Abu Nabbut started his military and political career as a mamluk ("slave soldier") in the courtyard of Jezzar Pasha, the governor of Acre. A few years after Jezzar's death in 1804, he was appointed by Jezzar's heir, Sulayman Pasha, as governor of the districts of Jaffa and Gaza.
Abu-Nabbut possessed a similar character to Jezzar, becoming known for his ambitious construction and refurbishment projects in Jaffa and for his boundless cruelty as a ruler. He was also known as a just ruler who strove to improve Jaffa and better its inhabitants. Under his rule, the population and economic conditions of Jaffa and Gaza improved substantially.
A number of legends surrounded Abu-Nabbut including one concerning his name. Abu-Nabbut, meaning "Father of the Club" in Arabic, supposedly was attributed to him from his habit of roaming the streets of Jaffa with a club, beating anyone who disobeyed his orders. The English traveller Charles Leonard Irby, who passed through Jaffa in 1817, observed that while his formal name was "Mohammed Aga", he was referred to as "Abou Nabout"; "the master of the mace or stick". Another local Palestinian legend tells of how Abu-Nabbut was locked out of Jaffa after leaving the city to walk through the nearby orchards. When he demanded the gate be opened for him, the guard refused because he did not believe it was Abu-Nabbut waiting outside. After repeated calls, Abu-Nabbut was allowed entry. The next morning he summoned all of Jaffa's inhabitants and proclaimed "Cursed be the man, and cursed his father, who joins himself to a man of Jaffa." He ordered that this to be engraved on his well along the Jaffa Road.
When Sulayman Pasha of Acre fell ill in 1818, Abu Nabbut apparently made moves to become his successor as governor of Acre. However, this did not suit Sulayman Pasha's influential financial advisor, Haim Farhi, who favoured his young protégé Abdallah Pasha, believing that Abdallah would be more easy to control. Haim Farhi therefore convinced Sulayman Pasha in the summer of 1818 to move against Abu Nabut. Abu Nabut was hence removed from Jaffa through an internal coup. This earned Haim Farhi the eternal enmity of Abu Nabut, who after his removal from Jaffa went to Istanbul, "where he could intrigue" against Haim.
After enquiries in Jaffa in the 1870s, Clermont-Ganneau found that the tomb of "the legendary Abu Nabbut" was located near the Sebil Abu Nabbut in Jaffa. This tomb survived at least until 1950, but it has now disappeared.
During his tenure as governor Abu-Nabbut was responsible for a large number of building projects in Jaffa, including the completion of the fortifications of the city, the renovation of the Great Mosque, the erection of two sabils (public fountains), and the construction of cotton and wool markets.
The French sacking of the city after the Siege of Jaffa in 1799 proved the inadequacy of the city walls, and when the city was returned to Ottoman control in 1800, Turkish and British engineers began to rebuild the fortifications. This task was completed under Abu-Nabbut from 1810 and onwards. Abu Nabbut added a monumental eastern gate crowned with three cupolas. The fortifications were specially designed to cope with European artillery and possessed thick walls, with substantial corner bastions, capable of supporting large cannons. Similar fortifications have survived at Acre. However, later in the eighteenth century the political situation had changed, and Abu-Nabbut's fortifications were no longer needed. By 1888 the dismantling process was complete and the moat was entirely filled in. Today, only two gateways and a short section of Abu-Nabbut's wall remains.
Sabil Abu Nabbut, Jaffa
Above the columns on the west side of the building is a plaque commemorating the construction of the sabil in 1236 H.
- Al-Mahmudiyya Mosque Archnet Digital Library.
- Vilnay, 2003, p. 208
- Irby, 1852, p.116
- Vilnay, 2003, p. 208
- Philipp, 2001, p. 88, 151
- Kana`an, 2001, note 44, p.139
- Clermont-Ganneau, p.3, also cited in Petersen, 2002, p.171
- Mayer, et.al 1950, p.32. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 172
- Petersen, 2002, p. 172
- Kana`an, 1998. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 162
- Tolkowsky, 1924, p.133. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 163
- Petersen, 2002, p. 163
- Petersen, 2002, p. 170-172
- Khalidi, 1992, p.114
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abu Nabut Trough.|
- Clermont-Ganneau, Charles Simon (1896–1899): Archaeological Researches in Palestine 1873-1874, [ARP] translated from the French by J. McFarlane, Palestine Exploration Fund, London. Cited in Petersen, (2002).
- Irby, Charles Leonard, James Mangles, John Barker (1823), Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria, and Asia Minor; During the Years 1817 & 1818 Published by T. White and co., 560 pages p.382
- Irby, Charles Leonard, James Mangles, Henrich Steffens (1852),Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria, and the Holy Land: including a journey round the Dead Sea, and through the country east of the Jordan Published by J. Murray, 150 pages p.116
- Kana`an, Ruba (1998), Jaffa and the Waqf of Muhammad Aga Abu Nabbut (1799-1831): A Study in Urban History of an East Mediterranean City, D. Phil. Thesis. Oxford: Oxford University. Cited in Petersen (2002).
- Kana`an, Ruba (2001), Waqf, Architecture, and Political Self-Fashioning: The Construction of the Great Mosque of Jaffa by Muhammad Aga Abu Nabbut. In Muqarnas XVIII: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture. Gülru Necipoglu (ed.). Leiden: E.J. Brill. (.htlm link)
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