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Second Battle of Dongola

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Unknown but heavy  Unknown
Location  Dongola, Sudan
5,000 men including cavalry and a catapult  Unknown number of archers
Result  Makurian victory; Baqt between Makuria and Rashidun Caliphate

The Second Battle of Dongola or Siege of Dongola was a military engagement between early Arab-Egyptian forces of the Rashidun Caliphate and the Nubian-Christian forces of the kingdom of Makuria in 652. The battle ended Muslim expansion into Nubia, establishing trade and a historic peace between the Muslim world and a Christian nation. As a result, Makuria was able to grow into a regional power that would dominate Nubia for over the next 500 years.



Relations between the kingdom of Makuria and Rashidun Egypt had gotten off to a rocky start in 642 with the First Battle of Dongola. After their defeat, the Arabs withdrew from Nubia and something of a peace had been established by 645. According to the 14th-century Arab-Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi, Makuria did something to violate the truce. It was then that Abdallah ibn Sa'd, the successor of the first governor of Arab Egypt, invaded Makuria in an attempt to bring the Makurians to heel. At this time, northern and central Nubia were united under the Makurian king Qalidurut.


Abdallah marched a force of 5,000 men, equipped with a catapult, to the Makurian capital of Dongola in 651. He then laid siege to the city, putting his cavalry in the precarious situation of storming a walled city defended by the infamous Nubian archers. An Arab poet describing the battle quotes:

"My eyes ne'er saw another fight like Damqula,
With rushing horses loaded down with coats of mail."

During the battle the town's cathedral was damaged by catapult fire. The casualties incurred by Abdallah's forces were heavy, particularly to his cavalry, and Qalidurit did not sue for peace. In the end, Abdallah called off the siege and negotiated the baqt, one of the most famous documents in medieval history.

The Aftermath and the Baqt

The details of the second Battle of Dongola are scarce, but we do know that the forces of the caliphate suffered enough casualties that taking their objective - the city of Dongola - was no longer possible. A negotiated truce known as the Baqt was agreed upon by both sides and lasted for six centuries. It set up trade relations between Muslim Egypt and Christian Nubia. It involved the exchange of wheat, barley, wine, horses and linen from Egypt for 360 slaves per year from Nubia.

Nubia's Position in the Muslim World

The baqt was without precedent in the early history of Islam. Also new to the paradigm of Muslim-Non Muslim Relations was Nubia's status as a land free from conquest. Traditionally, Nubia was made the exception. It was a Christian region where its rulers did business with Muslim rulers on equal terms well until the 12th century when the power of Nubia began to wane. As a result of the battle and the baqt, Christian Nubia had the space to flourish for the next 600 years.


Second Battle of Dongola Wikipedia

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