Seif Kamel has written a fascinating article about purchasing Egyptian Cotton from Egypt on the www.touregypt.net website. In the article, he included a section called “History of Cotton in Egypt”. We think you will be interested in knowing where the cotton used to manufacture our 100% Egyptian Cotton products comes from. Please enjoy this excerpt from his article: “Although some scholars argue that cotton was planted in Egypt thousands of years ago, it is almost certain that the high quality Egyptian cotton that is so popular around the world now was not known to the ancient Egyptians. Irregardless of whether cotton was present in more ancient times, it was Mohammed Ali, often referred to as the founder of modern Egypt, who introduced, in 1822, the commercial production of cotton in Egypt. Indeed, Egypt already had a native cotton, known as baladi, prior to 1822, but what was desperately needed by the cotton mills of Europe was a superior quality of cotton which could stand ginning and milling and emerge strong enough and with a staple fine enough to be woven into high quality cloth.
Between 1818 and 1819, a Frenchman named Jumel, who had been to America and knew something about cotton, tried to persuade Mohammed Ali that an Ethiopian cotton called Maho, after a Turkish bey who grew it in his garden, could revolutionize the whole agricultural output of Egypt. Though Mohammed Ali wasn’t convinced, Jamel and a local merchant planted a plot of the Maho cotton nearby the Heliopolis obelisk By 1820 they had shipped three bales of it to Trieste, which convinced Mohammed Ali enough to put Jamel in charge of his own cotton plantations. In 1822 some Americans arrived in Cairo to show Mohammed Ali a “Whitney Saw-gin” cotton gin, but he chose instead to buy a roller gin. However, that machine did not work for the Egyptians, because the fellah’s (peasant) hands and feet were cheaper. Though the introduction of cotton hardly went smoothly in Egypt, Mohammed Ali nevertheless saw in it the gold mine he had been seeking. All cotton in Egypt belonged to him, and he began to extend the crop all over the Delta. Mohammed Ali began to sell the whole crop each year at a fixed price, and capital flowed into Egypt. What this gradual concentration on a single crop eventually did to Egypt’s economy can hardly be measured even today. It was not simply a commodity, because it created a new European interest in possessing Egypt, and it began the process of turning Egypt into a single crop colonial country, tied as a source of raw material to the apron strings of European manufacturing. However, at this point, it was Mohammed Ali himself who controlled the huge sums of cash that the cotton generated.
However, it was cotton that also brought the credit system to Cairo. European banks enticed Mohammad Ali and his successors to borrow, and often at exorbitant rates of interest. It seems that they needed more money than the cotton generated in order to industrialize and modernize Egypt. This went on for some time, and the country of Egypt was modernized to a significant extent. And even though Egypt had gotten itself into debt with the Europeans, it was perhaps a manageable burden. However, the American Civil War erupted in 1861, which effectively ended the supply of American cotton for a period of time. This created an amazing escalation in price for Egyptian cotton. Exports of it rose from about $16 million dollars in 1862 to $56 million dollars in 1864.
By this time, Egypt was ruled by Ismail, Mohammed Ali‘s grandson. Ismail had been educated in France and had traveled extensively in Europe, and he wanted Cairo to rival the modern quarters of Paris. He created would come to be known as the “Paris on the Nile,” and with the increased cotton exports, he spent money like never before. Of course, he also opened another resource, built with Egyptian money and blood, that Europeans thirsted for, and that was the Suez Canal.
In the end, one might say that cotton failed Egypt, since after the American Civil War, the US reentered the market. However, it really was not the fault of cotton, but the wealth that it promised which was to blame for Egypt’s colonization by Europe. The rulers of Egypt, and perhaps especially Ismail, spent more, and took out more loans from European bankers, often with terribly unjust terms, than they could ever repay. So Egypt succumbed to Europe without a single shot being fired. In 1879, Britain and France did what they had been waiting to do for a long time. They simply repossessed Egypt, telling Ismail to abdicate, which he did. However, cotton did change the face of Egypt, and allowed it to move into the modern world, though it was now controlled by Europeans, and would be until 1952. Even today, cotton remains a major cash crop in Egypt, and it’s fame is likely to keep it that way for many years to come. ” If you enjoyed this article, please visit www.touregypt.net for more valuable information about Egypt. If you would like to experience high quality, 100% Egyptian Cotton for yourself, please visit our website to purchase bedsheets, towels, bathrobes and other Egyptian Cotton products.