The Mamluks were a combination of Turkoman slaves from the area east of the Caspian Sea and Circassian slaves from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. They were brought in by the Muslim Ayyubid sultans of Egypt to serve as their bodyguards. One of these slaves, Muez-Aibak, assassinated the Ayyubid sultan, Al Ashraf Musa, in 1252 and founded the Mamluk sultanate, which ruled Egypt and Syria for more than two centuries.
From the eleventh to the thirteenth century, the Shia Muslims migrated from Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula and to the northern part of the Biqa Valley and to the Kasrawan Region in the mountains northeast of Beirut. They and the Druzes rebelled in 1291 while the Mamluks were busy fighting European Crusaders and Mongols, but after repelling the invaders, the Mamluks crushed the rebellion in 1308. To escape from repression and massacres by the Mamluks, the Shias abandoned Kasrawan and moved to southern Lebanon.
The Mamluks indirectly fostered relations between Europe and the Middle East even after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Europeans, accustomed to luxury items from the Middle East, strongly desired both its raw materials and its manufactured products, and the people of the Middle East wished to exploit the lucrative European market. Beirut, favored by its geographical location, became the center of intense trading activity. Despite religious conflicts among the different communities in Lebanon, intellectual life flourished, and economic prosperity continued until Mamluk rule was ended by the Ottoman Turks.
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