as part of the state bureaucracy. They adopted the Hanafi school of jurisprudence as the official legal framework, published the sultan's decrees (fermans) and other important administrative laws, and recorded grand military victories and political events in the empire. Among the duties of the provincial judge in the Delta was solving disputes among Mamluk tax farmers and investigating cases of negligence in land cultivation. In contrast, the courts of Qina Province were entirely independent of Cairo. The registers of the city of Isna's court, for instance, had no first page (preamble, or dibaja) referring to an official affiliation of this court with the Ottoman regime in the north. They did not publish any Ottoman decrees, as they were not obliged to apply them, and did not record any Ottoman or Mamluk events, since these were irrelevant to political matters in the province.
Four main schools of Islamic law dominated courts of the Muslim world at this time, and the Hawwara adopted one that differed from both Istanbul and Cairo. Whereas Istanbul adopted the Hanafi school as its official legal framework, and the Shafi'i school was dominant in northern Egypt, the Hawwara adopted the Maliki school because it was already used in southern courts and prevalent among Upper Egyptian scholars when the tribe came to power. Opinions from the Shafi'i school were still used in Qina's courts, for instance, but to a minor degree. Besides Islamic law, the Hawwara applied 'urf, or the code of local traditions. 'Urf in Upper Egypt referred to the Arab tribal code of ethics and collective government and was practiced in the Arab public councils, or majalis al-'arab. 'Urf was also officially considered in local shari'a courts.
The Hawwara built their own system of regional relations around Qina's trade routes. The traditional method of forming external alliances took place through intermarriage between dynasties, an act in which Hawwara family members participated with other ruling families in their Arab trade network. Hawwara family members married the daughters of the sharif of Mecca and became in-laws of the Hijaz ruling elite. The Meccan wives owned properties in the Hijaz that their Hawwara husbands managed on their behalves. Interestingly enough, Hawwara influence in North Africa was so extensive that for a period the tribe ruled Cyrenaica, the western Libyan province. In the eighteenth century, the Hawwara ruler carried the title of the commander of Upper Egypt and Cyrenaica, or amir al-Sa'id wa-Barqa.
The Hawwara built political alliances with specific Mamluk factions in the northern regime as well. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Cairo had two primary Mamluk factions: the Faqqariyya and the Qasimiyya, who sought power and competed to form a strategic alliance with the Hawwara.Obtaining the governorshipof Girga, in northern Upper Egypt, was crucial in the Faqqariyya-Qasimiyya rivalry because of both the economic resources of the south and the potential political benefits of an alliance with the Hawwara. Mamluk rebels opposing the imperial Ottoman regime traditionally escaped to Upper Egypt, where they received logistic support from the Hawwara and launched wars against their incumbent rivals in Cairo.
From Plague to Rebellion
On the eve of the eighteenth century, the two-state system in Egypt faced a severe crisis. As war erupted across Egypt, both regimes almost collapsed. While Cairo's Mamluk factions fought each other in a dispute over power, the Hawwara sought further independence by withholding their taxes from Cairo. The empire desperately attempted to contain the collapse using its best military strategies. The political turmoil invited massive environmental devastation: the poor throughout Egypt suffered food shortages and high prices, and the plague broke out immediately afterward, both in Cairo and in the north. The empire's failure to restore political stability in the two regimes only contributed to the spread of the epidemic. Moreover, the empire's attempt to make its presence felt in Upper Egypt took place at the expense of the subalterns: it sabotaged their first considerable uprising against the Hawwara.
In 1695, an Ottoman chronicler reported that the two incumbent Mamluk factions of the military regime in Cairo-the Qasimiyya and the Faqqariyya-intensified their competition over revenue and control of the Girga office. Their conflict was not new. It had erupted during several other major incidents through the previous decades when dissident factions revolted against the Ottoman governor pasha. Capitalizing on political turmoil in the north to further their autonomy, the Hawwara stopped sending their grain tax to the pasha in Cairo. Ahmad al-Damurdashi, an eighteenth-century officer and chronicler, relayed that the "Hawwara had sized the villages producing the kushufiya [lands assigned to the Ottoman governor in Cairo] revenues by obtaining taqasit [title deeds] and turning them into iltizams [tax farms] ... and ... were not concerned about the governor Pasha because they had agents among the notables of Cairo who purchased the jiraya [allowances in-kind] for 30 nisf feddan an ardabb.... The imperial granaries do not receive a single ardabb from the Hawwara." Consequently, an economic crisis broke out not just in the north but across all Egypt. Commodity prices increased fourfold and some food staples, such as wheat, barely, and beans, disappeared from the markets. The crisis intensified in the next year, with low Nile inundation and a subsequently dire harvest.
