GHALI, finance minister for MUHAMMED ‘ALI. Born in the late eighteenth century, Ghali was employed by Muhammad Bey al-Alfi, a leading figure among the Mamluks. He was a contemporary of the French Expedition (see YA‘QUB, GENERAL), during which the Jawhari brothers rose to eminence. When Muhammed ‘Ali became Khedive, Ghali inherited the position in the finance administration formerly held by JIRJIS AL-JAWHARI. Apparently Ghali's method of raising funds for the khedive was more conciliatory than that of Jirjis, who was forced to flee his new master and his competitor to take refuge in Upper Egypt. In 1805, the khedive entrusted Ghali with the total administration of the finances of Egypt. He reorganized the finances on a firm basis by taking a complete survey of the country and partitioning the arable soil into taxable segments—thus establishing a precise budget, which increased considerably as a result. He also divided the country into provinces and districts with a governor, titled agha, responsible for each district.
In the meantime, Muhammad ‘Ali was eager to secure armaments from Europe but found the cost too high. When he consulted his generals, they still recommended European military hardware. Ghali made the counterproposition that armaments be manufactured locally, explaining that this would bolster the economy and provide the people with opportunities for work. The khedive accepted Ghali's proposal.
During Ghali's administration the French ambassador proposed to the khedive that he order the Copts of Egypt to join Rome under the papacy. Muhammad ‘Ali ordered Mu‘allim Ghali, who was a Copt, to tell the Coptic patriarch to accede to the French ambassador's request. Ghali, who knew well that the patriarch would never do so, told the khedive that the best way to attract the Copts to Catholicism was simply to adopt the Roman faith himself. The khedive accepted the suggestion, which proved to be the beginning of the very small Catholic congregation in Egypt. This is probably the only surviving legacy from the Ghali family, who became Catholic on that occasion.
Apparently Ghali's success in discharging his duties created jealousy, and his competition began to foment trouble behind his back at court. For his failure to meet the khedive's request for extraordinary funds, he was incarcerated and ultimately was killed by IBRAHIM PASHA in the town of Zifta in May 1822, although the immediate causes for this act remain a mystery.
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