The City of Damietta
The city of Damietta is the capital of the governorate that holds the same name. Damietta is famous as it is where the Eastern Branch of the River Nile, which is named after the city as well, pours into the Mediterranean Sea at the popular local resort of Ras El Barr.
To the Southwest of Damietta, there are the wonderful gardens and orchards of the Delta of Egypt. Damietta is featured, as one of the few cities in Egypt, with long shores overlooking the River Nile and Mediterranean Sea as well. Moreover, the Port of Damietta is one of the most active and important trading points in Egypt.
The city of Damietta is also featured for having many Guava farms and more than 2.5 million palm trees that cover a large surface area from Ras El Barr, to the East till the small coastal city of Gamasa to the West and from the Mediterranean Sea in the North till the Damietta High Way to the South.
Furthermore, the city has exported more than one million palm trees, over a long period of time, to several countries around the world like Greece and China.
The Name "Damietta"
The city of Damietta was called, during the Greco Roman period, as Tamiates. Afterwards, during the Coptic period, it was named Tamiata, before the Moslems entered Egypt in the 7th century AD.
Historians and scholars have debated about the origins of the name of Damietta for a long period of time. Some scholars believe that it was called "Da Mat Ptah Ten", the ancient name of the city, or the city of the god Ptah.
Other historians note that there was a city that was located near Palestine and was mentioned during the ruling period of the 12th dynasty and it was called Damaty and they believe it is the same city of Damietta we view today.
It was noted also, in some historical records, that the name of Damietta originated from the ancient Egyptian word "Damt" that meant the ability. This was due to the fact that Damietta had the ability to combine the salt water of the Mediterranean Sea and the fresh water of the Nile together in one place.
The Population of Damietta
According to the statistics of the year 2003, the number of people who live is estimated to be around one million and one hundred thousand inhabitants, with around 70% living in the countryside and the rest live in the urban centers 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
The surface area of Damietta is estimated to be around 1029 square kilometers which represent around 5% of the total surface area of the whole Nile Delta and around 1% of the surface area of Egypt.
The area specified for housing in Damietta is estimated to be around half a million square kilometers while the cultivated land exceeds more than 120 thousand acre. The most important crops of Damietta are grain, corn, cotton, rice, potatoes, lemon, grapes, and tomatoes.
The History of Damietta
Many historians state that Upper Egypt was divided into 20 provinces during the Pharaonic times and Damietta was the 17th province of Upper Egypt. The city was called "Tam Heet" during ancient times which mean the city of the water or the city of the running water.
When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332, Damietta, like all the other Egyptian cities and regions went under the rule of the Greeks and then the Ptolemies before the Romans ruled over Egypt in the year 30 BC.
The people of Damietta had many commercial and cultural activities and affairs carried out with the Greeks as many scientists, writers, and travelers 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 BC between the military troops of Ptolemy I and the soldiers of the ruler of Macedonia as he wanted to take the sarcophagus of Alexander to be buried in his city but he was defeated by the army of Ptolemy I.
Damietta during the Roman Period
The Romans gave great attention to Damietta as they considered the city an important agricultural green field that provides them with cereal, flax, and many several other crops.
The taxes that were imposed on the people of Damietta increased during the Roman ruling period which made the people feel discontent and many revolutions against the ruling of the Roman emperors were initiated in Damietta.
When the Christian religion was spread in Egypt, many churches were constructed in Damietta, especially during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine in 325 BC.
The Churches of Damietta were large and important with bishoprics representing them in international religious conferences. The name of Damietta was modified in this period to be become Tamiat, which means the northern lands where flax is cultivated.
Damietta under Arab Rule
When the Arabs took control of Egypt in the 7th century, the army of the Arabs entered Damietta in 642 to control the two branches of the Nile; the Damietta Branch and the Rosetta Branch.
The people of Damietta started converting to Islam and they also began to learn the Arabic language and they started mingling with the Moslems who came from the Arabian Peninsula to reside in Egypt.
During the reign of 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 5000 soldiers and they were able to capture many Moslems, take a lot of money and weapons, and went back to their homeland with a victory over the unarmed people of Damietta.
During the first Crusade, soldiers of Europe reached Damietta in 1170 and besieged the city. The famous Arabian army king and leader, Saladin, send an army, through the Nile, to rescue Damietta and he supplied the inhabitants of the city with weapons and money.
Afterwards, the armies of Saladin, with the help of the people of Damietta, were to defeat the crusaders who had to leave Egypt at the end.
On the 30th of May 1218, the first troops of the second Crusade reached Damietta and were able to take control of the city. After ruling over Damietta and fortifying the city for a period of more than 16 months, 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 and constructed many fortifications to the South of Damietta. Afterwards, the Arabian king negotiated with the crusaders and asked them to leave Damietta and return to Europe which actually happened and El Malek El Kamel entered Damietta as a victorious army leader.
The Crusaders came back and attacked Damietta during the third Crusade in the middle of the 13th century and the people of Damietta defended their city bravely.
After many defeats around the Nile Delta, Luis 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.
Damietta in Modern Times
When Mohamed Ali took control of Egypt in 1805, Damietta was one of the major commercial centers in Egypt and the inhabitants of the city were estimated to be more than 30,000 people.
Mohamed Ali gave the required attention to Damietta as he constructed many as he started digging many conduits and constructed several bridges to serve the city. Moreover, the founder of modern Egypt, Mohamed Ali established an important textile factory in Damietta.
When the British army occupied Egypt in the beginning of the 20th century Damietta was taking the first steps towards modernization. However, with the outbreak of the World War I, the trading activities in the port of Damietta tremendously decreased.
After the end of the war, Damietta flourished again, not only as an important trading center, but also as one of the most important producer of furniture in Egypt. After the revolution of 1952, Damietta became a separate governorate in the year 1960.