Amid the conflict, the plague broke out in Cairo. The Egyptian chronicler 'Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti recounts that bodies of the impoverished dead were collected from the streets, washed in state public baths, and buried en masse. It was an "imperial" plague, resulting from the empire's incompetence in maintaining the stability of the two-state system. According to the basic sultanic law regulating Egypt's administration, the Qanunname, a main duty of each state was agricultural organization, or ensuring the control of irrigation and drainage during the annual floods. Some contemporary European observers argued that the reason behind the sudden appearance of the plague was mismanagement of the Nile water after the flood, neglect of stagnant swamps, and low Nile inundation. This wave of the epidemic erupted during military conflict and a time of low Nile flood, when the two regimes neglected water control. Although this outbreak of the plague did not make it to Upper Egypt-as the region's dry air and hot weather mostly made it immune-the impoverished population of the south was migrating to Cairo and sweeping its hungry streets, only to die there in the epidemic.
Two years after this tragedy, in order to subjugate the southern regime of the Hawwara, Sultan Mustafa Khan issued a decree to send a Mamluk army equipped with the latest military technology from Cairo to Upper Egypt. The Supreme Council, or al-Diwan al-'Ali, of the governor pasha assembled to read the sultan's letter that commanded thus: "To Husayn Pasha. As soon as this noble receipt reaches you, you are to announce a general call for arms ... proceed to Girga and destroy the Hawwara tax farmers of Upper Egypt who sized the kushufiya villages [the tax farms of the pasha]. Take note and do not disobey." The Mamluk officers obeyed. 'Abd al-Rahman Bey promised to recover the villages seized by the Hawwara, in return for which he would be appointed the governor of Girga for three years. He made sure to have an official deed registering this promise. He equipped his army with two cannons, ammunition, an artilleryman, and a ferman granting amnesty. More importantly, he formed an alliance with a dissident faction from the northern Hawwara against the tax farmers of the southern Hawwara who controlled the tribal regime.
In response, the southern Hawwara were ready with an army of peasants and Nubians. After a long fight, they lost the battle. The Mamluks occupied their capital town in Qina Province, Farshut, and the Mamluk soldiers plundered their properties and took their women. They looted the Hawwaras' oil mills' machinery, flour mills' grounding stones, slaves, horses, and camels in Farshut and sent the spoils north by boat. Many of the peasants of Upper Egypt died in the battle, but the ruling Hawwara tax farmers were unharmed.
It was time for the southern peasants, who resented the destruction that the Hawwara regime had inflicted on them, to rebel. The peasant leadership, of Arab tribal origin, visited the defeated leaders of the Hawwara in Farshut, saying, "We are people of farming. More than half of us died [because of the war]. We no longer want to fight and disobey the sultanate."B/BIn response, the tribal ruling elite took their families and precious belongings and escaped through the western mountains with the goal of departing farther west. The next morning, peasant leaders walked from Farshut to meet with 'Abd al-Rahman Bey in his camp in order to serve him breakfast and show submission to his new order. They relayed to him what happened between them and the Hawwara and assured him again that they were the subjects, or ra'iyya, of the sultan. Then they pledged allegiance to Cairo and Istanbul. The bey appointed Mamluk tax farmers to replace the Hawwara in all of their former villages. News of the bey's victory and the Hawwaras' escape was relayed immediately to the sultan in Istanbul.
However, after supporting the subalterns in the beginning, the Ottoman imperial center sabotaged their rebellion. It did not take the Hawwara long to return and restore their full control over Upper Egypt. "In every place, money ... buys men prestige and glory.... It is the tongue for he who wants to be eloquent ... and the weapon for he who wants to fight,"read a poem recited by an Ottoman official during negotiations to reinstall the tribe. The Hawwara purchased their regime back from the sultan and his proxy administration in Cairo. After the Hawwaras' departure to the mountains, they had taken refuge with an Arab tribal leader, al-'Ayd, who gave his home to their families and saved their remaining properties. They asked the Arab leader to find them a merchant going Cairo to carry a message to their allies among the incumbent Mamluk officers there. He found a suitable merchant and they rented a boat to carry him-and their important message-north. Upon receiving the message, the officers-the sultan's appointed bureaucrats-inquired about the amount of money that Hawwara leaders might have to assist in buying back their landholdings and restoring authority over the southern villages.
As soon as the Hawwara received the response, they left for Cairo, bearing shipments of wheat to the Mamluk minister of mint. They arrived secretly at night and after dining spent the night at the minister's palace. An allied officer said, "Ask them if they have enough money to arrange to things." The Hawwara leaders responded, "Whatever you request is available. Just get us back our villages." The officer was so pleased by this response that he recited the abovementioned poem stating that money could buy everything. In a long session over a heavy meal and coffee, they agreed to plot against 'Abd al-Rahman Bey, have the pasha remove him from his position as the governor of Girga, and give the Hawwara back their tax farms.The plot succeeded and the newly appointed governor of Girga became a close ally of the Hawwara.
