“King of “Blessed Babylon”, your son Daud Pasha extends to you - my mother, Mariam, my best regards and deepest yearning to see you again.

If I may humbly ask you to console me with your presence and then leave again in honour and dignity as your heart may desire... Please keep me in your prayers... A man comes to this world to grow his own vine and then reap the harvest of its grapes. You grew the vine but harvested none of its yield... Please come to see me... I need the sweet balm of your presence... I need the comfort of your prayers...

Your son Daud Pasha, King of Baghdad, August 1821”. 


Georgian Mamluks having distinguished themselves in fierce fights against Napoleon were once and for all vanquished by Mamluk Muhammad Ali of Albanian origin. In the early 19th century he was installed as Pasha of Egypt. Muhammad Ali was very clever, cool and cunning. In 1811 he invited Georgian Mamluks to a feast but ambushed and massacred them in what can be described as a monstrous betrayal. One of the slaughtered Mamluks was the son of Murad Beg Shinjikashvili, whose dead body was retrieved by his Georgian mother and given the last rites. The bodies of other Mamluks were thrown together into a pit. Ibrahim Beg in company with 200 or 300 Mamluks fled to Sudan, conquered a vast region and struck down roots there. Alarmed by this military expansion, Muhammad Ali Pasha unleashed his troops in pursuit of Ibrahim Beg and destroyed his Mamluks indiscriminately. Ibrahim Beg died in 1815. A year later his body was moved to Cairo and buried there.


Georgian MamluksMuhammad Ali is still held in high esteem in Egypt. He is generally thought of as the founder of Egyptian statehood. An American expert in oriental studies, Crecelius, contends that he maintained the traditions established by his predecessors Ali Beg and Muhammad Beg Abu Zahaba. Muhammad Ali Pasha accomplished the goal, which the Georgian Mamluks let fall by the wayside. However, Georgian Mamluks were the only force to shake the Ottoman reign in Egypt and were deeply committed to achieving Egypt's secession from the Ottoman Empire.


Was there any tie that linked Georgian Mamluks to the country of their origin? Kidnapped as children they finally lost all ties with Georgia. The French traveler Volney contends that Mamluks had no sense of fellow feeling or kinship, nor religious beliefs and values. It turns out however that Mamluks were genuinely devoted to their parents, siblings, and even relatives and often lavished them with gifts. They even paid ransom for the release of Georgian captives and returned them back to Georgia.


Georgian MamluksAccording to Suleiman Agha Anaph (Georgian surname - Knotishvili, nephew of Ibrahim Beg Shinjikashvili), Georgians in Egypt would have hardly managed without the help of Mamluks. Ibrahim Beg Shinjikashvili contributed to the expense of building a church and a tower in Georgia. The latter still graces Martkopi (currently a small village in Georgia). In the 1890s Cairo police chief Selim Agha (Georgian surname Dzananashvili) sent his sister-in-law Lazare to deliver money and gifts to his kith and kin in Georgia. The parcel however did not reach its destination for Lazare quickly made off with the entrusted property. Selim Agha threatened to write to King Erekle II and deprive Lazare of all of life’s comforts. This fact clearly points to the Egyptian Mamluks' harmonious relationship with the King of Kartl-Kakheti. Selim Agha, who was Egypt's third most influential man, bought a plot of land in Georgia and even thought of settling down there. Hence, Volney's allegations concerning Georgian Mamluks is, to put it mildly, wholly unfounded.


Stories about Egyptian and Iraqi Mamluks abound both in Georgia and elsewhere. However, information on Georgian Mamluks from Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria has until now remained almost entirely obscure. Burke's “Royal Families of the World” makes mention of two Georgians in an overview of Tunisian Royal families. These two Georgians were sons-in-law of one of the Tunisian Pashas.


Only a moderate number of 200-300 Mamluks are known to have lived in Tunisia, compared to other countries. In the 16"’ century Tunisia became one of the Ottoman Empire's provinces ruled by the Husainid Dynasty (1705 -1957) of Beys granted an honorary title of Pasha by Sultans. One of such Pashas - Abu Muhammad Hammuda Bey (1782- 1814) bought Mamluks in his early years and enlisted their help to put down the Turkish Janissaries' Revolt in 1811 shortly followed by his accession to the throne. The new ruler appointed his most unflinchingly loyal Mamluks as Ministers and high-ranking officials. Mamluks appeared on the political scene of Tunisia much earlier, already in the first half of the 18th* century.


A Georgian woman Mahbuba was the wife of the Tunisian ruler Husain ibn Ali (1759-1782). Their two sons, Abu Muhammad Hammuda and Usman, later became Tunisian rulers as well. Tunisian Mamluks, unlike their Egyptian counterparts, were generally vested with significant military and administrative powers. White-skinned slaves were trained to reach the upper rungs of the political ladder. Mamluks raised alongside heirs to the throne were the next most powerful in the Empire's state-building.

