السبت، 8 أكتوبر، 2011

Trade in Textiles During the Islamic Period

Successive rulers of Egypt had great interest in the textile industry. The merchandise it produced provided gifts needed by the royal court, in addition to its large contribution to Egypt's foreign trade.

One historian relates how the town of Tennis exported textiles worth 20,000 to 30,000 dinars to Iraq alone. The town received 500 ships from Syria a year, sent to buy its textiles. Despite the political conflicts between the Byzantine Empire and Islamic states, commercial relations never came to a halt. The Byzantine Empire needed Egyptian products, especially from Tennis and Damietta. Emperors often bought these fabrics to decorate their palaces. The Papacy also imported fabric from Alexandria to cover the walls, altars, and columns of churches. The upper-class European women wore clothes made in Alexandria. A papyrus from the third century AH (ninth century AD) describes the prices of different clothes. For example, a handkerchief produced in Tennis cost two dinars and a qirat,or half a dirham or 1/20th of a dinar.

Tennis was popular for producing "Badana," special robes for the Fatimid caliphs. It is said that the King of Persia sent his messengers with 20,000 dinars to purchase such robes. Tennis was also famous for making brocade, which it exported east and west.

The city of Asiut made wool turbans that were unequalled. This product was exported to Persia and known as Egyptian wool. Akhmim exported its thin linen and wool clothes for 20 dinars a piece. Egyptian textiles, especially its linen, were considered the best in the world during the Middle Ages. Egypt's production of linen was between 3,500 and 4,500 bales. Egypt collected large amounts of gold from this trade. The textile industry started to decline, especially in Alexandria, around the late eighth century AH (fourteenth century AD) as a result of Sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay's interference and strict control over the number and work of weavers .

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