The 19th century was a time for Egypt of change. Muhammad Ali first arrived to Egypt in 1798, he was second in command of Albanian troops who had been sent by the ottomans to take over the rule of Egypt from the French. The French left Egypt in 1801 leaving it to the Ottoman Empire. Muhammad Ali himself took control of Egypt and forced the Ottomans to recognize him as the governor of Egypt. (“2.2.1 Muhammad”) He first played nicely did everything they have asked for but later on in 1811 he went about completely destroying the power of the Mamluks, who were Muslims of Turkish descent, and killed them all in Cairo. This led to the start of his raj. (Habeeb 26) Muhammad Ali’s reforms helped Egypt. His goal was to create a modern day country. He improved the military, the education system, supported a better government and agriculture including economics. Even though some of his attempt failed and caused troubles for Egypt, Muhammad Ali reached his final goal.
Muhammad was most interested in creating a strong and fearless army for Egypt. He first went and tried to have a better spirit in his army, realizing that the soldiers had no sense of nationalism since they were a mixture between Mamluks, Turks and other nations, as a result, Muhammad Ali tried to convince Egyptian Muslim farmers to join the army. According to Mouriez in his book modern Egypt from 1840 to 1857, he states that the farmers quickly got used to their new lives as part of the army and were proud to be the army men of Muhammad Ali since they found that the title was prestigious. (“Egypt’s Age of Reform”) In about ten years the army grows massively to a total number of 130,000 soldiers. This helped them to be more united and together as a nation. As Muhammad looked for the weak points of Egypt in order to try and make them better, he realized that any army needs translators, doctors, engineers, and teachers which Egypt did not have, since education was not too good at the time and because farmers and lower class people could not get it. Then he decided to use the “modern military method” as he called it he decides to make special military school and in general to further the education system. This way lower class people have the same important as everyone, and it would only benefit Egypt army. In addition of training the soldiers harder Muhammad decided to send military missions to Europe, he did so for many reasons, the main one was getting inspired by new ideas and training teaching of the west, and getting enlightened about new weapons. Muhammad wanted to inspire the soldiers about the European model army and forward their knowledge.
Education was super important to Muhammad Ali as it increases the wealth making it easier for Muhammad Ali to maintain his power. As mention before in addition to the military schools, the Department of Military was in control of all the schools, this lets each school have its own unique system, meaning that each school creates it is own rules. This further Egypt education because this way different schools can adjust itself to the student’s needs and wants. For example, each school can have different subject and number of classes. Before Muhammad Ali education was limited to religious studies or people and Islamic law and rules. But one of the first things Muhammad went ahead and did was to create equal education. He establishes a big variety of schools. Now every person in Egypt could easily get a good education which will result better jobs opportunity, better future. As Muhammad once told a story of a man named Hussein Jalebi Ajwa, an Egyptian who “invented a device for grinding rice.” When his invention was shown to Muhammad Ali, he was very impressed and concluded that Egyptians were, in fact, smart and therefore, deserved to have schools for education. Moreover, in 1813 Muhammad Ali sent more and more missions to Europe to study abroad. As well as bring teachers to Egypt. He realized that it will keep the students in a modern-day thinking so when they come back they can share and spread that all across the country. And so they did just a couple years later more schools of “modern day” countries were starting to get open. For example a school for military officers in 1816, for accountants in 1826, civilian administrators in 1829 and 1834, doctors and the study of medicine in 1827, for the study of languages in 1835. All of this help to further the education and knowledge of Egyptian. (“Egypt’s Age of Reform”)
In order to make Egypt’s government work better, faster and being more organized, Muhammed Ali carried out an administrative reform. He first abolished the old system of the Mamluks. While he created a centralized system. This new system worked after European rules. He created the the War Ministry which was in charge of the army and fleet. The Ministry of Finance collected taxes. The Trade Ministry was in charge of monopolies and goods leaving the country. The Ministry of Education established a number of schools and sent students abroad to study in European countries. Finally, the Ministries of Foreign and Home Affairs were formed. (Reimer) This made everything work more smoothly. Before this reform everyone was trying to get everything done, for example the people who collect taxes had to also be in charge of the army. Now every section has it is own workers that have had some kind of previous experience in the subject. Muhammed Ali divided Egypt into seven new provinces or mudiriyas, at the head of which stood a governor. Who was a part of the central government, he would carried out administrative duties and collected taxes. He was also responsible for managing government workshops and manufactories, and for seeing that the canals, bridges, and roads were in a good condition. He made sure the timely sowing and gathering of the crops. (Lutsky) This action or reform was a really smart move from Muhammad Ali’s point of view since this was the government had complete control over all the different areas in Egypt.
Muhammad Ali also focused on increasing Egypt’s agriculture which helped boost the economy. Egypt has always relied upon the flood of the Nile. Muhammad Ali improved it by constructing new, deep canals. This has increased the cultivable land by 18 percent between 1813 and 1830 (Nwaubani). Muhammad Ali improved Egypt’s irrigation system making it work all year around, more efficient and for a cheaper price. New crops were introduced such as cotton, which promised high cash returns. (Rivlin) Cotton seeds were given away as the government encourage them to use it. As a result there was a large increases in Egypt revenue. Almost 33% of revenue came to Egypt from cotton. (“Egypt’s Age of Reform”) In about six years their output became tremendously big and other nations were started to get interested in buying cotton and other crop which improved the economy of Egypt even more.
Even though he did everything he saw to be right in order to modernize Egypt, many of Muhammad Ali’s reforms failed, most of the time was because he wanted everything to happen in a second. Most of his reforms overtaxed the country and caused a lot of troubles, the population increased fast without any preparation, not enough houses or food. More over by the time of his death most of the schools he set up had been closed. And most of his industries had collapsed. (Habeeb) He became addict to wars. He invaded Syria and got hostile by Britain, treating the existence of the Ottoman Empire, which made an unbalance of power in the Middle East. Later on, Britain had forced Muhammad Ali to limited his army to 18,000 soldiers which harmed Egypt badly. (Reimer)
To conclude Muhammad Ali achieved his goal to modernize Egypt. He did so by creating a stronger army. Improving the education, by bring some of the European culture into Egypt. He established a strong centralized government, and made a great change in economics and agriculture. This was so important because In the last 150 years since he was in charge not that many big changes happen like in the 43 years he ruled. Muhammad Ali did more for Egypt that he did for himself considering the fact he was not even Egyptian.