After Rebellion: A Southern "Republic"
Two decades after the onset of this environmental crisis and peasants' rebellion against the tribal regime, a republic was born in Upper Egypt. Upper Egypt was still an autonomous state governed by the returning Hawwara, but it was now based on a new social contract between the Hawwara and the subaltern classes of the south, to appease the latter. This republic emerged because of internal social conflicts and dynamics, in which the distant empire played no role aside from receiving annual tribute. Furthermore, the republic had its own political and social institutions, divorced from the imperial system. It was the state of Shaykh al-'Arab Hammam Ibn Yusuf.
Hammam was a legendary leader who founded a state that lasted for forty years, from the 1720s until 1769. He was born in Farshut around 1709 to a Hawwara ruler and was raised to inherit his father's position. Hammam unified Upper Egypt under one tax farmer, himself. Between the 1720s and 1730s he added extensive lands to his already vast inheritance and became practically the sole tax farmer inthe entirety of Upper Egypt from Asyut to Aswan. His lands were officially lifetime tax farms that he could pass to his heirs or, in legal terms, were akin to private property purchased from the sultan. With his independent position, he bypassed Cairo and established direct relations with Istanbul. James Bruce, a contemporary British traveler who had the pleasure to attend Hammam's court, observed, "This Shekh was a man of immense riches, and, little by little, had united in his own person, all the separate districts of Upper Egypt, each of which formerly had its particular prince [from the Hawwara leaders]. But his interest was great at Constantinople, where he applied directly for what he wanted, insomuch as to give a jealousy to the Beys of Cairo. He had in farm from the Grand Signior [the sultan] almost the whole country, between Siout and Syene [Asyut and Aswan]."
For the officers of the French expedition, who occupied Egypt by the end of 1790s, Hammam's state was a model to follow in creating a "national" and "just" government in Egypt comparable to the French Republic. For Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, the nineteenth-century Egyptian intellectual and translator of French civil law, Hammam's state was no less modern than the republican system that he studied in France. He called it jumhuriyya iltizamiyya, or a tax farming republic. Al-Jabarti, the eighteenth century Cairene chronicler, attributed similarly legendary characteristics to the Hammam: "The honorable Excellency; the magnificent refuge; the noble and royal in origin; the shelter of the poor and princes; the station and comforter of travelers and caravans; the commander; the most affluent and generous whose generosity covered the near and the far; the honor of the state; and the grand ruler of Upper Egypt.... He encompassed in his mind the knowledge of all the matters of Upper Egypt."
Bruce visited the town of Farshut and met with Hammam in the late 1760s. The Scottish man was impressed by the refined manners of this ruler: "We waited upon Shekh Hamam; who was a big, tall handsome man, I apprehended not far from sixty. He was dressed in a large fox-skin pelisse over the rest of his cloaths, and had a yellow India shawl wrapped about his head, like a turban. He received me with great politeness and condescension, made me sit down by him, and asked me more about Cairo than about Europe." Richard Pococke, another British voyager, was similarly impressed by Hammam's manners upon meeting him. Pococke was accompanied by an Armenian interpreter and an Aleppine merchant doing business in Upper Egypt. When they arrived in Farshut, Hammam's secretary escorted them to Hammam's court. "The Sheikh was sitting in the corner of his room by a pan of coals," noted Pococke. "He rose both when I came and when I left him; his dress was after the Arab manner." Hammam asked the traveler many questions "with a good-natured smile."
Hammam's state was a continuation of the reversed core/periphery case in the empire. He established monopolies over most Upper Egyptian trade and commercial agriculture and increased the dependency of the consumerist imperial core in Istanbul on its capitalist periphery. Hammam's monopolies emerged when Qina's market in the Indian Ocean system reached its highest point of maturity in the eighteenth century. In fact, it is not a historical accident that the "republic" of Hammam arose in this century when its economic foundations existed outside of the alleged Ottoman world economy. The city of Qina and the other towns of the province, including Qus, Farshut, and Nagada, gradually became some of the most important centers in Egypt for international trade. As historian Fred Lawson illustrates,
Several Upper Egyptian cities served as bases for this trading network at the turn of the century. Arguably the most significant of these was Qina, a major transshipment point on the Nile river.... The older merchant center at Qus was also active in the Red Sea grain and cloth trade during the 1790s, while Farshut and Nagada maintained trading relations with the Hijaz.... Any mention of the Sudan requires consideration of the second major commercial network of which Qina province was a part during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century-the trade between Sinnar, Dar Fur, and Abyssinia to the south with Cairo and Europe to the north. This network extended over a vast expanse of territory and handled a variety of commodities.
