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The end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries mark a very important period of the modern history. The British Empire was a rising power; new settlements in the North America and reaching the Indian subcontinent were making it an international power. France, too, was in search for international power; after the bloody civil war of the French Revolution, Napoleon did exactly that. The Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, even though it had entered the declining period, still it was one of the biggest empires the world had ever seen and it held probably the most important geopolitical position.

In this political context, English and Napoleon of France were seeking control over Egypt, Syria and Iraq, so to secure, among other reasons, an easy transportation of India’s goods. At that time, there were two ways: first, from the Arabian Gulf, then through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean Sea, and second, through the Red Sea, over Egypt to the Mediterranean. Apart from that, Egypt was rich in grains and cotton. Therefore, a confrontation between the Ottoman Empire, and France and the British Empire, on the other hand, was inevitable.

In 1798, Napoleon landed in Egypt with 38.000 men. The British, too, were heavily invested in securing the access to Indian, as pointed out by Henry Dodwell in his book “The Founder of Modern Egypt: A Study of Muhammad ‘Ali.” Meanwhile, the Caliph of the Ottoman Empire calls upon different regions to send troops to save Egypt from primarily the French. This was the time when the Albanian Muhammad Ali (1769-1849), the son of Ibrahim Agha, was about to make history.  

Apart from the French invasion, who soon retrieved, Egypt – the cradle of the ancient civilization and an essential center of the Islamic civilization, was going through a political turmoil. The head of the Albanian army which had come to save Egypt, Muhammad Ali, proved to be not only a military genius but a political one as well. By defeating the British in Alexandria, where he captured 400 men, Muhammad Ali forced them to sign the withdrawal from Egypt. This cemented the undisputed power of this Albanian brave man in Egypt, who was recognized by the Sultan as a legitimate ruler.

Not only did Muhammad Ali make history on a personal level, but he also founded the modern state of Egypt. Soon, his reign encompassed Sudan, Syria and Hijaz – the West of the Arabian Peninsula, including Macca and Madinah. He was such a successful political leader that his family was about to rule Egypt up until 1952.

While Muhammad Ali made history by saving Egypt from the French and British, at least for many decades, he is almost not known in Albania. Knowing this political figure and his dynasty could shed light on the role of the Albanian people and the hatred that the Western Europe have towards them. While Albanians know that the West continues to this day mistreat them, indeed they’re not aware of the reasons.

Sabri Lushi