1.6. The Egyptian Mameluks

Mameluks Mamelucks

Since the 9th century, the Mameluks were the bodyguards of Islamic rulers, often Turkish or Tcherkessian slaves. In Egypt, the Mameluks vaulted themselves into power between 1250 and 1517: an insurrection against the last Ajubide Turan Shah brought Aibek (1250-1257) into power, which he shared with the female sultan Schadscharat Ad Durr. Baibars (1260-1277) later defeated the Mongolians in 1260 and 1277. Kalawun (1279-1290) ousted the crusaders almost completely out of Palestine.

The graves of the Mameluk sultans as well as the Sultan-Hassan-Mosque (Nassir Hassan, 1347-1261) in Cairo are famous architectural monuments. The Mameluk state, that means Egypt with Syria and Palestine, was subdued by the Ottoman Turks in 1517; under Turkish suzerainty the Mamluks administrated Egypt until 1811.

Some Roma must have belonged to the Mameluks, which would explain the often-stated historical origin from Egypt. Nevertheless, it can still be assumed that the majority of the Roma joined the empire of the Rum-Seldchuks. This is indicated by the linguistic influences and the change in the self-description from “Dom” to “Rom” (see also 2).

The assumption that a part of the Roma belonged to the Mameluk state is based on reports from Europe of the Middle Ages about dark-skinned people that called themselves Egyptians. Historically, the question evolves whether these reports mean Roma or the Mameluks. The truth probably lies in the middle, since Roma as well as Mameluks travelled through Europe in the Middle Ages (see also 7.5), even if the Roma enjoyed the protection of the Mameluks in what basically has to be considered a slave state.