Textile weaving

Textile weaving

The oldest textile materials produced and used in the Middle East - linen and wool - go back to remote antiquity. Cotton and silk, which originated in India and China, respectively, came into the region during the Roman Empire, in the early centuries of the Christian era.
By the early Middle Ages, quantities of flax (for linen) were exported to Europe, chiefly from Egypt; of raw cotton from Syria and Egypt; of silk thread from Iran, Syria, and the Bursa region (northwest Turkey). Flax and silk fibers and fabrics were traded to Europe for many centuries, but flax was gradually produced in many European nations, and the silks of India, China, and Japan competed with Middle Eastern silks and cottons as well as with cottons from the newly colonized Americas and from India. In the nineteenth century, however, the introduction of long-staple cotton made Egypt an important producer, and in the twentieth century, Egypt was joined by Turkey, Syria, and Sudan. In the 1990s, the Middle East produced 75 percent of the world output of long-staple cotton but only about 8 percent of the total world output of all cottons.
Although the preeminence of the Middle East in the manufacture of handloomed textiles goes back to antiquity, by the late Middle Ages, European products - woolens, fine silks, and linens - were fine enough to be imported by the Middle East. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, the Middle East continued to export cotton cloth and yarn to Europe, but European protective tariffs soon restricted even that trade. With the Industrial Revolution, European machine-loomed fabrics overwhelmed Middle Eastern handmade products and local markets. The number of Middle Eastern handlooms and their total output declined sharply; In Aleppo and Damascus combined, the number of looms dropped from about 12,000 in the 1820s to some 2,500 in the 1840s. Middle Eastern weavers were able to recover by using improved looms, importing cheaper and better European yarns, concentrating on inexpensive products, and drastically reducing wages. Hand-crafted fabrics continued to form a large proportion of the textile output until after World War II. In Syria, in the 1930s, there were some 40,000 handweavers.

Extracted from http://www.answers.com