Trade in coffee, which was often destined for Istanbul, expanded tremendously in Qina's Red Sea port of Qusayr, especially as the volume of trade in the Suez port shrank because of less favorable navigation conditions. Ten to twenty ships visited Qusayr every month, while Suez received no more than sixty ships during the whole year. Hammam established a monopoly over Qusayr, where he seized an old castle and used it as a lodge for his guests. His own businesses carried wheat from Qina through Qusayr to the port of Jeddah in Arabia. He secured and protected the trade route between the Red Sea and Qina by winning the loyalties of particular Arab tribes, the Bedouin highway raiders, who were roaming the road. He assigned the duty of securing the Qusayr route to the 'Ulayqat tribe.
In addition, East African trade expanded in Farshut. Farshut was the final destination of darb al-jallaba (road of the importers) caravans coming from the Sinnar kingdom of the Sudan that carried slaves, ivory, and more. Again, one of the primary destinations of this precious cargo was Istanbul. Hammam made Farshut-his hometown-the seat of his state in Qina Province, and he monopolized much of the East African trade that passed through the city. Farshut also played a major role in establishing Qina's position as a famous sugarcane and sugar producer. Its sugar was an effective competitor with colonial American sugar in Istanbul, the Levant, and elsewhere in the East. Henry Light, a captain of the British royal artillery, noted that Farshut was the area "where the greatest quantity of sugar is made" and added that "the Levant chiefly derives its sugar from it [Farshut]. In no part of the East, which I visited, was colonial sugar to be found; that for the use of the seraglio at Constantinople comes from Fairshoot [Farshut], and is refined with extraordinary care." Hammam monopolized both the sugar industry in Farshut and the entire agricultural production of Upper Egypt. He owned twelve thousand bulls solely for purposes of sugarcane cultivation. In order to sustain this commercial power, he employed numerous plowing machines, waterwheels, flour mills, cows, and oxen and built countless storehouses filled with commercial crops.
Hammam gained a respected image in both Egyptian and European records because of the just government he founded in Upper Egypt. He established a power-sharing structure built on a new social contract with many of the region's subaltern and elite groups. The ultimate goal of this order was to sustain agricultural production, secure the movement of trade, and ensure political stability. In a continuation of the Hawwara government system, Hammam's contract incorporated peasants producing the commercial crops, educated Copts managing the finances of the state, and Bedouins protecting southern trade routes and carrying goods on their camels. Each of these groups played a vital role in maintaining the stability of Hammam's regime.
Hammam held a public council (called hukuma, or government) for villagers, town dwellers, and Bedouins to discuss socioeconomic occurrences and solve disputes through collective consultation. The council, organized at Hammam's immense ranch in Farshut, held daily, well-attended sessions. Attendees casually came and left the council as they pleased and were served breakfast and lunch from the kitchen of their affluent ruler's residence. In this council, peasants saw Hammam as a respected authority to whom they could appeal regarding disputes over usufruct rights, either between individual peasants or whole villages. The verdicts he issued in his council had the power of legal documents and were taken to the shari'a court to be notarized and applied by the judge.
The second group with which Hammam founded a social contract was elite Copts, especially educated accountants. Hammam's government was composed of many departments, each of which had its own Coptic auditors working day and night. After spending the day and two-thirds of the night meeting with the people who frequented his public council, Hammam spent the third part of the night with his Coptic bureaucrats dealing with state finances and attending to administrative affairs. Hammam's Coptic secretaries acted as his deputies in villages, collecting the grain tax from peasants and shipping it to Cairo. For example, he tasked the brothers Bulus and Jirjis, sons of Manqaryus, with collecting the grain taxes and sending them north. The same brothers also managed, as his agents, his financial transactions.
Coptic peasants in particular experienced a golden age under the rule of Hammam, as both eighteenth-century Arabic and foreign sources affirm. During the time of the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt (1798-1801), French scientists and officers asserted that they encountered pleasant memories of Hammam among wealthy and poor Copts of Qina Province three decades after his death. Copts told the French that they missed the days of security and justice under Hammam. A Coptic notable who accompanied the returning French forces to France compiled a treatise on freeing Egypt from the Ottomans and founding an independent republic. The new government that he and his French supporters envisioned was to be "just ... and national, like that of Sheikh Hammam in Upper Egypt."
Finally, the nomadic Arab tribes were another important social group whose consent was indispensable for the political stability of Hammam's regime. Hammam requested that the 'Ababida-the most important tribal group in Qina Province-settle in villages and towns in order to put a halt to highway robbery. After a quarter of a century spent plundering, Shaykh Nimr, the tribal chief of the 'Ababida, finally settled in the city of Daraw and became a friend and trading partner of Hammam. Bruce narrates, "For the first twenty seven-years of his life, he [Nimr] never had seen the Nile, unless upon some plundering party; that he had been constantly at war with the people of the cultivated part of Egypt, and reduced them often to the state of starving; but now ... he was old, a friend to Shekh Hamam, and was resident near the Nile." The two leaders formed a company for Red Sea trade. Hammam and Nimr's caravans carried cargos of wheat from Qina through Qusayr to Jeddah, and, of course, their caravans were the safest of all that passed through the desert between Qina and Qusayr.
