In the course of the 19th century, port cities expanded due to their strategic importance for international trade, steamship traffic and the influx of economic migrants.
In the course of the 19th century, port cities around the Mediterranean, along the Red Sea and in the Arab-Persian Gulf expanded in size, some considerably. This was due not only to their strategic importance for international trade, but also to the increase in steamship traffic and the influx of economic migrants into their already diverse multi-ethnic and multi-faith urban fabric. Cosmopolitan, pragmatic and pluralist, port cities acted not only as maritime trading hubs but also as nerve centres for entrepreneurial expertise, finance, cultural exchange, intra-regional communication and emigration or immigration. Most residents of port cities focused on professional activities, skills and services closely linked to a port’s economic and strategic function. Non-Muslims traditionally oversaw many aspects of international trade, while Muslims tended to dominate trade with the interior and intra-regionally. The industrial expansion of ports at the time was generally initiated by regional governments and commissioned from European firms.