Egypt: The Battle of Rasheed "Rosetta"

Egyptian Government News

March 31, 2001

The Battle of Rasheed "Rosetta"

March 31,1807

The city of Rasheed is one of the major tourist and archaeological sites due to its numerous Islamic and Pharaonic relics. It comes after Cairo in the number of old Islamic buildings, hence it is called the city of living history.

Rasheed is located on the west bank of the Rosetta branch at the mouth of the Nile in the Mediterranean Sea. It has been militarily famous since the Pharaonic period. Napoleon chose it as liaison centre between Cairo and Alexandria during the French Expedition in Egypt late in 19th century.

In 1807, the British were interested in Rasheed as it was the most important Egyptian port when they thought of occupying Egypt from Alexandria and occupying Rasheed as a consequence.

Seventeen thousands British troops arrived in Cyprus led by General Frazer. About 30 ships of the British fleet sailed towards Egypt early in 1807 carrying 6000 soldiers and officers and arrived in Alexandria on February 20,1807.

When Mohamed Ali, the ruler of Egypt at that time heard of their number he reinforced fortifications at the main ports of Egypt: Alexandria, Rasheed and Damietta. With the help of the traitor Amin Agha the Governor of Alexandria, and without firing one gun from the Alexandria Battalions, the British troops managed to enter Alexandria.

Before his arrival at Alexandria, Frazer contacted and received pledges of support from the Mamelukes, who were Mohamed Ali's rivals, But Mohamed Ali defeated them before the arrival of Frazer who thought of moving toward Rasheed from which supplies arrived to Alexandria. A force of 1600 British troops moved on March 29.

In the meantime, the Governor of Rasheed Ali Bey Al Salanklli, prepared a plan and asked the inhabitants of the city to help the Egyptian soldiers, who were about 600, and strictly adhere to his plan.

On March 31,1807 the British troops arrived at Rasheed outworn by the long journey from Alexandria crossing sand dunes on foot. They entered the city which appeared to be completely empty of its inhabitants. As they walked though its streets they heard a call for prayers from the "Zaghloul" mosque "Allah Akbar" (God is Great) which was the signal of attack.

Every house in the city was a fortress from which a barrage of fire against the frightened British troops who were completely wiped out. The attack was carried out by the brave men and women who used all possible means to fight the enemy. Their houses were used as fortresses with their secret vaults and shelters.

News of the British defeat in Rasheed raised the morale of all the Egyptians who hurried to help with all sorts of donations as well as enlistment in the army in response to a call by the popular leader Omar Makram. That was the beginning of the end of Frazer's Expedition.

However, Frazer decided to repeat the assault and sent his troops to the town of Edko west of Rasheed. But the Egyptians intercepted them and fighting continued until April 11,1807 when Egyptian cavalry joined in the battles and inflicted heavy losses on the British invaders.

Frazer insisted ongoing personally to Rasheed and ordered his troops to bombard the city until it is completely destroyed but due to the high morale and the courage of the Egyptians together with the provision of enough ammunition and volunteers, Frazer's attempt was foiled. He tried to seek help from the Mamelukes but of no avail. As a result he started to withdraw his troops from around the brave city. The Egyptian cavalry launched an offensive from all directions against the retreating British troops and killed two thirds of them including many of their commanders. Eventually the British surrendered following an object defeat. An agreement to withdraw from all Egypt was signed on September 19,1807.

The Battle of Rasheed has inspired numerous writers such as the great Novelist Ali Al Garim who wrote his famous "The Beauty of Rasheed." Also late President Gamal Abdel Nasser wrote the beginning of his novel "For the sake of Liberty," on this battle.