Cairo Egypt Islamic Silver Coin Scarce Mamluk Dirham 655-657 AH /1257-1259 AD Al-Mansur Nur al-Din Ali Ibn Aybak
Description: A nice silver coin from the times of Ali I (Al-Mansur Nur al-Din) the Mamluk Sultan who ruled Egypt and Syria during the period 655-657 AH (1257-1259 AD). Ali I was the son of al-Mu'izz Izz al-Din Aybak the founder of the Bahari Mamluk dynasty. This is a dirham weighing about 2.4 grams and measuring 18.5 millimeters in diameter. This dirham is of the square in circle type and is in generally fine condition with wear commensurate with its circulated state. It shows quite a bit of the legends on both obverse and reverse and although it does not show the mint name it was most likely minted is al-Qahira (Cairo Egypt). The obverse shows the words "al-Malik al-Mansur; .. al-Dunya wa al; -Din Ali ibn Aybak" within a square surrounded by dots and a legend that is mostly off the flan. The reverse shows the words "La Illaha ella Allah; Muhammad Rasul Allah; Arsaluh Bil Hudah" again within a square surrounded by dots with legend that is not readable. The coin does not show a date of minting or the mint name, but according to Balog all of Ali's dirham were minted in Cairo. Please carefully review the scans presented as they are part and parcel of our description.
Date: Date off flan, struck in the period 655-657 AH (1257-1259 AD). Mint: Although not observed on the coi, the coin was most likely minted in al-Qahira or Cairo the current capital of Egypt.
Size and Weight: This is a silver dirham, weighs ~2.4 grams of silver and is ~18.5 mm in diameter. References: It is Album #847 (S), listed in Balog as 21, and it is Wilkes 956.
Condition: I would grade this coin as a good fine or better. The coin itself is much better than the photos show with well defined and legible calligraphy on both the obverse and reverse. It clearly shows the name of Ali Ibn Aybak. The coin shows considerable wear throughout as well as area of strike weakness or flatness. However, it is still very readable and looks good. A nice and rather scarce and very difficult to find coin, which would make a nice addition to your collection. Please see the photos for additional condition information.
Historic Perspective: The word Mamluks in Arabic means "owned", hence their nickname "Slave Kings". They succeeded the Ayyubids and ruled Egypt and Syria for about 250 years. They had been recruited by the Ayyubids and then, like the Turkish mercenaries of the Abbasid caliphs, had usurped power from their enfeebled masters. Unlike their predecessors, however, they were able to maintain their power, and they retained control of Egypt until the Ottoman conquest in 1517. Militarily formidable, they were also the first power to defeat the Mongols in open combat in 1260, at Ayn Jalut near Nazareth in Palestine.
The Mamluk sultans are usually divided into two dynasties, the Bahris (1250 - 1382 AD), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burjis (1382 - 1517 AD), chiefly Circassians. These names arise from the location of the barracks of the Mamluks within the city of Cairo (Al Kahira). Those originating from the barracks on an island in the Nile are Bahari (sea dwellers) and those who were in the towers of the Cairo Citadel are the Burjis (the tower dwellers). The Bahri sultans were usually selected from a few chief families, but during Burji times there was scant respect for hereditary principle in the selection of rulers. Neither dynasty was able to exercise more than a limited power over the turbulent Mamluk soldiers. The sultans reigned, on average, less than seven years and usually met violent ends. In spite of the dangers that threatened the sultans at home, they usually conducted a vigorous foreign policy. They defeated the last of the Crusaders and repulsed the Mongol invasion of Syria. At times they held all Palestine and Syria and the holy places of Arabia. Even after the Ottomans occupied Egypt they wheeled quite a bit of power until Mohammad Ali massacred the last of them at the Cairo Citadel in the early 1800's.
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