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By Hugh Cowin, Hugh W. Cowin
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12 This ancient city, situated in the western Nile Delta on the Mediterranean coast, equaled the greatness of its conquering founder. As the central hub of nineteenth-century southern Mediterranean trade with Europe, it burst with entrepreneurs, activity, and importance. Second only to Cairo in the Arab world, Alexandria was essential to the all-important cotton trade. In the 1840s, Alexandria was quintessentially Egyptian. Local Christians and Jews, comprising fully one quarter of the population, mingled with local Muslims in the beehive of shops that inhabited the ancient bazaar.
For while merchants and financiers directed trade from metropolitan hubs, that commerce directly determined the scope and scale of cultivation in the interior. Between 1860 and 1914, the allure of profit steadily encroached on nomadism. In Egypt, the insatiable European demand for raw cotton led businessmen to double the amount of land apportioned to cotton cultivation. In Syria and Mesopotamia, similar market forces incentivized the mass production of grain, olives, oil, and sesame seeds; in Mount Lebanon, the commodity of choice was raw silk.
13 By the time its stock exchange was opened in 1883, Alexandria resembled more a European than an Egyptian or Ottoman city. A CHANGING MIDDLE EAST 15 By 1907 Alexandria’s population was estimated at over 400,000, with large communities of Greeks, Italians, English, and French, in descending order of size; Greek Orthodox and Jews freely attended their religious services and performed their rituals. Even Coptic Christians, descendants of the dominant pre-Islamic Egyptian Christians but by then reduced to only 2 percent of the population, thrived in Alexandria’s urbane cosmopolitanism.
Allied Aviation Of World War I by Hugh Cowin, Hugh W. Cowin