Alexandria in the Ninth/Fifteenth century: A mediterranean port city and a Mamlūk prison city

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While modern scholars, medieval European and anachronistic Arab sources paint a portrait of Mamlūk Alexandria as a bustling and thriving international port, contemporary Arabic writings of the second half of the ninth/fifteenth and the first quarter of the tenth/sixteenth centuries present quite a different image. This article analyses Arabic chronicles to demonstrate that, from the Cairene perspective, Alexandria was a frontier city that was utilised as a jail for banished political prisoners. In contrast to other parts of their realm, investment in Alexandria by the Mamlūk regime was largely limited to fortifying it against seaborne threats; the sultans did little to embellish the city for civilian or religious purposes. Thus, the city was marginalised, politically and socially, even while still maintaining its role as a gateway to Egypt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-92
Number of pages15
JournalAl-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2014


  • Alexandria
  • Banishment
  • Egypt
  • Egypt-administration
  • Egyptian dynasty-administration
  • El Iskanderý̄ya
  • Local history-administration/Eastern Mediterranean
  • Mamlū ks
  • Prisons and prisoners-in Egypt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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