The History behind Egyptian Cotton

For thousands of years cotton has grown in Egypt yet they used flax to create linen. They would turn almost ripe stems into yarn after soaking them in water for around a week. Then they would carefully separate the fibers and by using a spinning tool they would expertly twist and spin the fibers into yarns then weave them into fabric on a loom. Back in the early 1800s a guy named Jumel from France persuaded Egypt’s head of state Muhammad Ali to sample a piece of cotton he had named Maho. Muhammad Ali was so impressed he made him a plantation manager and then built up his cotton crops and spread them all over the Delta region of the River Nile. He dominated the cotton business and started selling his crops for a set price annually. This gave a huge boost to the economy and also sparked interest from Europe. Muhammad Ali continued to dominate the industry and developed Egypt into a cotton colony connecting with the textile industry in Europe. This brought huge profits for Egypt.

After Muhammad Ali passed away the next generation of heads of state used the cotton success and started to get loans from some banks in Europe. They wanted to modernize the production of cotton so they could increase the exports. These loans had high interest rates but because of the vast amount of cotton being produced Egypt could manage the debt. This revolutionized Egypt in to a modern country that became knowledgeable in credit systems.

Unfortunately the American civil war cut off Europe from their cotton exports and so in Egypt the prices went crazy and in the space of just two years the price rose to $50 million. Muhammad Ali’s grandson Ismail decided to do something and so he looked to develop a part of Cairo into a city like Paris which he did and later called it ‘Paris on the River Nile’ he also created and constructed the Suez Canal which became a valuable resource for Egypt. But once the war ended America started exporting cotton into Europe which turned the cotton industry in Egypt into a disaster.

Finally when France and England forced Ismail to abdicate in 1879 they ruled Egypt and turned it into a colony. They gained control of the Egyptian cotton industry right through until Egypt gained independence. Today this is still one of Egypt’s major exports!

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