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Ottoman Empire: Impact in North Africa and Subsequent Decline

The continuous attacks of the Christian crusades of (Byzantine origin) on Muslim territories led to the rise of an Islamic Empire, (Ottoman Empire) which repelled the attack and subsequently subjugated Constantinople.

The rise of the Ottoman Empire could be traced to the activities of the Seljukal Turks in the East. The leaders of the Seljukal Turks were the Mongols. One of the Mongol leaders, according to Ilesanmi Dr., was Ertugrus. Left the land of dessert and settled in the plain between Brusa and Licaeroith.

He led the tribes of those Seljukal Turks until he died in 1288.  His son, Osman I, continued to rule these people, this later led to the emergence of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was according to the name of the founder, Osman 1, the Arabic calque Uthman when he founded the empire in 1299. By the 1300s Osman 1, took the title of Sultan and built strong army for the empire.

There were many contributions of the Ottoman Empire in North Africa politically, socio-culturally, the whole caboodle which would be discussed.

Osman I, the founder of Ottoman had been saying the prescient vision of the empire even before the empire was founded; he said, according to oral tradition, that he saw a big tree with many branches, and those branches and the roots of the tree covered the whole heaven (sky) with a man sitting on a branch.

He was of course able to actualize the dream when he founded the Ottoman Empire which sprang to three continents- Africa, Middle East and Europe.

The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and mightiest empires in world history lasting for over six hundred years (1299-1922). The Sultan was treated with respect. He was politically and religiously revered. Osman I was able to nurture his dream into maturity.


            The empire was so strong that it was the First World War (1914-1918) that nailed the coffin of the empire. He, the Sultan, was able to build a strong army for the empire, which they used in the conquest of some territories to build a larger empire.  Notably, the major threat to the peaceful establishment of this empire was the Christian crusaders from Byzantium, just as the Phillip of Macedon became a threat to the Greek city-state system.

            The movement started from Anatolia, in western Turkey, and later created many capitals in the Middle East as well as North Africa (Egypt).

            The conquest of North Africa was not uneasy for the Empire because of the possession of sophisticated weaponry. When the Ottoman army fought in Habab, there were many defections in the army, but the most vital defection was that of a man called Khair Bey. It was he whom the ottoman used to conquer some lands of the Kutama Berbers as well as Berbers in the Magreb, modern-day Tunisia and Morocco, among others

 The first thing the empire embarked on was taking challenges against the Portuguese who had been exploiting the resources of North Africa before their arrival. With the help of defection to their side, Gujarat, they were successful in sending the Portuguese out of the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Those two acquired resources served the purpose of expansionist policies of the Ottomans in the region and they were able to man some of the lands of the Kutama Berbers.

The Ottomans helped the Berbers even the whole of North Africa to be freed from the Portuguese exploitation in the region.

They brought religious reforms by stopping the Berbers from worshipping idols. Some of the Berbers were no longer rejecting Islamic doctoring in the religion by the 1580s because they have been assuaged by many religious movements in the region.

 The Ottomans, especially Sultan Selim, tried to make many religious reforms in North Africa. Osman, I sent Sultan Selim to Egypt. The Mamluk state of the Safawid dynasty in Egypt and Egypt itself was conquered by the Ottomans in 1516 and 1517 respectively.

The Ottoman then put end to the ruling dynasty of Egypt and the Sultan became the religious and political leader of the people. In the same vein, the Ottoman Empire faced a lot of challenges from the Christian Byzantium in the western part of Anatolia.

It besieged Byzantium but was pushed back in 1402. The Ottoman army bombarded the empire in 1413 but failed.

Lastly, the Byzantine Empire could not withstand the fifty-three-day siege of the Ottoman army as she was conquered in 1453, then Constantinople became the seat for one when the Ottoman finally nailed the coffin of not only the Byzantine but also the Roman Empire in the eastern part of Byzantium.     

The Ottoman established different military tactics in North Africa. The Ottoman Empire contributed a lot to the development of North Africa The people of North Africa prior to the coming of those Seljukal Turks could not use complicated skills in fighting.

The Ottoman incorporated into their army some Berbers. Those people learned the tactics used by the Ottoman army and they of course contributed to the conquest of other territories for Ottoman Empire by playing the roles of soldiers and interpreters to the Berbers of Kutama-Latin language in North Africa.

Those people were so active to the extent that the Ottoman later created a position for them in the political realm and this was based on meritocracy, which made these people jostle for position wholeheartedly.

All the conquered territories conquered by the Ottomans were economically developed, because of the enhancement of trading activities with the conquered territories and North Africa as well as West Africa.

They traded across the Sahara using the trade-by-barter system and among the articles of trade were salts, gold, cloth, books among others. Income generated from this trade was used for importation and exportations of books for local Berbers the building of a formidable army. 

Architectural design thrived during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, “a Persian and Turkish accomplished poet”. He was very intelligent and ingenious. Mosques in Constantinople were built with different architectural designs. There were series of projects, building bridges, mosques, palaces, and various charitable establishments.

            Lastly, there was cultural assimilation in North Africa during this period. The Berbers of North Africa accepted Islam and the blissful teachings of the Ottoman scholars. This region was able to maintain its stand in all facets before the empire was led to declivity by the First World War (1914-1918). 

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.