Al-Adil Kitbugha

Sultan of Egypt and Syria
Reign December 1294 – 7 December 1296
Predecessor An-Nasir Muhammad
Successor Lajin
Died 1297
Full name
al-Malik al-Adil Zayn-ad-Din Kitbugha Ben Abd-Allah al-Mansuri al-Turki al-Mughli
Dynasty Bahri
Dominion of Bahri Mamluks ( red )

Kitbugha (Arabic: كتبغا ) (Royal name: al-Malik al-Adil Zayn-ad-Din Kitbugha Ben Abd-Allah al-Mansuri al-Turki al-Mughli ( Arabic: الملك العادل زين الدين كتبغا بن عبد الله المنصورى التركى المغلى)) ( d. 1297, Hama ), was the 10th Mamluk Sultan of Egypt from December 1294 to November 1296.


Mongol soldiers.

He was originally a Oirat-Mongol soldier in the Ilkhanid army of Hulagu. He was taken prisoner during the First Battle of Homs in 1260.[1] He was purchased by Qalawun and became one of his Mamluks then later Qalawun manumitted him and granted him the rank of Emir.[2]

During the reign of Qalawun's son Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil, he was arrested and released.[3] In 1293, after the assassination of Al-Ashraf Khalil, Kitbugha became the Vice-Sultan and Regent of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad. With Emir Sanjar al-Shuja'i he was effectively the ruler of Egypt as Al-Nasir Muhammad was only 9 years old.[1][4] But Kitbugha faced rivalry from and had a poor relationship with al-Shuja'i who was an Al-Nasir's Vizier. al-Shujai, with the support of the Burji Mamluks, planned to arrest Kitbugha and assassinate his emirs, but Kitbugha was informed about al-Shuja'i's plan by a Tatar named Qunghar. Kitbugha lay siege to the Citadel with the support of the Genghis-Khanites and the Shahrzuri Kurds.[1][5] However, he was defeated by the Burji Mamluks and had to flee to Bilbays.[6] He later returned to Cairo and lay siege to the Citadel again after his emirs defeated the Burjis. Kitbugha's siege of the Citadel lasted for seven days with daily clashes with the Sultani Mamluks and al-Shuja'i supporters. Many of al-Shuja'i's emirs moved over to Kitbugha's side. The emirs of Kitbugha informed Sultan Al-Nassir Muhammed's mother that the dispute was between them and al-Shuja'i and not with her son. So she locked the gates of the Citadel with al-Shuja'i trapped in his house outside the Citadel. After that more of his Emirs deserted him and moved over to the side of Kitbugha. al-Shuja'i, who was not popular among the Egyptians,[1] was killed while he was on his way to the Citadel to discuss the dispute. When the gate of the Citadel was unlocked Kitbugha and his emirs went in. Kitbugha's followers who were imprisoned by al-Shuja'i were freed and many Burji Mamluks who supported al-Shuja'i were either arrested or removed from the Citadel. al-Shuja'i's properties in the Levant were seized and his deputies there were arrested.[7]

About 300 of the Burji Mamluks who were removed from the Citadel by Kitbugha rebelled and went on a rampage in Cairo. These Mamluks, known as the al-Mamalik al-Ashrafiyah Khalil (the Mamluks of al-Ashraf Khalil) were enraged because Hossam ad-Dain Lajin, who was involved in the murder of their benefactor, Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil, had arrived in Cairo but was not arrested and punished.[1] The Ashrafiyah Khalil were defeated and many of them were killed and executed.[8]

Rise to power

Kitbugha continued as the regent and the actual ruler of Egypt with Al-Nasir Muhammad, being a child, merely the nominal Sultan. After the murder of Vizier al-Shuja'i, Kitbugha became more powerful. He was then convinced by Lajin, who was aware that the Mamluks of Khalil and Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammed would want to seek revenge for the death of Sultan Khalil, to depose Al-Nasir and take on complete power.[9][10] After the defeat of the rebelling Burji Mamluks, Kitbugha assembled the emirs at his office and told them: "The system of the Kingdom has been undermined. There can not be respect while Sultan Al-Nasir is young ". The emirs agreed and they decided to replace Al-Nasir Muhammed with Kitbugha. Al-Nasir Muhammed was removed with his mother to another section of the palace and later to Al Karak . Kitbugha was installed as Sultan and took the royal name Al-Adil. He made Lajin his Vice-Sultan.[11]

