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Volume :2 Issue : 6 1976      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE EGYPTIAN EXPEDITION TO THE ARABIAN PENINSULA 1811 – 1818

Auther : By: Dr. Salah Al-‘Akkad

 

  This article deals with the Egyptian campaign, which was launched, at the request of Ottoman Sublime Port with the aim of destroying the first Saudi State.  The rise of this state was considered by the Ottomans to be a serious threat to their power as it was not merely a separatist movement by a direct challenge to the religious leadership enjoyed by the Ottoman dynasty.

  Because a previous attempt by the Government of Baghdad ended in failure, the Sublime Port requested Mohamed Ali Pasha, The Governor of Egypt to launch an expedition against the Saudis.  Three factors caused Mohamed Ali to delay in responding to the Ottoman request.  First was the lingering power of the Mamluks in the Provinces inspite of the death of their leaders, Al-Alfi and Al-Bardisi in 1807.  Second was his fear of a possible renewed invasion of Egypt by the British.  Third was the need for financial resources to carry out the campaign.  For finally accepting to undertake the campaign, Mohammed Ali hoped to be rewarded with the Governorship of Damascus.

  Mohamed Ali launched the campaign against the Hejaz under the leadership of his son, Tosson, a fact that vexed the Ottoman who had hoped that Mohamed Ali would lead the campaign personally, it is the view of this author that the campaign was essentially Turkish, and that the Egyptian contribution was minimal.  It consisted mainly of support given by certain Egyptian personalities for private reasons.  An example of this was the secret mediation carried on by a rich Egyptian merchant, Al-Mahrouqi with Sharif Ghalib governor of the Hejaz, which resulted in his support for Mohamed Ali.  This, in turn, facilitated the leading expedition.

  On its way to Al-Madinah, the Egyptian expeditionary force was attacked and defeated by the Wahabi army in a sudden attach.  Mohammad Ali used this defeat to support his demands for financial assistance to face the large and well-equipped army of the Saudis.  While Mohamed Ali negotiated with Ottomans, his son remained in Yanbu’a on Arabian soil.  On 1812, Tosson received the requested supplies and after besieging al-Madinah for two months, the city fell to his forces.  Mecca, Jidda, and Taif followed.

  Mohamed Ali delayed his departure for the Hejaz in the hope of obtaining the governorship of Damascus and to arrange matters of interest to him in Egypt.  He arrived in the Hejaz in 1813 to find a great deal of suffering among his forces.  Conditions were extremely harsh and a large number of his soldiers had died.  In light of this situation, Mohamed Ali decided to postpone further military operations, and concentrate on measure to stabilize the tribal and political situation in the area.  During this period, Saud bin Abdel-Aziz attempted to conclude a truce with Mohamed Ali but the conditions he set put an end to further negotiations.  Saud died, leaving his son and successor, Abdullah, in a difficult position.

  In 1814, after a year of suffering and hardship, the Turkish force received new supplies.  Mohamed Ali began to replace his Turkish soldiers with Egyptians.  With the help of some tribes, Mohamed Ali was able to lead the campaign into the triumphant battle of “Bel” which secured his control of the Hejaz until 1840.  The Wahabis had to content themselves with defending the Nejd which they considered their homeland.  Events then convinced Mohamed Ali that it was better for him to return to Egypt.  After his departure, only minor battles took place and they were followed by an attempt on the part of Abdullah bin Saud to conclude a truce with Mohamed Ali through his son, Tosson.  The attempt failed, and Tosson returned to Cairo in 1815.  Abdullah then took the initiative and attached the tribes, which were allied to Tosson, with the result that these tribes send a delegation to Cairo, asking Mohamed Ali to resume the fight against the Wahabis.

  Meanwhile, Mohamed Ali had finished the preparations necessary for launching a campaign against Nejd in the heartland of Arabia.  The new force arrived in the Hejaz under the leadership of Mohamed Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, who was able, after a number of battles, to occupy Al-dar’eyah, the Wahabi capital, in 1818.

  The writer has noted the following characteristics of the last stage of the expedition:

1. The appearance of the Egyptian element, as well as a large number of Bedouins from the Hejaz and Egypt, in the army of Ibrahim Pasha.

2. The new tactics followed by Ibrahim Pasha, namely, the concentration of his efforts on the occupation of the Nejd, leaving the Hejaz to a later stage.

3. Dealing with the inhabitants and garrisons of captured cities in a more human way than did the Turkish soldiers.

  As for the permanent occupation of the Nejd, the writer believes that Mohamed Ali should have realized the disadvantages of any attempt to administrate such a vast and resource less country.  The writer suggests that he might better have restricted his domination to the holy cities of the Hejaz.  Mohamed Ali did not, the writer believes, think of establishing an empire in the Arabian region until 1838-39.  As for Ibrahim Pasha, the lack of resources in Nejd discouraged him from continuing his occupation.  Local rebellions, as well as other factors finally caused him to withdraw his forces from the Nejd in the summer in 1819.  The writer concludes that while modern weapons and military tactics made it easy for Mohamed Ali to destroy the first Saudi State, he was unable to erase the principles of religious reform which was to become nucleus of a subsequent resurrection of Saudi rule.

 

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