Important trading hubs
In the wake of rapid industrialisation and the expansion of international trade, many ports around the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Europe grew into bustling economic hubs. Due to the increasing transfer and exchange of commodities and the introduction of steamship services, the most important ones – whether for export, import or transit trade – underwent state-of-the art modernisation, generally supported by European investment and built by European firms. Ports had close strategic links with the main trading centres inland as well as across the seaways. Like the former, they were characterised by an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multi-faith population. In many places, foreign minorities lived and worked peacefully with and alongside local residents, while at the same time preserving their own distinct culture, language and faith. Typically, specific communities specialised in specific aspects of the economy and maintained their own intra-regional or international networks.
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Important trading hubs

Important ports
Commercial cities
Trading communities
Shipping at Constantinople


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

Tristram James Ellis


Istanbul’s location between Europe and Asia has always given it particular strategic and economic importance, especially as it lies on the only sea route that connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. By the early 20th century, it was the Ottoman world’s largest port city.

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