The Oirats

The Oirats arrived in Egypt

In 1296 a large group of Oirats,[12][13] Mongol refugees, arrived in the Levant. They were led by Turghai, the son-in-law of Hulagu Khan.[14][15] They had fled to the Levant from Ghazan. While some of the Oirat group was received warmly in Cairo by Kitbugha and then resided in the Cairene district of al-Hisiniyah,[16] others were sheltered in the coastal towns of the Levant. The Oirats were not Muslims, but after they intermarried with Egyptian emirs and later with Egyptian commoners, they converted to Islam and merged with Egyptian society.[17][18] However, as Kitbugha was himself of Mongol origin, his extraordinary generosity towards the Oirats made many emirs suspicious about his motives.[19][20] This would be one of the factors that would later lead to his downfall.[21]

Loss of Power

Later in the reign of Kitbugha, Egypt and the Levant faced shortages of water and food in addition to an epidemic that caused the death of many people in Egypt.[22][23] Kitbugha was not popular among the Egyptians who regarded him as a bringer of ill-omens.[24] Also, the Egyptian were not pleased with Kitbugha's generosity towards the Oirats who were not Muslims while they, the Egyptians, were suffering from high prices of food and economic hardship.

While Kitbugha was in Damascus the emirs decided to get rid of him. The emirs went to Kitbugha and met him while he was on his way to Egypt. Kitbugha was angry with Bisari, who was a prominent emir, and accused him of corresponding with the Mongols. Fearing that Kitbugha would arrest Bisari, the emirs,[25] including Lajin, carried arms and went to the Dihliz [26] of Kitbugha and clashed with his Mamluks.[27] A few of Kitbugha's Mamluks were killed or injured. Kitbugha left the Dihliz through a back passage and fled to Damascus, accompanied by five of his Mamluks. The emirs were unable to catch him. Lajin was placed on the throne as the new Sultan of Egypt.

Kitbugha took refuge inside the citadel of Damascus, but at last he resigned and recognized Lajin as the new Sultan saying: "al-Sultan al-Malik al-Mansour ( Lajin ) is one of my Khushdashiya.[28] I serve him and I obey him. I will stay inside the Citadel until the Sultan decide(s) what to do with me". Kitbugha left Damascus to rule in Salkhad.[29] He ruled there for two years and 17 days.[30]

In 1299 while Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad was on his way to Syria with the Egyptian army to encounter the invasion of Mahmud Ghazan, some Oirats conspired with some Mamluks of the Sultan to kill the Vice-Sultan Salar and the Ostadar,[31] Baibars al-Jashnakir who were the actual rulers of Egypt. They wanted to bring Kitbugha back to power, but the attempt failed and the conspiring Oirats were severely punished. After the defeat of Al-Nasir Muhammad's army at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, Kitbugha fled to Egypt and served Salar. After Ghazan left Syria Kitbugha became the deputy of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad in Hama,[32] where he died in 1297.