Hammam respected the shari'a court and abided by its rules in political and economic life. He used the court to register administrative matters, such as notarizing and collecting grain taxes from villages, as well as to register his private businesses. Hammam sometimes attended the court himself, but in most cases he sent legal agents with signed letters to the judge. His deputies in large towns attended, on his behalf, cases regarding different types of tax registration, business transactions, and social matters. The local administrators of Hammam's government functioned through the court, as village and town notable shaykhs always attended court sessions that dealt with the economic and social life of the inhabitants of the province, which included buying and selling houses, shops, mills, and land; marriage and divorce; mortgage; and charitable endowment. Under Hammam, the shari'a court in Qina was a place of adjudication for Copts and Muslims alike. Copts registered their transactions in the court and sometimes had Muslim village shaykhs as witnesses. Hammam treated elite Copts with whom he had business as his legal equals in the court, since he exchanged properties with them and registered these transactions in order to maintain contractual rights for his minority citizens.
Hammam also relied on an Arab tribal code of ethicsto resolve communal and individual disputes in his public council. In 1757, the people of two villages, Nimsa and Misariyya, violently assaulted each other and subsequently appealed to Hammam's council to resolve the dispute. Hammam concluded a peace accord between the two parties and mandated that the people of the two villages should first pay their dues to the treasury. If one side killed someone from the other side, the latter would be entitled to revenge and allowed to kill four persons and receive ten bagsof blood money. Hammam forbade villagers from crossing the water canal that separated the two villages and decreed that transgressors would be mercilessly punished. On Sunday, which was the local market day, the two parties should mind their own affairs in the market and commit no transgressions against each other; otherwise, severe punishment would be inflicted on transgressors. The Hawwara deputy tax farmers in the two villages were in charge with executing punishments. The notable shaykhs of each village accepted the accord and consented to its stipulations, and the document was registered in the shari'a court.
Copts also frequented Hammam's council to resolve their disputes. In 1759, two Coptic brothers, Manqaryus and Sidarus, sons of Shunuda the goldsmith, quarreled with another Copt by the name of Habash Mikha'il over their shares in a house that the brothers had inherited from their mother, Ghazal, daughter of Jirjis the priest. Ghazal had inherited a share of the house of her father, who had bought it almost seventy years earlier and registered as his property in the shari'a court. The disputing parties presented the case before Hammam, who ruled that Manqaryus and Sidarus should retain their property rights to the house, a ruling that the two brothers brought to the shari'a judge to notarize.
Hammam co-opted into his regime one elite Upper Egyptian group in particular: the Ashraf notables, who were Arabs claiming a Prophetic lineage. In his administration, some Ashraf families monopolized the judgeships of the shari'a courts of Qina Province.Theshari'ascholars from the Habatir family were the only holders of this position in Isna Court throughout the eighteenth century and eventually transformed the position into a hereditary office maintained within the family. They continued to monopolize this post for part of the nineteenth century under Muhammad 'Ali. In 1692, Qadi Ahmad 'Ali Habatir was the official judge (khalifat al-shar') in Isna Court, and the position remained in his family, passing eventually to his great-grandson in 1839. Because of their elite status, the Habatir family enjoyed immense wealth and owned many different types of businesses and assets, including many houses and tracts of land.
Hammam exerted considerable authority over Cairo's regime. The Ottoman governor pasha was forced to submit to Hammam's demands, even at the expense of the Mamluk elite. In one incident, Hammam mortgaged the lands of a village to a Mamluk officer, stipulating that he (Hammam) would relinquish his property rights to this village after a certain deadline. Hammam did not pay back the loan in time and yet refused to give up the village. He sent an emissary to the Ottoman governor in Cairo demanding that the governor not issue any decrees acknowledging the officer's right to the mortgaged lands. Hammam threatened that, should the governor issue such a decree, no more grain or cash provisions would be sent to Cairo. The Mamluk officer never managed to seize the village.
Meanwhile, Hammam also built political alliances with rebellious Mamluk factions in Cairo and collaborated with them to overthrow the Ottoman governor. Oppositional Mamluk officers and their soldiers who took refuge in Hammam's court were Arabized-that is, adopted Arabic language and customs-and became part of Hammam's army. Hammam chose an alliance with the Qasimiyya Mamluk faction. A prominent member of this faction, Salih Bey al-Qasimi, the headof the Pilgrimage Department, was a close friend of Hammam and acted as his business proxy in Cairo. Salih Bey was a large tax farmer in northern Upper Egypt, outside of Hammam's territory, and his soldiers stayed for prolonged periods with the Hawwaras' army and learned the clan's high code of ethics. During the annual pilgrimage season, Hammam sent his friend in Cairo a gift of three hundred camels and various other provisions for the caravan going to Arabia via the port of Suez. Salih Bey later fled Cairo in the wake of political tension and took refuge in Hammam's realm, where the pair planned a successful military coup against Cairo's Ottoman governor.
