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date: 28 March 2020


(c. 14181496)
  • Allen J. Fromherz


one of the most important Mamluk sultans of Egypt and Syria, was a Circassian whose full name was Al-Malik al Ashraf abu al Nasr Sayf al-Din Al Mahmudi al Zahiri Qaʾit Bay. Circassia is a region in the Caucasus hundreds of miles from Cairo, in the mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. As with many Mamluk Sultans purchased as slaves, the precise date of his birth is difficult to decipher. He was probably born between the years 1416 and 1418 and, showing great promise, was purchased by the Sultan Barsbay. Being purchased as a slave of the Sultan was considered an honor, and sources indicate that many Circassians actively groomed their sons for a chance to work as Mamluks (slave–soldiers). In exceptional circumstances these boys would advance through the ranks to become rulers of Egypt and Syria.

After several promotions in the Mamluk army and having proved his mettle ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Dictionary of African Biography.

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