MEHEMBT ALI: CREATOR OF MODERN EGYPT 5
thrilled with both terror and relief. The military caste which had held the country for so many centuries in its iron grip was no more. The Mamelukes had ruled by the sword, and they perished by the sword. Mehemet Ali spared* only the surviving slave-boys who were still under eighteen years of age, and drilled them much as they would have been drilled by their Mameluke masters to be his own devoted henchmen and to form the elite of the new armies which were to make his name famous far beyond the borders of Egypt. Yet the Egyptians had only changed masters, Mehemet Ali never regarded them as anything but a people of serfs, taillable et corveable a merci, though he exploited them with far more intelligence and to larger ends.
His first care was to consolidate the authority which he owed to the Sultan's favour by rendering himself indispensable to him. He undertook to crush the Wahabi rebellion. Wahabism is still a great force in Arabia, partly religious and partly political. As a religious movement it had received its first impulse in the early part of the eighteenth century from a puritan reformer, Abdul-Wahab, of the strict Hanbali school of Islam, who denounced the doctrinal laxity of the Turks and their corrupting influence on the life of the Holy Places of Arabia, of which the Ottoman Sultans had constituted themselves the defenders ever since a descendant of the Fatimite Khalifs in Cairo had been induced to transfer to Selim the Conqueror his shadowy title to the Khalifate of Islam. As a political movement it had derived its strength from the support of the Beni Saoud, a powerful Bedouin family of South-eastern Arabia, who placed themselves at the head of a tribal confederacy to drive Turkish influence out of the Arabian peninsula. The Wahabis for a time carried everything before them, They occupied Mecca and Medina, driving out all the Turkish authorities and their clients. In their iconoclastic fervour they laid hands on the sacred shrine of the Kaaba and the Prophet's tomb and despoiled them ofslaughtered, whilst thousands of their followers were done to death in the streets of the capital. Egypt wasit in Egypt. Within the first year of the Occupation