The coup went as follows: In the mid-1760s, Hammam supported the most radical action against the sultan when he backed the insurgency of 'Ali Bey al-Kabir, the governor of Cairo. This coup was the product of an alliance between 'Ali Bey, the Qasimiyya faction, and Hammam. 'Ali Bey fled Cairo to the south, where Hammam gave him both refuge and logistical support for his separatist plans. Hammam at this time was also sheltering Qasimiyya rebels, including his friend Salih Bey, and integrated them in his own army. He then blocked grain and cash provisions from reaching Cairo and Istanbul. Upon receiving 'Ali Bey, Hammam mediated between the two groups of rebels to create a unified front. Hammam's military and financial support was crucial for 'Ali Bey's success in eventually deposing the pasha and taking full control over Cairo and the entire northern regime in 1768.
One State, Plague, and Rebellion Encore
By supporting the coup of Mamluk officer 'Ali Bey al-Kabir, the legendary Hammam committed a fatal mistake. The coup soon resulted in his tragic death and the downfall of the Hawwara regime. The two-state system consequently collapsed as well, but the Ottoman Empire immediately intervened and installed a Cairo-based unified regime that ruled over all of Egypt. Thus, the empire made a second appearance in the south, but it would not be much time before plague and rebellion followed once again.
No sooner had 'Ali Bey established an independent state in the north than he perceived Hammam's power as an overt threat. He accused Hammam of sheltering other Mamluk dissidents and supporting them against Cairo. In 1769, 'Ali Bey sent forces to Upper Egypt to exterminate the Mamluk rebels and undermine Hammam's authority. 'Ali Bey's army formed a secret alliance with an ambitious cousin of Hammam, Isma'il 'Abd Allah, who fought with the Mamluk troops. In the wake of the betrayal and with his unexpected defeat, Hammam withdrew from Farshut and fled southward to the village of Qammula. Later in that year and in this very village, Hammam died in his bed, at the age of sixty, out of deep grief. His sons were carried to Cairo and publicly displayed in the streets. The Hawwara were further humiliated when 'Ali Bey seized most of their tax farms. Some Hawwara leaders maintained large tax farms, but the tribal dynasty was overthrown and the clan never returned to power.
The independent state of 'Ali Bey lasted only a few years before the Ottoman army restored full control over Egypt in 1773. The sultan then placed the whole country, including Upper Egypt, under a new Mamluk regime in Cairo. Istanbul abolished the two-state arrangement, after three centuries of existence, and allowed the Mamluk military elite in Cairo to establish authority over the tax farms, trade, and administrative system of the south. Thus, a new one-state system was born in Egypt, ending the six-century autonomy of Upper Egypt that survived from the Mamluk through Ottoman period.
Replacing the Hawwara regime shattered the social contract that existed between the tribe and the subalterns of Upper Egypt. The south experienced political chaos and repression under the new Mamluk government, and discontented groups undertook various forms of resistance. Only four years after Hammam passed away, groups of Arab peasants challenged the authority of the state and the remaining Hawwara tax farmers by refusing to pay the land tax. The peasants of the Busayla village ceased paying both cash and grain tax. Shaykhs of other villages intermediated between Busayla and the tax farmer and threatened that the state would punish them by destroying their houses. At the same time, Mamluk officers decreased the payments that the 'Ababida Bedouins received for protecting villages and trade routes. The tribe immediately reacted by attacking travelers and plundering villages and later launched a war against the Mamluk government. It was almost impossible for the Mamluk officers to subdue the 'Ababida dissidents, who were highly skilled warriors. After every defeat the rebels managed to quickly reassemble themselves in a few days and return to fight the new imperial regime even more fiercely.
Between 1784 and 1792, the plague struck Egypt again. This time the disease made it to the south-for the first time in five centuries. Before, as a contemporary French physician asserted, the plague had been an environmental phenomena "almost unknown" in Upper Egypt. Ever since the great plague of the 1300s that had swept all of Egypt, the endemic had not returned to Upper Egypt, thanks to the efficient government of the independent Hawwara. As noted earlier, European observers of the period reported that the healthier and hotter air of Upper Egypt made it difficult for the plague to travel south, whereas Cairo and the Mediterranean coast remained more susceptible. However, a British report from 1800 showed that the late-1700s plague had actually originated in Upper Egypt, killing thousands in one season. According to Colonel Wilson, "The Plague has long been supposed to have been brought from Turkey in the ships charged with old clothes, which constantly came to Alexandria from a market. But the plague has generated annually in Egypt during the last four years (although no such communication has been possible), and even chiefly commenced in Upper Egypt.... In Upper Egypt [last year], sixty thousand of the inhabitants perished.... There whole villages were swept away." Thus, for Upper Egypt, the epidemic was without a doubt an "imperial" plague. It broke out precisely because of the new political order.