The British traveler Mac Gill wrote in 1807 that Hammuda Bey's immediate milieu and the ruling classes of the country were made up largely of Georgian Mamluks. Also of interest is the fate of Georgian Mamluks in Algeria. In 1517 Algeria became part of the Ottoman Empire but the Sultan’s influence over it, like over other North African Pashates, was only nominal. Algeria, a stronghold of Mediterranean piracy, relied largely on pirates for income. Pirates roamed the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean assailing American and European merchant vessels. America and European States were thus forced to pay an annual tribute to Algeria on condition that their ships were left unharmed. In 1800 over 20 percent of income went towards ransoming American captives or paying tribute money.


When the Russo-Turkish war broke out, Kapudan Pasha Hasan Jizairli, admiral of the Ottoman fleet, drafted a great number of sailors from Algeria, including Georgians, into the Turkish army. The career success of Georgian brothers Ali Pasha A! Tarabulus and Said Ali is due largely to Kapudan Pasha. Ali Al Tarabulus, who initially served as Algeria's maritime minister, was later engaged in military operations in Istanbul. In 1791 he captained a flagship in the war against Russia. Raised to the rank of Pasha of Anatolia, in 1803 he moved to Egypt together with his brother Said Ali. According to the famous Egyptian historian al-Jabarti, Ali Pasha Kapudan - supreme commander of the Ottoman navy - led the battle of Lemnos in 1807 forcing the Russian fleet to retreat and lifting the blockade of Istanbul. In 1820-21 he assumed the office of Grand Vizier. Ali Tarabulus was granted the rank of Pasha of Tripoli, from which his name Tarabulus derives. In 1795 Ali Tarabulus was driven out of the city by the Tunisian Bey's troops under the command of Mustafa Khoja, a Georgian Mamluk.


Two Georgians held the office of Dey - a title given to the rulers of the Regency of Algeria. One of them, Baba Hassan (1791-98), won widespread acclaim in both Europe and America. As for Hassan Ben Usuf Ahiskal, Ottoman sources identify him as a Meskhian man from Akhaltsikhe. Hassan, who was very young when he chanced to set foot on Algerian soil, was converted to Islam and enrolled as a Janissary in the army.


Mamluk06In 1770 he commanded the Algerian Black Sea Navy during the Russo- Turkish war. He was appointed maritime minister of Algeria, later he won the seat of prime minister and in 1791, at the request of the Janissaries, succeeded to the post of Dey. One American captured by Algerian pirates, James Cascart, became Hassan's secretary. Hassan Dey dictated to him letters to the first US President George Washington. The letters prescribed the terms of release of American captives and copies of them are still preserved in the US Library of Congress. Hassan Dey, who originally demanded two and a half million dollars in return for releasing prisoners, scaled down his ransom demand to 700 thousand. He did it out of a grudge against the British and in sympathy with the newly emerged country of the United States then at war with Britain. His signature is engraved on the US-Tripoli peace agreement. Americans granted the Algerian Dey a vessel named “Hassan Pasha”. He built a mosque with two minarets in Algeria and his palace presently houses a museum of art.


Another Georgian who left a marked imprint on the memory of Algerians was Ali Khodja from Megrelia. He was also \ known as Meguer Ali (Megrelian Ali) and Ali-Loko (Mad Ali). Acting in league with ) his cohorts, he slaughtered his predecessor Dey Omar, and assumed the reins of Algeria. In usurping power, he preferred to rely on the local population and ordered Janissaries and rulers of Ottoman extraction to leave Algeria but was rejected. It was tantamount to a rebellion. Scuffles that broke out cost the lives of 1,500 Janissaries. An American consul in Algeria describes Meguer Ali as a well-educated and highly literate man, while the Arab historian Gaid thinks of him as enormously energetic, very clever and self-disciplined. But all agree that he had a notorious reputation for being a tyrannical ruler, brutal and truly atrocious. 


The American consul recalls that, 'invited to a diplomatic meeting with Ali Dey we had to make our way amid the hordes of corpses lying around. Inside the palace, we were admitted to the sight of Ali Khodja donned in luxurious apparel and surrounded by heavily armed guards. He seemed completely absorbed in reading'. Ali Khodja's reign led to the formation of Algeria's Arab-Berberian elite. In a letter sent in 1818 to Sultan Mahmud II, Algeria's DTvan (chief official) raises all praise to Allah for letting the killer epidemic put an end to the six-month tyranny of the brutal Megrelian despot and usurper.


