Sultan Abdul Hamid’s Journey to Europe (Ottoman Illuminations)


One of the factors that shaped the personality of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II and the formulation of his method of thinking and view of Western civilization was his trip to Europe, which he undertook in his youth with Sultan Abdul Aziz from June 21 to August 7, 1867 AD.


France had held the International Exhibition in Paris, and the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Aziz had received an invitation from Napoleon III, Emperor of France, to attend. On this trip, the Ottoman delegation, which included Abdul Hamid (he had not yet taken over the Sultanate), visited the countries of France, Belgium, England, Austria and Hungary.

At that time, Abdul Hamid met with the delegation famous people of government and politics on this trip, such as Napoleon III, Emperor of France, Queen Victoria of England, Leopold II of Belgium, Guillaume I of Germany and Francois Joseph of Austria.

While the Ottoman delegation was keen to appear in a Western appearance on the trip, Abd al-Hamid, the twenty-five-year-old, wore very simple clothes and appeared simple in his behavior and dealings, which drew the attention of Europe towards this different young prince.


In the memoirs of Sultan Abdul Hamid, the importance of this trip is highlighted, which drew his attention and his thinking to European life, its lifestyles, ways of living, the Western moral framework, industrial and military development. And the way he dealt with European civilization after he ascended the throne.

Abdul Hamid used to think deeply about his observations of European life, despite his extensive readings about it before the trip, during which he formed different impressions about its countries.

The most European country that he was influenced by and admired was Germany, especially the administrative and military systems in it, and this explains his choice of German officers to train the Ottoman army when it became the sultan of the state.

During this trip, Abdul Hamid learned the intelligence of political dialogue through the responses of the Ottoman Grand Vizier Fuad Pasha to those who wanted to break the morale of the Ottomans at a time when the Ottoman Empire was described as weak.


Among that is what the Egyptian historian Muhammad Harb mentioned in his book “Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the last of the great Ottoman sultans,” that he was asked: How much do you sell the island of Crete? Fouad Pasha replied, “At the price we bought it for,” referring to nearly three decades in which the Ottomans struggled to preserve Crete.

When Fouad Pasha was asked: What is the most powerful country in the world? He replied: “The most powerful country now is the Ottoman Empire, because you are destroying it from the outside and we are destroying it from the inside, and neither of us was able to destroy it.”

It was an opportunity for Abdul Hamid the young man to learn how to conduct such political dialogues, and therefore you find this point very clear in his dialogues after he assumed the Sultanate, including the historical response to Zionism’s attempts to obtain approval from him to establish a homeland for the Jews in Palestine.


He said at the time: “Advise Herzl not to take new steps on this subject, because I cannot give up an inch of the Holy Land, because it is not mine, but the property of my people. Palestine will be free of charge, but the dismemberment must first begin with our corpse.”

Influenced by this trip, Sultan Abdul Hamid, after assuming the Sultanate, followed a policy of independence towards Europe, and he was not entrusted with falling under the influence of any European ruler, regardless of his relationship with him or his proximity to him. The Islamic world as the Caliph of Muslims.

Sultan Abdul Hamid had his own balanced concept of his view of Western civilization and the introduction of its elements into his country. He believes that his integrated civilization has elements that surpass European civilization, and therefore he does not have to import the cultural and heritage aspect from it.

It is reported that during the aforementioned trip, France assigned some young officers to accompany the two princes Abdul Hamid and Murad, and these officers raced to take the two princes to places of entertainment, but Abdul Hamid’s position was very strict in rejecting these attempts.


What Abdul Hamid needed was to gradually take from Europe the advances in the industrial, scientific, administrative, educational and other modern sciences. Cultural societies of the Ottoman Empire.

Therefore, he says in this regard: “It is not correct to say that I am against every innovation that comes from Europe, but haste is from Satan, and haste corresponds to calm and moderation. It is natural and that it comes from within and according to the need for it, and it cannot succeed if it is in the form of a vaccination that comes from outside.”

Based on his belief in the importance of adopting the positive aspect of Western civilization, Abdul Hamid was interested in introducing modern inventions to his country in various aspects of life, including the purchase of two submarines, and the submarine weapon was new.

He introduced the telegraph to his country from his own money, and established a modern water institution, chambers of industry and commerce, established a postal administration, extended railways, established municipalities, and introduced what is known as trumpets in his country as advanced means of transportation.

He benefited from the introduction of Western civilization in the field of education in a strong way, so he established modern schools with a modern educational system. He also established a college of science, colleges of literature and law, a college of political science, an academy of fine arts, and high schools of commerce, agriculture, veterinary, mining, and maritime trade.

He also established specialized schools, such as schools for the deaf, dumb and blind, and established preparatory schools equal to the current secondary in every Sanjak. He also established high schools at the level of universities in Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, Thessaloniki, Konya and others, and sent scientific missions to France and Germany.

Therefore, Sultan Abdul Hamid had his balanced approach to adopting the civilization in Europe, as he kept the cultural and heritage aspect and was only concerned with the gradual introduction of Europe and its progress in various areas of life.


And his first trip to Europe was a strong factor in formulating his view and his attitude towards adopting European life, unlike those who run behind the West and take everything from it, even with regard to the cultural and value system.