Coins of Al-Adil Kitbugha

In 1295, during the reign of Sultan Kitbugha, it was decided for the first time in Egypt, that coins had to be weighed before being exchanged for goods or services. Thus the value of coins were based on their weight and not on their quantity.[33]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Ibn Taghri, Sultanante of al-nasir Muhammed.
  2. (Al-Maqrizi - Al-Khitat Al-Maqiziyah, p. 388/vol.3) - (Ibn Taghri, Sultanante of al-nasir Muhammed)
  3. Al-Maqrizi, p.218 & p.222 /vol.2
  4. Al-Maqrizi, p.249/vol. 2
  5. Shahrzuriyah were Kurds who escaped from Mesopotamia after the Turco-Mongol invasion. During a battle between Al Karak and Sultan Qutuz they deceived al-Malik al-Mughith king of Al Karak and walked over to the Egyptian side. ( Al-Maqrizi, p500/vol.1 )
  6. Bilbays, also spelled Bilbeis or Bilbis, town, southeastern al-Sharqia Governorate in the eastern Nile Delta , Lower Egypt , northeast of Cairo. - ( Encyclopædia Britanica, p.15/vol. II)
  7. Al-Maqrizi, pp.252-255/vol.2
  8. Al-Maqrizi, pp.259/vol.2
  9. Ibn Taghri, Sultanante of al-Nasir Muhammed.
  10. First Kitbugha refused the advice of Lajin but he became convinced after Lajin warned him that later when Al-Nasir Muhammed is old he will punish him as he was also involved in the murder of Al-Nasir Muhammed's brother Al-Ashraf Khalil. - (Ibn Taghri, Sultanante of al-nasir Muhammed.) ( See also Al-Ashraf Khalil )
  11. Al-Maqrizi, p. 275/vol.2
  12. The Oirats were about 10,000 persons with horses and cattle. (Ibn Taghri, Sultanate of Kitbugha )
  13. Oirats, in Arabic Uyratiya.
  14. According to Abu al-Fida’, Turghai was the husband of the daughter of Mangu Timur the son of Hulagu. - (Abu al-Fida’, year AH 695)
  15. In 1262, during the reign of Sultan Baybars many Tatars from the Golden Horde tribe escaped from Hulagu to Egypt and were followed later by other Tatars. Baybars welcomed the Tatars and employed them in the army. They had their own army unit, which was called al-Firqah al-Wafidiyah (the arrivals' troop). Throughout the Mamluk era, the Wafidiyah (Arriving Tatars) were free men and the Mamluk system did not apply to them. Baybars settled the Tatars in Cairo and gave them various official posts. The largest group of Tatars immigrated to Egypt in 1296 during the reign of Sultan Kitbugha, who was himself of Mongol origin. They resided at the district of al-Hisiniyah in Cairo and many of their women married Mamluk emirs. (Shayyal, vol. 2, p. 144)
  16. Also spelled al-Husayniyya. The district still exist in present-day Cairo.
  17. Al-Maqrizi, vol. 2, p. 266
  18. Shayyal, vol. 2, pp. 144–145
  19. Shayyal, p.145
  20. Al-Maqrizi, al-Khitat al-Maqriziyah, vol. 3, pp. 32–36
  21. Shayyal, vol. 2, p. 145
  22. Al-Maqrizi described the era of Kitbugha as following: "His days were the worst days with high prices, epidemics and death " - (Al-Maqrizi, p.260/vol.2)
  23. According to Al-Maqrizi the epidemic caused the death of 127.000 persons. - (Al-Maqrizi, p.268/vol.2)
  24. When the palace servants heard that kitbugha took power a kitchen servant exclaimed: " This is an ill omen ! This is an unlucky day ! ". The words of the servant spread around and were repeated by all the people. - ( Al-Maqrizi, p. 260/vol.2 )
  25. the Emirs who attacked Kitbugha's Dihliz included Lajin, Bisari, Qara Sunqur, Qabjaq and al-Haj Bahader. - ( Al-Maqrizi, p.273/vol.2 )
  26. Dihliz, royal tent of the Sultan which he uses during his travels and battles
  27. Mamluks of kitbugha were called al-Mamalik al-Adilyyah referring to Kitbugha royal name Al-Adil.
  28. Khushdashiya ( خشداشية ): Mamluks belonging to the same Amir or Sultan.
  29. Al-Maqrizi, pp. 277-278/vol.2
  30. Al-Maqrizi, p. 274/vol.2
  31. Ostadar ( أستادار ), supervisor of the royal kitchen and everything connected to the food and drink of the Sultan.
  32. Al-Maqrizi, p. 326 and p.329/vol.2
  33. Mahdi, p. 100


Al-Adil Kitbugha
Cadet branch of the Mamluk Sultanate
Born: ? Died: 1297
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Al-Nasir Muhammad
Sultan of Egypt and Syria
December 1294 7 December 1296
Succeeded by

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