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Egypt in Ottoman Empire

Last modified: 2018-04-07 by ian macdonald
Keywords: ottoman | khedive | crescent (white) | crescents: 3 | star: 7 points (white) | stars: 3 (white) | mameluk |
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Old flags from uncertain sources

[Flag of Egypt in XIXth century?] image by Mario Fabretto

The knowledge of old Turkish flags isn't very clear even if we know that a lot of flags were used. This flag is quite common on flag books and charts from the middle of 18th century and until the middle of the 19th century. Among them I remember Norie and Hobbs (1848) [noh48], Rosenfeld (1883), Flaggen Almanack (ca. 1844). The flag didn't appear on Le Gras (1858) so I think that its use ended in the first half of the 19th century. The only thing we can say is that flags with many stripes and irregular shape were quite common for the merchant ships sailing from north African ports. From many captured flags we also know that similar flags were used on land also, but with different colors and arrangements. The particular use of them is obscure.
Mario Fabretto
, 13 July 1997

I read that the green, yellow, green triband is the traditional flag of the Mameluks. The Mameluks were defeated by Bonaparte (1798), but came back after some years (1808) and were again defeated and massacred by Mehmed Ali (1 March 1811). The greater part of the Mameluks were ethnical Cherkess.
Jaume Ollé
, 9 July 1997

I found in my old (1884) atlas:
Egypt: Horizontal tricolor with three equal stripes green, yellow, green.
Josh Fruhlinger
, 11 May1996

[Flag of Egypt in 1711 book] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 22 December 2008

In the flag chart created by Dutch cartographer Pieter Schenk in 1711, which was published in the atlas by Guillaume Delisle of France in 1730 (reissued in 1739 as the "Nouvel atlas" by Covens & Mortier of Amsterdam), Egypt is represented by a green-yellow-green horizontal triband, which is titled "Mamelik". This "Mamluk" flag is grouped with those of the Ottoman Empire, reflecting the then political status of Egypt. It is obviously the predecessor of the similar flag of Egypt from the 19th century, from which it differs by simpler shape.
Source: Allen, Phillip, The Atlas of Atlases, London: Bounty Books, 2005, ISBN-13 978-0-7537-1311-2
Tomislav Todorovic, 22 December 2008

[Flag of Egypt in 1899?] image by Chris Young

The "Egyptian" flag, from a copy of People's Atlas of the World published in April 1899 (almost exactly 100 years ago) by Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick of Springfield, Ohio. The very first page is a color chart of "Flags of Various Nations".
Chris Young, 26 March 1999

[Flag of Egypt before 1889?] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 September 2006

On page is a nice collection of national flags, US states and territories, city flags and naval flags. These are the Allen & Ginter's Cigarette Cards, nos. 9, 10, 11 and 17. Most are as expected for contemporary information, and allow us to date the series as not-earlier-than 1885 and perhaps even 1889. The flag for Egypt is a red flag with a white crescent pointing to the fly.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 September 2006

All 50 Player's cigarettes 1905 cards of the series "Countries Arms & Flags" are on line at For Egypt, it shows an Ottoman flag (but with a five-pointed star in the coat of arms):
António Martins-Tuválkin, 22 February 2007

[Flag of Egypt in 1858 flag chart] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 8 September 2008

Published in A Chart of National Flags (1858), a plain green flag with a white smallish (half-height) “banana”-style crescent.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 8 September 2008

Ottoman flag in the XIXth century

National flag, XIXth century image by Željko Heimer

"The Ottoman flag in the XIXth century normally bore a white star and crescent on its red field."
Quoted from Whitney Smith [smi75c] by Nick Artimovich, 23 April 1996

National flag, XIXth century image by Martin Grieve, 11 January 2008

Page 73 of Flags of Maritime Nations shows the Egyptian flag at that time, but I was lead to believe that this was essentially the Turkish flag (Smith 1975). There is a distinct difference in the design of the devices which are centrally positioned on a 2:3? flag. This appears to be deliberate as the Turkish flag from the same source is the same as today's contemporary version, or so it would seem at a glance.
Martin Grieve, 11 January 2008

Muhammad Ali Dynasty, 1867-1881

[Flag of Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt] image by Bill Garrison, 6 March 2018

"Muhammad Ali" flag of Egypt c. 1870s, according to Flag used in Egypt during the rules of Isma'il Pasha and Tewfik Pasha (1867–1881).
Bill Garrison, 6 March 2018

Attached is a photo of the flag displayed at Cairo Military Museum I took several years ago.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 6 March 2018

Khedive flag

[Flag of Khedive of Egypt] image by Željko Heimer

"Muhammad Ali did introduce one distinctive new flag which eventually became the first real Egyptian national flag. Perhaps to symbolize the victory of his armies in 3 continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa) or his own sovereignty over Egypt, Nubia, and the Sudan, Ali set three white crescents and three stars on a red field. (...) In 1882, Egyptian nationalists, seeking to take leadership in their own land by deposing the khedive, provided the pretext Britain sought for occupying the country. A promise was made that Her Majesty's troops would leave "as soon as the state of the country and the organization of proper means for the maintenance of the Khedivial authority will admit of it."

