Ottoman-Ruled Egypt Sends Expeditions South and East Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Using Egypt as a base, numerous expeditions, most notably those of Süleyman Paşa in the Indian Ocean and Özdemir Paşa in the Horn of Africa, expanded Ottoman Turkish influence eastward and southward in the 1500’.

Summary of Event

In the mid-1510’, the Mamlūk-Ottoman Wars Mamlūk-Ottoman Wars (1485-1517)[Mamluk Ottoman Wars (1485-1517)] drew to a dramatic and definitive end. The last Mamlūk sultan, Qānṣawh II al-Ghawrī, suffered a fatal stroke during the Battle of Marj Dabiq Marj Dabiq, Battle of (1516) on August 24, 1516. The Mamlūks were defeated, and by 1517, the Ottoman Empire was firmly in control of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. The greatest of the Ottoman sultans, Süleyman the Magnificent, came to power three years later. Süleyman spent much of his sultanate systematically consolidating and expanding the empire’s territories. Within approximately thirty years, the Ottoman Empire had laid claim to the entire North African coast east of Morocco, including Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis (although the latter would elude the Ottomans’ grasp until 1574). The empire continued to grow. Led by Ottoman governor of Algiers Barbaros Hayrettin, Turkish navies raided Italy, France, and Spain’s Balearic Islands. Despite the considerable power of Habsburg emperor Charles V, Ottoman armies occupied Hungary and lunged toward Vienna. Süleyman’s Iraqi campaign of 1534-1535 captured Basra. Ottoman Empire;expansion from Egypt Bahādur Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Özdemir Paşa Süleyman the Magnificent Süleyman Paşa Qānṣawh II al-Ghawrī Süleyman the Magnificent Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Süleyman Paşa Aḥmad Grāñ Lebna Dengel Gama, Christóvão da Bahādur Humāyūn Mustafa Bey Abdurrahman Bey Özdemir Paşa Osman Paşa

Arguably the farthest-reaching of all the Ottomans’ military ventures, however, were launched from Egypt. From bases on the Red Sea and in Upper Egypt, the sultan’s hand-picked governor, Süleyman Paşa, oversaw the empire’s expansion over distant territories in Africa and Asia. After former Mamlūk naval officer Selman Reis opened the Sea of Oman in 1525, Ottoman fleets roamed the western Indian Ocean.

South of Egypt, the Horn of Africa was in turmoil. Urging Muslims to stop paying tribute to Ethiopia’s Christian emperor, warlord Aḥmad Grāñ (Aḥmad ibn Ibrāhim al-Ghāzī) defeated Emperor Lebna Dengel’s armies at ad-Dir in 1527 and again at Shimbra-Kure in 1529 before invading the Abyssinian highlands. Just before his death, Lebna Dengel requested Portuguese assistance. In February, 1541, four hundred musketeers led by Christóvão da Gama arrived in Massawa. Although half were killed in their first engagement, the remainder managed to join the forces of the new emperor, Galawdewos. The outnumbered Ethiopians Ethiopia and Portuguese killed Aḥmad Grāñ in battle in February, 1543. With the loss of their leader, Aḥmad’s followers fled. Exhausted by years of warfare and slave raiding, however, neither the Ethiopians nor their Muslim enemies were able to gain regional hegemony, and the area became ripe for Ottoman expansion.

Meanwhile, in India, the Portuguese trading empire was making significant gains. Goa Goa became the capital of Portuguese India in 1530. Following a series of attacks beginning in 1529, Daman was acquired from the sultan of Gujarat Gujarat by treaty in 1559. At one point in this conflict, the commander of Daman was an Ethiopian seconded by the Ottomans to Gujarat. The Portuguese tried to capture the important trading base of Diu in 1531 but were thwarted by Sultan Bahādur of Gujarat with the assistance of the Turkish navy. Portugal;Ottoman Empire and

In 1534, Bahādur and Mughal emperor Humāyūn quarreled when a Mughal army invaded Gujarat in pursuit of Mirza Zamal, who had made an attempt on Humāyūn’s life. Not wanting to fight on two fronts, the sultan ceded Diu to Portugal in return for the loan of five hundred infantrymen. In 1538, though advanced in age, Süleyman Paşa led an expedition to help fellow Muslim Bahādur contest this agreement. However, Bahādur died while Süleyman Paşa was en route. An Ottoman force, led by Selman Reis’s nephew Mustafa Bey, seized control of Aden on the way to India. This alienated the Gujaratis, who refused to resupply the Turks, forcing them to return to Egypt.

