What is Giza Cotton?
There is a lot of "buzz" these days about Giza cotton especially when it comes to bed sheets. Let's take a deep dive into its origins and what it's all about.
The origin of Egyptian Giza Cotton varieties goes back to 1819, when a French textile engineer by the name of Louis Alexis Jumel tried to persuade Muhammad Ali Pasha that the cultivation of an Ethiopian Cotton variety, discovered at Cairo in the private garden of a Turkish officer called Maho Bey, could revolutionize the whole agricultural output of the country. In 1817, Monsieur Jumel was employed in Egypt by the Pasha as director of a projected spinning and weaving mills. In the course of his visit to the garden, he gleaned all the information Maho Bey possessed on the subject, and procured some seeds of this Cotton. And after having made his estimations he presented to the Pasha a project for increasing his revenues, for which he asked 20.000 dollars. The Pasha consented asking less brilliant but more solid results. So the engineer, associating him-self with a local merchant, took a small lot of ground at the village of Matareya, near the Obelisk of Heliopolis, and commenced a small plantation. The produce in 1820 was three bales, which were shipped to Italy (Trieste); the advices were highly satisfactory to convince the Pasha enough to give him the direction of the large scale Cotton plantations. The year 1822 produced about 1.500 tons of this new Cotton, the staple of which was markedly fine, but more unequal and less clean than that of the ensuing years. Rude presses were constructed for packing the Cotton at the villages; but as the machinery was defective, some of the Alexandrian merchants brought hydraulic presses, with which they caused the bales to be pressed again. The Cotton eventually came to be known as Jumel (or Mahò) and it soon found voracious markets in Europe, especially in England where only the Lancashire mills with the latest machinery could handle the fineness of its quality. In 1823 the Cotton crop was increased to about 10.000 tons, and its culture permanently fixed. The quality was cleaner than that of the past year but less fine in fiber. This showed the necessity of new seed, or a different system of cultivation, and measures were taken to meet these objections. In 1827 Muhammad Ali Pasha imported Sea Island Cotton seeds, which let the Egyptian Cotton achieve a perfect quality, and it turned out that lower Egypt, and especially the Damietta branch of the Nile, encompassed the lands most favorable to these Cotton varieties. The combination of the best seeds in the world, together with the exceptional environment, set up the ideal cultivation conditions for the most precious Cotton in the world. And during almost two centuries it has been widely proven this result.
Nowadays Egyptian Extra Fine & Extra Long Staple Cotton, the finest in the world, including Cotton varieties like Giza 45, Giza 87 and Giza 93, represents less than one percent of the total local production, being absolutely a state-of-the-art product, extremely rich in tradition. It is carefully picked by hand in 3-4 separate phases which ensure that only the bolls with a proper degree of maturity are chosen. Moreover the meticulous cultivation and the manual harvesting, guarantee that the fibers have endured very little stress and are still intact, and allow to avoid the use of defoliants and chemical products, which are normally associated with mechanical harvesting. The seeds of this category of Cotton are only planted in a very small area to the north-east of the Nile delta. The reason is the perfect relative humidity combined with the unique fertility of the land. Every year in Egypt, the Cotton is planted in April when the temperature is quite mild. This weather mildness allows the lower branches of the plant to grow, meanwhile the bolls developing in the shade are not scorched by the direct heat of the sun. In July and August, during the formation of the Cotton fiber, the climate is stable and favorable to the production of regular and uniform fibers, which are then accurately selected and hand-harvested starting from September. The seed Cotton, after a careful ginning procedure, turns into Cotton lint, which undergoes a qualified pressing process, that let it be efficiently compressed in bales shape.