In the Islamic period, the River Nile played an important role in international trade and the shipbuilding industry.
Amr Ibn al-As, the Conqueror of Egypt, built Fustat, the first Islamic capital in Egypt, directly on the riverbank of the Nile.
Fustat became an important commercial center, as it was in constant communication with the rest of Egypt and received many products from both southern and northern Egypt.
After the Muslims took more of an interest in the coasts of the Red Sea than in that of the Mediterranean, Amr Ibn al-As followed an order from the Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab to re-dig the Trajan's canal to connect the Nile with the port of Al-Qulzum. Wheat then could be transported between Egypt and the Hejaz, allowing the Islamic military to become concentrated in the direction of the Red Sea.
Other important centers then developed between the Nile and the Red Sea, such as Izab and Qusier.
Ship construction became an important industry. Documents point to the founding of shipbuilding centers in Al-Qulzum and Alexandria starting in the first century AH. Directly connected to the Nile, Rashid, known as Rosetta, and Dumiat, known as Damietta, became important commercial and shipbuilding centers.
A naval fleet was constructed in Tennis, in the north of Egypt on the Manzalah Lake, which is connected to the Mediterranean Sea.
Ahmad Ibn Tulun encouraged the construction of ships and enlarged the shipbuilding center on Rhodes Island. Mohammad Ibn Taghg al-Ikhshidi built a shipbuilding center on the banks of Fustat.
The Fatimids were involved in the construction of ships to the extent that Egypt became one of the most powerful naval countries toward the end of the sixth century AH (twelfth century AD).
Historians of Islamic Egypt dedicated whole chapters to the shipbuilding industry, such as Ibn abd al-Hakam, al-Qalqashandi, and al-Maqrizi. Islamic shipbuilding influenced other parts of the world.
"Dar al-Sinaa" is an Arabic word that means "the place where ships are built." The Italians employed the word as "Darsena," then "Arsenal," and it then spread to the rest of the European languages.
During the Fatimid era, there were several kinds of ships. Military ships were constructed to combat intruders. Nile ships were built for commercial purposes or were made for celebrations.
There was a type especially for navigation in the Red Sea and for trade and pilgrimage on the Indian Ocean.
The most important parts of the Fatimid fleet were al-Sheen, al-Harariq, al-Harareeb, and al-Taraid.