Trading routes
Trading routes by water
A complex network of sea routes connected the economic centres of Europe and the Arab and Ottoman world throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, extending into the Atlantic in the west, the Black Sea in the east and, via the Red Sea and the Gulf, to the Indian Ocean in the south and beyond.
The main maritime routes for European and Arab and Ottoman trade either went down the Danube and through the Black Sea or directly criss-crossed the Mediterranean, conveying an array of products and raw materials from European cities and ports to North African and Near Eastern entrepôts. European colonial powers, particularly the UK, also held crucial commercial ties with the Arab lands bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf areas, vital arteries for their trade with India. Europe’s trade with the Arabian Peninsula – and the Indian Ocean beyond – intensified from the late 19th century, after the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 established a direct link between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, significantly shortening the time in which goods could be carried to and from that part of the world.
More about
Trading routes

Trading routes by land
Trading routes by water
Postcard: The Strait of Gibraltar in the Future


Cerralbo Museum, Madrid, Spain

Paper; colour print

Through the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, the ships of European countries bordering the Atlantic could enter the Mediterranean and trade with Anatolian, Levantine and North African lands. At the same time, the Strait offered trading vessels of European Mediterranean states access to the Atlantic in order to circumnavigate Africa and reach the Red Sea and the Arab-Persian Gulf.

See Database entry for this item

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