Al-Nahda, the Arabic term for “the awakening” or “renaissance”, and Tanzimat the Turkish equivalent, meaning “restructuring”, was an all-encompassing movement to revive and modernise the “East”.
Initiated by Muhammad ‘Ali of Egypt and the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and his son ‘Abd al-Majid I, al-Nahda
was a period of intellectual modernisation and reform that touched upon all aspects of life in the Arab and Ottoman worlds. This “awakening” and “restructuring”, aimed at bridging the gap between “East” and “West”, was an attempt by the reformer-rulers of Egypt, the Ottoman Empire and Tunisia to catch up with the “West”. These reforms, though sometimes successful, were frequently executed with excessive cruelty. Inspired by the West (Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt), al-Nahda
began in Egypt and later spread to the Ottoman world and North Africa. Nevertheless it was the outcome of deep, underlying internal socio-political and economic changes in the “East”. Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, and Tunis were the focal points of this renaissance.