The town of Ramla lay on the road from Jerusalem to Ascalon, the latter of which was the largest Fatimid fortress in Palestine. From Ascalon the Fatimid vizier, Al-Afdal Shahanshah, launched almost annual attacks into the newly-founded Crusader kingdom from 1099 to 1107. It was thrice the case that the two armies met each other at Ramla.
Egyptian armies of the period relied on masses of Sudanese bowmen supported by Arab and Berber cavalry. Since the archers were on foot and the horsemen awaited attack with lance and sword, an Egyptian army provided exactly the sort of immobile target that the Frankish heavy cavalry excelled in attacking. Whereas the Crusaders developed a healthy respect for the harass and surround tactics of the Turkish horse archers, they tended to discount the effectiveness of the Egyptian armies. While overconfidence led to a Crusader disaster at the second battle of Ramla, the more frequent result was a Fatimid defeat. "The Franks never, until the reign of Saladin, feared the Egyptian as they did the armies from Muslim Syria and Mesopotamia."
Due to faulty reconnaissance, the Crusade leader, Baldwin I of Jerusalem, underestimated the size of the Egyptian force and rode to battle with only five hundred mounted knights to meet an army of several thousand. Realising his error too late and already cutoff from escape, many of the knights charged into the heart of the Egyptian lines and were slaughtered, but Baldwin and some survivors newly-arrived from Europe were able to barricade themselves in Ramla's single tower. Baldwin escaped under the cover of night, traveling to Arsuf, where he convinced an English ship captain to break through the Egyptian blockade of Jaffa which was being besieged also by land. With the arrival of a fleet of French and German Crusaders, Baldwin was able to assemble an army of eight thousand men. In the subsequent Battle of Jaffa, he led a cavalry charge that once again broke the Egyptian lines and forced the Fatimid forces to flee to Ascalon. Despite the loss of numerous knights, and the capture of Conrad, Constable of Jerusalem, and death of Stephen of Blois in the final charge from the doomed tower of Ramla, Baldwin was able to profit off the plunder left behind by the fleeing Egyptians.