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Imperial Power and Maritime Trade
Mecca and Cairo in the Later Middle Ages

By John L. Meloy

Imperial Power and Maritime Trade
Paperback, 324 pages £33.00
Published: 2016
ISBN: 9780991573202
Format: 233mm x 155mm
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Subjects: Arabic and Islamic Studies, Maritime Studies, Medieval Studies
Series: Chicago Studies on the Middle East

This new paperback is a Revised Edition with new preface.

When scholars of Middle Eastern and Islamic history consider Mecca or its region, the Hijaz, they tend to focus on either the first century of Islam, when the city and region became briefly the centre of an incipient empire, or the twentieth, when the city was the centre of the Arab Revolt. More than a thousand years of history in between are relatively unknown.

The pre-modern imperial cities of Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo quickly superseded Mecca as centres of politics and long-distance trade, leaving Islam’s premier holy city with its singular role as the destination of the great pilgrimage.

Of course, the religious significance of Mecca attracted the attention of neighbouring rulers, such as the Mamluk sultans of Cairo, who claimed sovereignty over the city to enhance their reputations as paramount Muslim rulers in the later medieval period.

Using sources composed by late medieval Meccan scholars alongside the more well-known Mamluk material, this study presents the history of late medieval Mecca and the Sharifs who ruled the city by examining their relations with local and global forces: their alliances with local groups in the Hijaz, their relations with the imperial centre of Mamluk Cairo, and their reliance on the maritime trade of the Indian Ocean.


Map 1: The Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean

Map 2: The Central Hijaz

Preface to the Revised Edition


The Rise of Mecca in the Later Middle Ages: Politics and Historiography

Local Contexts of Maritime Trade in Mecca

Brokering Power in Mecca: Mamluk Seasonal Domination and the Rule of the Sharifs,797–824/1395–1421

Mamluk Expansion and Meccan Resistance, 824 – 41/1421–38

Forging Mutual Interests, 841–67/1438–63

Mecca as Sultanate: Foundations of Economic Power, 867–903/1463–97

Politics, Trade, and the New Dispensations in Mecca, 903–23/1497–1517

Conclusion: Mecca’s Loss of Splendid Isolation

Appendix A: Comparative Political Periodization of the Mamluk Sultanate and the Meccan Sharifate and Amirate, 797–931/1395–1525

Appendix B: Genealogical Charts of the Shar?fs,7th–10th/13th–16th c.

Appendix C: Maritime Traffic between Jedda and Indian Ocean and Red Sea Ports, 876–944/1471–1537



John L. Meloy is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut.    

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 324 pages
 233mm x 155mm

BIC Code:
 Middle East Documentation Center


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