In the second half of the 19th century, Middle Eastern and North African states started to establish embassies in Europe and undertake regular diplomatic and state visits to further consolidate relationships.
In the wake of the increasing European economic and, later, political interests unfolding in the region from the first half of the 19th century onwards, Arab and Ottoman rulers recognised the urgent need to engage more directly with their European counterparts. The implicit aim was not only to attain a level of “modern” development on a par with European achievements, but also, and perhaps even more urgently, to effectively stem Europe’s creeping penetration of their countries. Where aloofness and a traditional sense of superiority had previously characterised the diplomatic relationships Arab and Ottoman rulers maintained with Europe, now it became crucial to maintain regular and sustained contact. The first Ottoman permanent embassy in Europe opened in London in 1798, but it took until 1867 for the first Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Abdülaziz) to visit the continent. Other rulers from the region followed suit, often timing their visits to coincide with World Trade Fairs. Lower key diplomatic missions, meanwhile, were generally dispatched in reaction to increasingly complex European power games in the region, in order to seek out an alliance, or gain support against one or the other imperialist foe on the doorstep.