Cotton, a soft white fibrous substance surrounding the seeds of a small woody plant, is a shrub that is grown very successfully in Egypt due to the agreeable climate and the fertility of the land. Arab merchants introduced cotton cloth to Europe in 800 AD, but this cloth is unlikely to have been cultivated in Egypt. The large scale production of high quality Egyptian cotton dates back no earlier than the mid nineteenth century.
Muhammad Ali Pasha (1769 - 1848), a visionary, was largely regarded as the founder of modern Egypt due to the dramatic reforms he introduced to the country. Pasha is an honorary title in the Ottomon Empire political and military system. Also ruling the Levantine Territories outside of Egypt, Levant is a geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean. Deriving from the Italian ‘Levante’ meaning “rising” - implying the rising of the sun in the East.
An enterprising Frenchman, Jumel, introduced a piece of cotton cloth he had named ‘Maho’ to Muhammad Ali Pasha. Impressed, and ready to revolutionise the agricultural processes of Egypt, the large scale commercial production of Egyptian Cotton began, generating a huge revenue with the exportation of high quality Egyptian Cotton to Europe.
‘High Quality’ relates to the length of the cotton fibre in the thread. Long staple fibre contributes to the improved strength of the thread as well as reducing the amount of lint which naturally improves the smoothness of the fabric.
A beautiful website can be found here www.thecottonmuseum.com.