Medieval Cyrenaica and Fezzan

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Cyrenaica lay outside the orbit of the Maghribi dynasties, its orientation on Egypt. From the time when Saladin displaced the Fatimids in 1171 until the Ottoman occupation in 1517, Egypt was ruled by a succession of Mamluk (caste of "slave-soldiers," in Egypt often Kurds, Circassians, or Turks) dynasties that claimed suzerainty over Cyrenaica but exercised little more than nominal political control there. The beduin tribes of Baraqah, as Cyrenaica was known to the Arabs, willingly accepted no authority other than that of their own chieftains. In the fifteenth century, merchants from Tripoli revived the markets in some towns, but Cyrenaica's main source of income was from the pilgrims and caravans traveling between the Maghrib and Egypt, who purchased protection from the beduins.

Turbulent chieftains of the Bani Khattab dominated Fezzan. Their importance, like that of the Garamentes, derived from their control of the oases on the trade route over which caravans carried gold, ivory, and slaves from the western Sudan to markets on the Mediterranean. In the thirteenth century the king of Bornu, a Muslim state in the Lake Chad Basin, invaded Fezzan from the south and established a client regime that for a time commanded the trade route. Fezzan was always a target for adventurers, one of whom, the Moroccan Muhammad al Fazi, displaced the last of the Bani Khattab early in the sixteenth century and founded a line at Marzuq that remained as undisputed rulers of the region under Ottoman suzerainty.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress