Throughout Egyptian history, Al Quseir has been an important port, serving as a thriving centre of trade and export between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea and beyond. A Greek historian recorded a fleet of 120 ships exporting pottery, slaves, wine and precious materials and bringing back silk, spices and stone, which were then carried by camel to Qift on the Nile and shipped north to Alexandria and Europe. It has also been a major departure point for pilgrims travelling to Mecca for the hajj. Even during its period of decline, the city remained a major settlement and was sufficiently important for the Ottomans to fortify it during the 16th century. Later the British beat the French for control of Al Quseir and for some time it was an important step on the trade route between India and Britain. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 put an end to all this, and the town’s decline accelerated, with only a brief burst of prosperity as a phosphate-processing centre in the early decades of the 20th century.