Damietta governorate is one of the 27th provinces, the capital of the governorate with the same name. Damietta is famous as the eastern branch of the Nile pours into the Mediterranean Sea through it. No wonder this branch carries the same name as the town! The joining area of the river and sea is also the location of the popular local resort of Ras El Barr.
Damietta has long shores overlooking the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea. To the southwest of Damietta, there are also the beautiful gardens and orchards of the Delta of Egypt. The Port of Damietta is also one of the most active and essential trading points in Egypt.
Damietta is famous for its guava farms and palm trees. These farms cover the coast from Ras El Bar in the east to Gamasa in the west. It has more than 2.5 million palm trees that cover a large surface area. The governorate exports more than one million palm trees over a long period to several countries worldwide, including Greece and China. Damietta also produces wheat, maise, cotton, rice, potatoes, lemon, grapes and tomatoes. It is also famous for its sweet industry, sardine packing, and Domiati cheese.
Location of Damietta Governorate
Damietta Governorate is one of the governorates of Egypt, which lies in the northeastern part of the country. Its capital is Damietta city. It stretches from Ras El Barr in the east to the small coastal town of Gamasa in the west. At the same time, it extends from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Damietta highway in the south.
Why do we call it Damietta?
The city of Damietta was called Tamiates during the Greco Roman period. Afterwards, during the Coptic period, it was named Tamiata. Later, the town received an Arabic name after the Arabs invaded Egypt in the 7th century A.D. Historians and scholars have debated the origins of the name of Damietta for an extended period. Some scholars believe that “Da-Mat Ptah Ten” was the ancient name of the city or the city of the god Ptah. However, other historians note that records mention a town near Palestine called Damaty during the archaic Egyptian period of the 12th dynasty. They believe it was similar to the Egyptian Damietta.
Historical records mention that the name Damietta originated from the ancient Egyptian word “Damt”, meaning “ability. There are various theories about the name, but they can not prove the reason by its name. “It was because Damietta could combine the saltwater of the Mediterranean Sea and the freshwater of the Nile in one place.
According to 2003 statistics, Damietta’s population reached around one million one hundred thousand, with approximately 70% living in the countryside and the rest living in the urban areas in and around the city of Damietta. Declared by the United Nations to be the wealthiest governorate in Egypt due to its many natural resources, fertile lands, and cultivated farms, the population growth of Damietta is estimated to be around 2% per year, which is among the lowest rates in the country.
The surface area of Damietta is around 1,029 square kilometres, representing about 5% of the total surface area of the whole Nile Delta and approximately 1% of the surface area of Egypt. Damietta’s size for housing is estimated to be around half a million square kilometres, while the cultivated land exceeds more than 120,000 acres. The most important crops of Damietta are grain, corn, cotton, rice, potatoes, lemon, grapes, and tomatoes.
History of Damietta Governorate
Many historians believe that Damietta was the 17th nome of the 20 nomes during the Pharaonic times. The city was called “Tam Heet”, or the city of the water or the running water.
Damietta was an important city of ancient Egypt and was formerly closer to the sea than it is at present. It declined with the development of Alexandria (after 322 BCE).
When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332, Damietta, like all the other Egyptian cities and regions, came under the rule of the Greeks and then the Ptolemies before the Romans ruled over Egypt in the year 30 B.C.
The people of Damietta had many commercial and cultural activities, and affairs in partnership with the Greeks as many scientists, writers, and travellers resided in the city to study the Egyptian customs and traditions.
A famous battle took place near Damietta when Alexander the Great passed away in 323 B.C., between the military troops of Ptolemy I and the soldiers of the ruler of Macedonia. The Macedonian ruler wanted to take the sarcophagus of Alexander to bury in his city, but the army of Ptolemy I defeated him.
The Roman Rule of Damietta
The Romans paid a lot of attention to Damietta because they considered the city an important agricultural area with cereal, flax, and many other crops. The taxes imposed on the people of Damietta increased under Roman rule, which made the people feel discontent. There were many revolutions against the Roman emperors.