Among European physicians and travelers of this period, two theories arose to explain why the plague infiltrated the south. Both implicate the empire. First, Colonel Wilson insisted that this latest wave of the epidemic originated in Upper Egypt because of internal causes and local conditions. Other European experts generally linked the outbreak to the overflow of the Nile and mismanagement of water. They asserted that a good system of irrigation, drainage, digging canals, and sluices and building dams would make it possible to prevent the plague. In fact, Arabic and European sources alike show that the new Mamluk regime neglected water management and agricultural organization in Upper Egypt, as they were busy disputing over who would be in power.The Ottoman pasha in Cairo was too weak to eradicate internal Mamluk military contests. During this period, Mamluks feuded over Upper Egyptian grain and carried out military campaigns on southern soil, causing food shortages and price hikes. In Qina the new regime left canals to dry, and the once thriving capital and center of commercial agriculture was reduced to an unimportant provincial town.
The second medical theory of the plague's origins attributed the epidemic to external causes emanating from the larger imperial system. This approach suggests that the "globalization" of the Ottoman Empire, which incorporated Upper Egypt only in the last few years of the eighteenth century, coupled with the new one-state system the empire installed caused the plague that reached the south. Clot Bey, a French physician who practiced in Egypt in the early nineteenth century, suggested that the plague had no connection to the overflow of the Nile or to poverty. He argued that these two internal conditions had existed in Upper Egypt in the past, and yet the plague had not visited the south. Many other European physicians and observers affirmed that the plague was carried by ships coming from Istanbul and other parts of the Ottoman Empire to Alexandria and from there spread to the rest of Egypt. Guillaume Antoine Olivier, a contemporary French traveler, recounted,
The plague visits the different countries of the Ottoman Empire, as the smallpox visits the different countries of Europe: Like the latter, it neither owes its origin to putrid exhalations nor to causes derived from the soil or the climate.... The plague visits Turkey and makes its appearance more or less often in a town, according as commerce or communications are most or less frequent.... Egypt carries on a somewhat considerable trade with Constantinople; and indeed, it commonly happens that the Turkish ships or caravels belonging to the Grand Signior bring the plague to Alexandria, where it spreads to Rosetta, Damietta, and Cairo, and thence into all the villages.
The plague was pandemic throughout the empire from the beginning of the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, causing a mortality rate of up to 70 percent in the affected places. The eighteenth century witnessed many waves of this epidemic in the Mediterranean basin of the empire; and in a sense, Istanbul "traded" the epidemic with Cairo. As Upper Egypt was now an integrated part of the empire's political and commercial system, Mamluk ships gained access to the south-facilitated by their wars on Upper Egyptian soil-and they carried imperial diseases with them. In the 1780s, the ships of two Mamluk factions of the new regime, led by Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey, fought each other in Upper Egypt in what was also a time of low Nile inundation and food shortage. Furthermore, other dissident factions continued to take refuge in Upper Egypt. These troops without a doubt transmitted the epidemic to the south, especially since numerous Mamluk warlords of this period died from the plague while in Upper Egypt or after their return to Cairo; before this period, Upper Egypt had never had plague.
With the plague and Mamluk oppression in Upper Egypt, subaltern rebellion became a daily practice of the inhabitants of the towns, villages, and mountains in the desert. Nomadic Arab tribes and Coptic peasants in particular faced increasing oppression during this period. They rebelled in various ways against the empire and its Mamluk government. Their discontent was more distinctly expressed when the Napoleonic campaign arrived in Egypt, between 1798 and 1801, as many members of these two groups supported the French soldiers against the Mamluk army.
As for the unsettled Arab tribes, their rebellion was incited by both racial and economic factors. In the past, these roaming tribes had submitted themselves to the Hawwara primarily because they shared Arab tribal blood with them but also because of the economic advantages that the Hawwara provided. Arab tribes were, as an eighteenth-century European traveler put it, "looking down with contempt on Turks," and they believed that their lineage could be traced to Ishmael and was therefore superior to that of the Turks. They detested the new domination of the northern Mamluk elite, who were a foreign oligarchy of Turco-Circassian origin. In addition, the Mamluk elite discontinued the Hawwara practice of offering economic privileges to the Arab tribes in exchange for safe passage on highways. As a result, the tribes returned to plunder, highway robbery, and raiding villages to both disturb the foreign state and make a living.
For instance, al-Jazzar Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Syria, indicated in his 1785 report to the sultan that when the Mamluk officers suspended the salaries of the 'Ababida tribe in Qina Province, the frustrated members of the tribe exacted revenge by attacking travelers, pillaging villages, and destroying crops. A battle erupted between the two sides in which the strong, proficient warriors of the 'Ababida emerged triumphant. The conflict was settled only when the 'Ababida fully received their payment in addition to blood money for those who were killed in the battles. The two sides then wrote a deed registered in one of Qina's shari'a courts to confirm the settlement and record the terms of the ceasefire. Thousands of similar battles erupted between the Mamluks and Arab tribes. Al-Jazzar did, however, note that friendship between the Arabs and the Mamluks was not impossible.
