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Egyptian textiles flourished abroad from 18th century

Textiles and clothing from Egypt was traded by the French and found their way to the Americas from the 18th century

Karem Yehia, Tunis , Tuesday 1 Apr 2014
textile from fustat
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A study has shown that linen and cotton fabrics were being exported from Egypt to the Americas 300 years ago.

On the fringe of the American University in Cairo's Annual History Seminar on Egypt and the Middle East in the 18th Century, Professor Nelly Hanna told Ahram Online that during the 18th century French traders bought woven fabrics from Egyptian craftsmen and transported them to Marseille then on to French colonies in the Caribbean.

According to Ottoman-era documents, explains Hanna, the French also imported Egyptian textiles and clothes made of linen and cotton named 'Al-Menoufi' and 'Al-Batanoni', as well as other types, to make clothing for slaves.

Therefore, Hanna points out, France became the leading trader of Egyptian textiles and clothes in the period.

Hanna will publish a book entitled 'Ottoman Egypt within the International Changes 1500-1800' in September.

The hand weaving of textiles was widespread throughout Egypt. Such industry, she says, had found a market in Istanbul and the northern region of what is now Syria and Lebanon.

In 1816, Khedive Mohamed Ali built the first ever textile factory in the Al-Khoronfish area of Cairo.

Reviewing and rediscovery Egypt’s history before the French expedition and Mohamed Ali’s empire reveals the country’s first steps towards a national awakening.  

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