When Egyptians believed in Christianity, they constructed many churches in Damietta, especially during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine in 325 BC. The Churches of Damietta were significant and vital, with bishoprics representing them in international religious conferences. At that time, Egyptians modified The name Damietta to become Tamiat, which means the northern lands where flax grows.
Arab Rule of Damietta
When the Arabs took control of Egypt in the 7th century, the army of the Arabs entered Damietta in 642 A.D. to control the two branches of the Nile, the Damietta Branch and the Rosetta Branch.
In 638 CE, it fell to Arab invaders, who made it a commercial centre famous for its textiles.
The people of Damietta started converting to Islam, and they also began to learn the Arabic language. They started mingling with the Muslims who came from the Arabian Peninsula to reside in Egypt.
During the Abbasid king, El Mutawakel, in the 10th century, the Romans suddenly attacked Egypt from the direction of Damietta with 300 boats and more than 5,000 soldiers. They were able to capture many Muslims and take a lot of money and weapons. The Romans then went back to their homeland with a victory over the unarmed people of Damietta.
Frequently attacked by the Crusaders, it was only briefly in their hands (1219–21; 1249–50). The settlement’s vulnerability to sea attacks led the Mamlūk sultan Baybars I (reigned 1260–77) to raze the town and fortifications, block access to the Damietta branch of the river. He also erected a new village called Damietta 4 miles (6.4 km) inland on the present site.
During the first Crusade, soldiers of Europe reached Damietta in 1170 A.D. and besieged the city. The famous Arabian army king and leader Saladin sent an army down the Nile to rescue Damietta. He supplied the inhabitants of the town with weapons and money. Afterwards, the armies of Saladin, with the help of the people of Damietta, managed to defeat the crusaders.
On May 30, 1218, the first troops of the second Crusade reached Damietta. They spent more than 16 months fortifying Damietta. Then the Crusaders went to face the armies of El Malek El Kamel near the city of El Mansoura. El Malek El Kamel positioned his army strategically and constructed many fortifications to the south of Damietta. Thus, they were able to take control of the city. Afterwards, the Arabian king negotiated with the crusaders and asked them to leave Damietta and return to Europe. El Malek El Kamel entered Damietta as a victorious army leader.
The Crusaders returned and attacked Damietta during the Third Crusade in the middle of the 13th century. Still, the people of Damietta defended their city bravely and pushed them away.
After many defeats around the Nile Delta, Louis IX, the king of France at the time and the leader of the Third Crusade, was captured in Mansoura, and he left Egypt after he had to pay 400,000 pounds as a ransom.
Both the Mamlūk and the Ottoman periods used the town as a place of banishment. Damietta’s importance as a trade centre diminished after the construction in 1819 of the Maḥmūdiyyah Canal, which diverted much of the Nile’s shipping to Alexandria. However, it retained some trade, principally with Syria.
Damietta in Modern Days
When Mohamed Ali took control of Egypt in 1805, Damietta was one of the major commercial centres in Egypt. At that time, more than 30,000 inhabitants lived in the city. Muhammed Ali paid attention to Damietta and began digging many conduits and several bridges to serve the city. Ali also established a vital textile factory in Damietta. When the British army occupied Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century, Damietta took the first steps towards modernisation. However, with the outbreak of World War I, the trading activities in the port of Damietta decreased tremendously. After the end of the war, Damietta flourished again. It grew to be an important trading centre and one of the most important furniture makers. After the revolution of 1952, Damietta became a separate governorate in the year 1960.
In modern times dredging of the channel revived Damietta’s port. The authorities upgraded the port facilities to decrease the overcrowding at Alexandria. The city’s industries include furniture and clothing manufacturing, leatherworking, flour milling, and fishing. The city has several fine mosques. Also, the government has linked Damietta to Cairo by rail via Banhā (Benha) and to Port Said and the Suez Canal zone by a highway. Pop. (2006) 206,664.