Raw materials
In the 19th century, the Arab and Ottoman world became large-scale exporters of the raw materials wanted by industrialised European countries.
In the Middle East, as elsewhere, geographical and climatic conditions have always determined the production of specific raw materials in specific regions. In the 19th century, increasing European demand led Egypt and Palestine to intensify their cotton production, while Mount Lebanon specialised in the cultivation and spinning of silk, particularly for the French market. Tobacco, meanwhile, popular throughout the region as well as in Europe, was grown in greater Syria. From further afield, pearls and corals were among the luxury commodities sought after in Europe. Only a few raw materials were imported into the Arab and Ottoman world in turn, most importantly sugar and coffee. At the time, both were brought by European traders from the colonies of the West Indies. Of course, raw materials and livestock were also traded within and across the region.
More about

Raw materials
Finished products
Mount Gilboa from Sulem, a woman spinning cotton

Published 1881–1884

Sharjah Art Museum / Sharjah Museums Department, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (Sharjah)

Philip Meerer (after a pencil drawing by John Douglas Woodward 1846–1924)

Coloured wood engraving

The biggest Palestinian cotton growing and processing centres were Acre during the 19th century and later the hill region Jabal Nablus, both situated in the north of Palestine. The raw cotton and the cotton yarn they produced were imported mainly by France for its textile industry.

See Database entry for this item


In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Trading routes
Important trading hubs
Financing trade