The gateway to the Red Sea, Aden’s strategic location and commercial importance made it a coveted prize. Turkish commander Abdurrahman Bey defeated the Portuguese on the open seas near Aden in October, 1544. The Ottomans lost the vital harbor to the Portuguese but recaptured it in 1548. Their control of Zebid (Yemen) spread inland, culminating in the capture of Sanՙa in 1547. However, the native Zaydis continued to resist Istanbul’s rule in the mountainous interior. Ottoman admiral Pirı Reis conquered Masqat, in what is now Oman, in 1552.

Meanwhile, Özdemir Paşa, a former Mamlūk commander in the Ottoman sultan’s service, accomplished great conquests in Habash Habash (Abyssinia) to secure pilgrim routes to Mecca and control of the Indian Ocean spice trade, now constantly disrupted by the Portuguese. Leading an army through Nubia (northern Sudan), he captured the southern reaches of the Red Sea. In 1557, Özdemir defeated the Portuguese army at Massawa, where he established a garrison and expanded inland into modern-day Eritrea, southward to Harer in Ethiopia, and westward to Kassala in Sudan. From 1555 to 1562, he served as governor of Habash, which included Djidda on the Arabian Peninsula. Instituting a Turkish passion for coffee, he introduced the drink from Yemen to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent.

Turkish movement in Sudan was limited by the rise of the sultanate of the Funj, based at Sennar, some 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of modern Khartoum. Known as the Black Sultans, they extended their control over Arab and Nubian tribes along the Nile as far north as the Third Cataract. The Ottoman sultan claimed the rest of Nubia, but the extent of actual Turkish control in the region remains unclear. Istanbul also assumed control of remaining Ethiopian vassal states on the Red Sea coast. Massawa was integrated into the empire, and a local family appointed by the sultan served as viceroys (naibs), a status they were to retain well into the 1800’. In 1559, Özdemir Paşa died in Bundiya, where he had built several mosques. His son, Osman Paşa, removed his remains to a shrine in Massawa. Following in his father’s footsteps as governor, Osman accomplished further conquests in the region. By the end of the sixteenth century, military expeditions, led by ՙAlī Bey, expanded Turkish domination south of the equator, along the coasts of present day Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.


Built in 1528, the Süleyman Paşa Mosque in Cairo’s Citadel is a magnificent reminder of the Ottoman governor’s imperial service. The Ottoman architecture of Massawa and Suakin still serve as reminders of their distinctive heritage. Despite the eventual decline of Turkish power, the Ottoman Khedive of Egypt, Mohammed ՙAlī Paşa, would seize almost all of present-day Sudan in the 1830’. Indeed, as with much of the empire’s holdings in Africa, the sixteenth century Ottoman conquest of the region shaped the fate of Nubia and the Sudan both during the heyday of the sultanate and after its decline. The British captured Aden in 1839. Thirty years later, the construction of the Suez Canal brought the Yemeni port added strategic significance. In 1846, the Ottoman sultan leased control of Massawa and its hinterland to the Khedive, whose realm was subsequently dominated by the British. Colonial administrators in Sudan replaced Suakin, the Ottoman base used to conquer Yemen and Eritrea, with a new harbor at Port Sudan. In 1885, Italy acquired Massawa and the rest of Eritrea, which it held until World War II. Goa, Daman, and Diu continued to be ruled by Portugal until their incorporation into India in 1961.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Glubb, J. Soldiers of Fortune. New York: Dorset, 1973. An authoritative survey of Mamlūk history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Holt, P. M., and M. W. Daly. A History of the Sudan. London: Longman, 1988. This history recounts Turkish influence in the Sudan.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">King, G. Imperial Outpost, Aden: Its Place in British Strategic Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. An account of Aden’s strategic importance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lord Kinross. The Ottoman Centuries. New York: Quill, 1977. A thorough and excellent work on the rise and fall of the Ottoman Turks.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pankhurst, R. The Ethiopians: A History. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001. This survey documents Muslim influence in Ethiopia.

c. 1485: Portuguese Establish a Foothold in Africa

May, 1485-Apr. 13, 1517: Mamlūk-Ottoman Wars

Jan., 1498: Portuguese Reach the Swahili Coast

1505-1515: Portuguese Viceroys Establish Overseas Trade Empire

1520-1566: Reign of Süleyman

1527-1543: Ethiopia’s Early Solomonic Period Ends

1529-1574: North Africa Recognizes Ottoman Suzerainty

Mar. 7, 1529: Battle of Shimbra-Kure

Oct. 20-27, 1541: Holy Roman Empire Attacks Ottomans in Algiers

1552: Struggle for the Strait of Hormuz

1566-1574: Reign of Selim II

1574-1595: Reign of Murad III

1578-1590: The Battle for Tabrīz

Categories: History