From the 18th century, Georgian Mamluks appeared in Iraq as well. Defeated in wars with a number of European countries in the previous century, the Ottoman Empire lost vast territories and a well-deserved reputation for being unvanquished. The loss notwithstanding, the Empire still sought to extend its borders at the expense of Persia, by strengthening the Iraqi Pashate bordering Iran. This task was entrusted to the Pasha of Baghdad Hasan (1704-23). With the goal of empowering the vilayet, Hasan Pasha started to suppress Janissaries who, once the pillar of the Ottoman Empire's military might, had turned into an absolutely uncontrolled force. The cavalry regiment “Levanda” that Hasan Pasha recruited specifically to destroy Janissaries, consisted of Iraqis. The active-duty guard was composed of Caucasians, mostly Georgians.


Georgian MamluksOttomans trained Caucasians in well-disciplined military units. Hasan Pasha bought Georgian captives and even sent them to schools set up by him where they were schooled, under a watchful eye, in languages, literature, religion, culture, military skills, and swimming. Arab historians describe graduates of these schools as “Masters of Pen and Sword". They often held high-powered positions, which led to the emergence of a Georgian colony in Baghdad. Iraq in 1723-47 was ruled by Hasan's son Ahmad Pasha.


Georgian Mamluk Suleiman Agha distinguished himself in the battles against the Iranian ruler Nadir Shah. As a token of gratitude, Ahmad Pasha gave him his daughter in marriage. Suleiman Agha’s rapid rise to fame is due to the battles he won overnight that earned him the nickname Abu-Laila, translating as King of Darkness. Sulaiman (1749-61) became Iraq's first Pasha. Despite Istanbul's strong protest, Iraq remained under the rule of Georgian Mamluks for 82 years, until 1831. Ethnically Georgian Pashas successfully pursued Hasan's and Ahmed's foreign and internal policies of divide and rule to spark bitter feuds between Shiite and Sunni Arabs on the one hand and Georgian communities on the other. They capitalized shrewdly on heavy confrontations among the Ottoman Empire, Persia, Russia, France, and England trying to maintain equilibrium in the crossfire of hostilities. Suleiman Abu-Laila increased the number of Georgian Mamluks. He removed trade centers from Persia to Basra and set up there a branch of an English Ost-Indian company for goods.


Iraqis and Mamluks described as halcyon days of the reign of Soliman Pasha Al-Kabir (1780-1802). Despite endless revolts and political turmoil, Iraq under the rule of Soliman Pasha Al-Kabir remained one of the most stable regions in the Ottoman Empire.


History is more eloquent in describing Iraq's last Mamluk ruler - Daud Pasha. Born in 1774 to Georgian parents in Kvemo Kartli - Giorgi and Mariam Manvelashvili, servants to Prince Orbeliani, Daud was kidnapped when he was 5 or 6. He changed several masters until he was sold to Mustapha Beg at the age of 11. The latter gave him as a present to Soliman Pasha Al-Kabir. Daud was enrolled in school where he excelled at military sports. Daud shone in other disciplines as well, including theological studies. After finishing school he became guard of Pasha's Seal and Treasurer of the Pashate. At the age of 27, he married the daughter of Soliman Pasha Al-Kabir.


In 1817-31 Daud continued as Pasha of Iraq. Upon accession to his post, he set himself the overriding task of making Iraq an independent country. He restored obsolete irrigation systems and built new ones; increased production levels of agriculture and industry; deprived foreigners of trade preferences and gave a greater scope of freedom to Iraqi merchants. The growth of incomes was followed by a boom in construction, including a great number of bridges, markets, mosques, bathhouses, hospitals, libraries, schools, etc. The first printing house and paper plant were opened under the rule of Daud Pasha. He borrowed a European style in building up a mighty and well-disciplined army.


Georgian MamluksDaud Pasha enlisted the help of Georgian merchant Andria Zubalashvili to track down his family in Georgia. With the assistance of Zubalashvili he even petitioned Yermolov, commander-in-chief in the Caucasus, to free his family from the Orbelianis' serfdom. At the invitation of Daud Pasha, his brothers Shio and Dimitri left for Baghdad. Mother, however, refused to go. During the last years of his tenure, at the very peak of power, Daud Pasha withdrew from all kinds of military and financial connections with the metropolis. The Porte commissioned Ali Rida Pasha to march from Aleppo into Iraq to overthrow Daud Pasha. Devastated by floods and an epidemic of bubonic plague and fever, Baghdad capitulated to Ali Rida after a token resistance.


Daud Pasha was removed from power but pardoned. After that, he held a number of high-powered posts in the Ottoman Empire. Daud Pasha ended his life as a custodian of the shrine of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in Medina. He was buried in 1851 next to Osman Khalifa (634-644). His grave, by virtue of his last will, was surrounded by a simple iron fence.


Mamluk's studies have unraveled many mysteries about our ancestors kidnapped from their homeland. The archives of different countries still contain uncharted areas of the past, which, if brought to light, would add a touch of spice to Georgian history.


We acknowledge with gratitude the important contribution of Gocha Japaridze, Koki Peradze, Irakli Topuridze and Gia Beradze to this article.


Author David Japaridze