Quoted from Whitney Smith [smi75c] by Nick Artimovich, 23 April 1996

This flag was the personal standard of the Khedive.
Josh Fruhlinger
, 13 February 1996

The red flag with three crescents and stars, may have had a wider use than purely by the Khedive. I believe Kitchener's 1898 Anglo-Egyptian expedition to the Sudan carried it (along with the Union Jack of course!)
Roy Stilling, 14 February 1996

The Khedive flag was used during the Sultanate of Egypt. Khedive (Ottoman Turkish: خدیو‎ Hıdiv) is a title largely equivalent to the English word Viceroy. It was first used, without official recognition, by Muhammad Ali Pasha (Turkish: Kavalalı Mehmet Ali Paşa, General Muhammad Ali of Kavala), the governor of Egypt and Sudan, and vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The initially self-declared title was officially recognized by the Ottoman government in 1867, and used subsequently by Ismail Pasha, and his dynastic successors until 1914 ( This period is also known as Khedivate of Egypt, as well as relating the flag directly to Sudan.
"The Muhammad Ali dynasty was the ruling dynasty of Egypt and Sudan from the 19th to the mid-20th century. It is named after its progenitor, Muhammad Ali Pasha, regarded as the founder of modern Egypt. It was also more formally known as the Alawiyya dynasty (Arabic: الأسرة العلوية‎ al-Usra al-'Alawiyya). Because a majority of the rulers from this dynasty bore the title Khedive, it was often referred to by contemporaries as the 'Khedival dynasty'."
This distinctive personal standard introduced by the Khedive Muhammad Ali - a set three white crescents and three stars on a red field - became the first real Egyptian national flag in the mid 19th century. When Egyptian nationalists in 1882 sought to depose the khedive, Great Britain - occupying Egypt to maintain the Khedivial authority - flew this flag in conjunction with the Union Jack as a symbol of the Egyptian protectorate.
Esteban Rivera, 6 March 2018

In this historical catalog (attributed to Dr. Whitney Smith in other sources, namely states that "Underlining his military independence within the Ottoman Empire, Muhammad Ali created a system of distinguishing flags for the navy that was different from the Ottoman system. Probably it dates back to the naval campaigns in the twenties of the 19th century. The flags were the flags for the Rear Admiral, the Vice-Admiral and the Admiral, showing on a red field a crescent with one, two and three six-pointed stars respectively. A personal flag for Mohammed Ali himself showed three crescents-and-stars on a red field and this corresponds with the rank of Grand Admiral or the Admiral of the (Egyptian) Fleet."

[Flag of Khedive of Egypt] image located by Esteban Rivera, 6 March 2018

Image describes a set of 12 flags, as follows:
"Distinguishing Flags of the Egyptian and Ottoman Navy, 1841 ca" (from left to right):
First row:
1. Flag of the Government
2. Flag of the Imperial Family
3. Muhammad Ali

Second row:
4. Admiral of Egypt
5. Vice-admiral of Egypt
6. Rear-admiral of Egypt

Third row:
7. Rear-admiral of the Porte
8. Vice-admiral of the Porte
9. Admiral of the Porte

Fourth row:
10. Merchant flag
11. Grand-Admiral of the Porte
12. Merchant flag

Notice that the flag of Muhammad Ali corresponds with the flag of the Grand-admiral of the Porte.

It is possible that these flags were also the distinguishing flags of the corresponding ranks of the army but nothing is known about such

The flag of Muhammad Ali himself, the six-pointed stars replaced by five-pointed ones was also flown as the personal flags of later rulers of Egypt, bearing the title of khedive and sultan. We may assume that in fact not these titles were symbolized, but the rank of grand-admiral or admiral of the (Egyptian) fleet. It was only abandoned in 1922 with the establishment of the kingdom when it was
replaced by a blue flag with the royal arms between four royal crowns in the corners.

The coat of arms of the ruler of Egypt showed a crescent and three stars from about the second half of the reign of Muhammad Ali until 1952. The only exception of this rule are the arms of Abbas Hilmi II (1879-1914) who introduced a coat of arms with three crescents and stars in about 1907 and the arms of his successors, sultans of Egypt until 1922."
Esteban Rivera
, 6 March 2018