As overland routes directly connecting Europe and the Arab and Ottoman territories did not exist, goods between these regions were exchanged mainly through seaborne commerce across the Mediterranean. In the 19th century, maritime trade networks expanded, as mass-produced goods from Europe were imported by the Arab and Ottoman world in exchange for important raw materials. Meanwhile, trading routes criss-crossing the interior ensured that those goods – carried by caravans sometimes numbering thousands of pack animals – could reach the ports or be transported inland from there. Both in Europe and the Middle East, river systems often helped to further interconnect the commercial routes by land and sea.
One of the most important trade routes for the commerce between Europe and the Arab and Ottoman world was the Mediterranean Sea, on which commodities were shipped to and from Western European ports and North African and Levantine ones.