Selling luxury: The rise of the Egyptian cigarette and the transformation of the Egyptian tobacco market, 1850-1914 Academic Article uri icon


  • Around the mid-19th century, the cigarette, the latest fashion in tobacco consumption, gained popularity in Egypt, as it did globally and throughout the Ottoman Empire. Some fifty years later, the cigarette had become the predominant smoking preference in Egypt, and luxury Egyptian cigarettes were being exported around the world. Indeed, Egyptian and Turkish brands played a significant role in introducing cigarettes to different parts of the globe and thus in shaping world cigarette production. This article sets out to tell the fascinating story of the luxury Egyptian cigarette and uses this case to reflect on the development of modern markets in Egypt. Arguably the most significant change in the process of integrating the Ottoman Empire into the world economy was the evolution of markets, international and local. Although this "great transformation" has been discussed from various scholarly perspectives, it is still not sufficiently emphasized.1 Scholars such as Kenneth Cuno, Peter Gran, Huri Islamoglu-Inan, Regat Kasaba, Roger Owen, and Sevket Pamuk have demonstrated that, to understand Ottoman economic transformations and their meaning, we need to consider the Ottoman Empire in the context of the world economy since the 18th century.2 This context enables us to understand better the processes that related to the creation of local capitalism in Ottoman areas: the development of industrialized agriculture of cash crops; the buildup of new industries and the adjustment or disappearance of existing ones; and the creation of an infrastructure of railroads, roads, and ports that facilitated the transportation of commodities into and out of the country. As a result, we also know more (although probably not enough) about the development of the financial institutions that facilitated these processes. Study of the market in the Arab world was an integral part of research on the Islamic world before the introduction of a modern market economy.3 Somewhat paradoxically, however, such research went missing at a time that the processes of continuity and change in the market were at the core of contemporary transitions. In other words, past research has provided us with insights into markets and the centrality of

publication date

  • January 1, 2003