Egyptian Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean & Nile Valley

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  • 0:01 Egyptian Trade
  • 0:39 What Could Egypt Offer…
  • 1:32 The Near East
  • 2:22 Africa and Yemen
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Learn how Egypt used its many ports to grow its economy and how it traded for the goods that the Ancient World couldn't get enough of in this lesson. Then, test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Egyptian Trade

Egypt had a very unique location in the Ancient World. It was close to the center of the known world, with Greece to the northwest, Mesopotamia and Persia to the northeast, Yemen to the southeast, and Africa to the south. Further, as a river civilization, it had many ports that could not only receive and load goods, but also meant that there were plenty of places to buy or sell goods in Egypt. The river also provided defense, as there could be plenty of warning if an enemy was trying to attack Egypt's ports, since in most cases they were well away from the Mediterranean Sea coast. This meant that Egypt was a perfect place for trade, and the country used this fact to grow very rich by trading.

What Could Egypt Offer the World?

Egypt also had a very unique environment, as well. On one hand, it was very hot in Egypt, but with the yearly floods, the Nile brought plenty of water and nutrients for the soil. As a result, the farm produce of the Egyptians was incredibly rich, and Egypt was able to produce grain and other foods for much of the Mediterranean region. Since everyone has to eat, this meant that Egypt had a massive market for its food.

However, it was not only food that Egypt was able to sell throughout much of the known world. Egypt was also one of the only places from which papyrus, an early form of paper, could be made. Governments, then, needed an incredibly large amount of paper to keep records, meaning that many other governments throughout the region depended on Egypt to be able to continue to work effectively. Also, gold and jewels mined from Egypt's mines, either further down the Nile or in the desert, were both in great demand.

The Near East

However, Egypt was not able to produce everything that it needed. Perhaps the most important good the Egyptians needed, and in large quantities, was wood. Egypt's trees produce wood that, while useful for some applications, is not able to act as the supports necessary to build the great temples and pyramids. As a result, the Egyptians shipped much of their wood in from Lebanon, to the northeast.

Additionally, the Egyptians had an appetite for both olive oil and wine, especially among the rich. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, neither of these could be easily produced in Egypt, as neither grapes nor olives grow well in the intense Egyptian heat, or in large enough quantities to make it worthwhile to do in the first place. Egypt, therefore, imported these goods from as far away as Greece, but often got them from the Hebrews of Judea or from modern-day Turkey.

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