The 'Ababida tribe embarked on another more radical rebellion when they supported the French troops in Upper Egypt against the soldiers of the sultan. As soon as the French arrived in Egypt, their troops headed to Upper Egypt in order to occupy the rich region and control its agriculture and trade routes. The 'Ababida befriended the French officers and provided them with logistical support during the battles. Vivant Denon, an Egyptologist who accompanied the campaign, reported that during a battle in the Qusayr port on the Red Sea, "we entirely gained their [the 'Ababida] friendship by exercising with them in mock charges and showing so much confidence in them." Similarly, peasant Copts, who suffered tremendously under Mamluk oppression after the collapse of Hammam's nearly ideal state, supported the troops of the French occupation. Like the 'Ababida tribe, Coptic peasants of Qina sided with the Christian invaders during the battles in their province. Denon asserted that commoner Copts sympathized with the French army because of their extreme animosity for the Mamluk troops who had plundered Coptic villages, such as Nagada, during the war. Denon said that "[the Copts'] zeal induced them to come and give us all the intelligence that they had been able to collect."
After the campaign's defeat and the French departure from Egypt, the Ottoman sultan needed to propagate a new imperial discourse of hegemony in order to address the resentment in Upper Egypt. Sultan Selim III restored the one-state system and, once more, installed Mamluk military elite as rulers of Upper Egypt. Nevertheless, he sent a series of decrees (fermans) to Qina and the other provinces in Upper Egypt to appease and co-opt different discontented groups. The Ottomans incorporated the south's local shari'a law into the more centralized state apparatus and used the court system to disseminate these decrees. The sultan deployed a religious rhetoric, emphasizing his position as the "caliph" of Muslims who had defeated infidel invaders. One of the fermans arrived immediately after the French departure and expounded the sultan's policy of reconciliation with the peasants and Arab tribes of Qina, especially after the massive destruction that the Mamluk armies had inflicted on these two groups while fighting the French for the Ottomans. The same decree also aimed at incorporating all power groups in Upper Egypt into a new imperial order.
This elaborate decree, as received by Isna Court, addressed elite and subaltern groups alike, including shari'a law scholars, judges, Arab tribal leaders, village shaykhs, and peasants. After declaring victory over the French, the sultan affirmed that it was his duty to protect and guard the poor inhabitants of the country-a mission entrusted to him by God as the caliph of Muslims. The decree added that some Mamluk soldiers had arbitrarily accused groups of peasants, Arab tribal leaders, and Bedouins of collusion with the French and consequently had confiscated their grain, animals, and wealth. The affected groups expected the sultan to apply a firm punishment to the transgressive soldiers. Instead, the sultan stated his plan to relocate the offending Mamluks outside of Egypt and bestow upon them lands and houses in other provinces in the empire, as a reward for defeating the French. The sultan implied that Upper Egyptian peoples whom they had hurt would never have to see them again, and a new Mamluk government hopefully would be more just.
Another decree from Istanbul dealt with the Copts as a religious minority. Upper Egyptian Copts who had supported the French were clearly in trouble with both the Mamluks, who now had reasserted their authority, as well as the local Muslim population. The new regime forced these Copts from their homes and confiscated their properties. The Copts raised a petition to the Ottoman sultan, requesting protection and the retention of their properties. In response, Sultan Selim III promulgated a decree in 1801, also disseminated through Qina's and other provincial shari'a courts, commanding the Muslim inhabitants of Upper Egypt to pardon the Copts who had supported the infidel French. The decree implored religious dignitaries, laypeople, and peasants to treat Copts with dignity and respect, indicating the belief that they had only cooperated with the French out of fear and the desire protect their families and properties. The sultan asserted that the Copts had followed and obeyed the French only by force. He stipulated that they must return to their homes in peace and resume the tranquil life they had enjoyed before the political turmoil:
A ferman from his majesty Sultan Selim, may God give him victory ... to the authorized court deputies [local judges] ... and the country shaykhs ... [decrees] that during the French infidels' seizure time, the Copts coercively followed the French infidels in order to protect their honor [a'aradahum, i.e., families] and fortunes. Even if what they did was not accepted, they shall return to their home places and live in their houses in comfort and safety as they were in the past. Because they are in all cases the subjects [ra'iyya] of our Sublime state and they petition for protection against all matters. From now on, nobody should intrude upon them because of their support of the French. They should buy and sell and take and give [freely] as they used to do in the past.
The Ottoman Empire's attempt at establishing hegemony would fail just a few years later, when the rising empire of Muhammad 'Ali Pasha (r. 1805-48) took control of the entirety of Egypt.