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The Textile Industry in Egypt
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Glossary

brocade

A heavy fabric interwoven with a rich, raised design.

caliph

a successor of the Prophet Muhammad and head of the Islamic community; traditionally always male

Fatimid

Islamic Shi'ite dynasty that ruled Egypt AD 969-1171

jute

A fiber used for sacking and cordage.

Kaaba

The Kaaba is the most sacred shrine of Islam. It is a cube-shaped stone structure, which is covered in black carpets. The Kaaba is located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Kiswa

The Kiswa is a black curtain or cloth produced traditionally in Egypt that covers the Kaaba in Mecca. It is changed annually at the time of the Hajj.

mosque

Muslim place of worship

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Islamic Cities Famous for Linen Production
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Linen was considered to be one of the most important raw materials in the textile industry. Egypt had cultivated linen in the Delta and in Middle Egypt since ancient times, especially in the Faiyum. Raw linen was said to be exported from Egypt, even as far as Persia. The town of Bosh in Bani Sowaif was famous for cultivating linen, which it exported to Africa. Linen was also cultivated in Banha, Abusir, and Samannoud. The linen from the towns of Tennis, Damietta, and Shata in the Northern Delta and in Faiyum and El Bahnasa in Middle Egypt, were particularly famous. Tennis, one of the most famous linen manufacturing centers, was known for a fabric called Al-Qasab Al-Molawwan, or the Brocade of Tennis.

Historical sources state that Tennis had around 5,000 weaving workshops with 10,000 weavers and that there was no house in the world that did not have Tennis fabrics or clothes. The city hosted makers of the sultan's clothes. Tennis was burned by the Crusaders in AH 573 (AD 1177) and Sultan Al-Kamil ordered its walls torn down in AH 624 (AD 1226).

Damietta followed Tennis in importance and its reputation of quality fabric went beyond Egypt. For example, the city of Carozan in Persia, the biggest producer of linen, was called the Persian Damietta. Damietta specialized in making a thin linen fabric known as the Daq Domyat, or Fine Damietta. It produced another fabric called Al-Qasab Al-Abiad during the Fatimid era.

Bora, a town near Tennis, was famous for making clothes for both the royal court and the public. A piece of fabric from a textile workshop even has the name of Al-Hakim.

Shata, located near Damietta, was famous for making covers called "Kiswah al Kabaah" for the Kaaba, the central cubic stone structure within the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is covered by a cloth. Dabqo, or Dabiq, was famous for its linen workshop. Pieces with the name of Al-Hakim were also found there. The city produced new fabrics at the time of Fatimid Caliph Al-Aziz, including the golden fabric used for turbans. It was also famous for Al-Dabiqi Al-Thaqil, or Heavy Dabiq, on which maps were drawn with waxy paints. El Bahnasa was famous for making curtains, large tents, and special fabrics for the sultan. Another famous area was Ihnasia in Ashmunein.

Ibn Hawqal, the geographer, mentioned that weavers inhabited Faiyum who probably made linen fabrics in addition to jute.

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Piece of  Ayyubid Linen Textile
Piece of Ayyubid Linen Textile

Printed Textile Fragment with Two-Headed Eagle
Printed Textile Fragment with Two-Headed Eagle

Textile Fragment with Chalice
Textile Fragment with Chalice

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