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Keynote Lecture: A Mamluk Sultan in Genoa: How the Sīrat Baybars Shaped the Egyptian Mental Map towards Europe and the Mediterranean

The Sīrat Baybars represents a very important Arab folktale pretending to describe the life Mamluk sultan Baybars (r. 1260-77). However the content varies between fact and fiction but it proved to be highly entertaining and popular among the Egyptian population until the 19th century when we still here of public recitals. As such it has shaped the image of Europeans and Christians as outer and inner foes of the Muslim realm and as constant possible threat. The planned presentation will focus in this context on the Genoa Episode of the Sīrat Baybars when the sultan is taken as captive to Genoa but rescued by victorious Ismāʿīlī allies. The episode allows on one hand to see how real historical events like the Fatimid attack on Genoa in the tenth century and the Mamluk conquest of Cyprus in the fifteenth merge into one narratives but will also show how the relationship between Europeans, Christian Dhimmis and Europeans are interwoven in networks of alliances and deceit. It will then discuss how these narratives managed to stay popular for so long.


Albrecht Fuess has been a History and Islamic Studies Professor at the University of Marburg since 2010. His main research interests are the history of the Middle East (13th – 17th centuries), the cultural and social history of the Mamluks, Islam in Europe and contemporary Islamic youth cultures. He is a member of several scientific associations and editorial boards in Germany, Egypt, Belgium, France and Egypt. He is a member and principal investigator of many research projects, the most recent are:

  • The Clash of Muslim Empires. Ottomans, Safavids and Mamluks in the Sixteenth Century” (Individual research project), Transottomanica: Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian Mobility Dynamics [DFG- SPP 1981] (team project),  EGYLandscape Project: Exploring Egypt’s Landscapes during the 13th-18th Centuries [ANR-DFG], Mediating Islam in the Digital Age [Horizon2020]  ( team project).

Some of his recent publications:

  • Ṣihr and Muṣāhara in Mamluk Royal Relations. Transmitting Power and Enlarging Networks Through In-Law Ties in Pre-Modern Egypt (2021)
  • Co-editor with Christoph Werner, Maria Szuppe und Nicolas Michel, Dynamics of Transmission: Families, Authority and Knowledge in the Early Modern Middle East (15th-17th centuries), Turnhout: Brepols, 2021.
  • Together with Volker Leppin and Stefan Schreiner, Jerusalem – Ziel, Vision, Vorbild FünfGeschichten eines Erinnerungsortes in Judentum, Christentum, Islam und Baha’i ( English: Jerusalem – goal, vision, role model Five stories of a place of remembrance in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Baha’i), Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2021.
  • Among many other publications in the field.



  • June 20, 2023
  • 14:00 - 15:00
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