Because the river Nile flows the length of the country, boats and ships were the most important means of transportation in Egypt from ancient times to the Muslim era. Ships are shown in paintings as early as the Naqada Period (about 4000 – 3100 BC) and by the end of the Old Kingdom, wooden models of ships were frequently placed in tombs. These models reflect the many types of boats the ancient Egyptians designed for different purposes. Reed rafts were made for hunting in the marshes. Boats made of papyrus were used by the royalty for either daily activities or religious ceremonies. Large wooden boats were used to transport heavy cargo and for military purposes.
During the Greco-Roman era, the Ptolemies built a great navy. Ptolemaic ships were made in a variety of styles known all over the Hellenistic world. The Barides formed one important type of naval ship. Ships called Kerkuros were used both for naval and trade purposes, while a smaller type of naval ship was called Lembos. These Lembos were closer to a boat and were used for launching quick strikes. The most important of the merchant ship types was the larger ship called the Korbita that sailed the Mediterranean in the first and second centuries BC until the Kybaea became more common.
Shipbuilding was also important to the Muslims during the Muslim era. They established many shipbuilding centers along the Nile, among them Al-Fustat, Qalzim, Alexandria, and Tanis. Alexandria was a great port and its ships brought goods from Ethiopia, India, China, and all the ports of the Mediterranean Sea. In the Fatimid era, Egypt became one of the most powerful naval countries.
For much shorter distances than would be traveled by boat, sedan chairs were the preferred mode of transportation in the Old and Middle Kingdom for the royal class. Sedan chairs seem to have disappeared after these periods. The high official would sit with knees drawn up to the chest, holding a fan. The chairs would usually have a thick cushion for comfort and a backrest for support. The chairs rested on two long poles, which two or more servants lifted to carry the chair.
Domesticated animals such as donkeys and mules were the most common load carriers in Ancient Egypt and were used for farming. Donkeys were domesticated in the fourth millennium BC and were used almost exclusively for land travel up to the Persian period.
Horses were brought to Egypt by the army of the Hyksos invaders at the end of the Middle Kingdom. Horses were generally used to pull two-wheeled chariots rather than ridden. By the New Kingdom, Egyptians began horse breeding and horses belonged to the military elite and ruling class.
Occasional and infrequent mention of the one-humped camel or dromedary may be encountered in connection with the Early Dynastic Period. But not until after the foreign conquerors of Assyrians, Persians, and Alexander the Great were these animals brought in larger numbers into Egypt. By the Ptolemaic period, camels were used as the main animals for transportation across the desert.