Prized for its softness, strength and superior quality, Egyptian cotton has a long-establieshed reputation of being the finest cotton in the world.
Although cotton was cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago, the story of the high quality Egyptian cotton that is so popular around the world today begins in 1822, when Mohammed Ali, often referred to as the founder of modern Egypt, introduced the commercial production of cotton in Egypt. The quality became legendary, establishing a global reputation.
Since then, Egypt has become a world-leader in cotton production and it has also maintained the reputation earned during the 19th century.
Gossypium barbadense, also known as extra-long staple cotton, is one of the rarest and most luxurious types of cotton. The ‘staple’ refers to the individual hair-like fibres inside the cotton boll (the protective case holding the seeds of the cotton plant). These fibres are longer than regular cotton, meaning that there are fewer splices when the cotton is woven into yarn. This creates a fabric that is softer, smoother and much stronger than regular cotton.
Egyptian cotton can only be grown in very specific climates. With consistently warm summer months, cool nights and wonderfully fertile soil, the lush growing conditions of the Nile River Valley are perfect. Extensive irrigation ensures the plants receive a constant supply of nutrients, this has helped them to develop longer individual fibres.
While most cotton is machine-harvested, Egyptian cotton is still hand-picked - this means that it is only harvested when ripe and that no inferior crops are mixed in, keeping fibres as pure and intact as possible. Hand-picking also puts less stress on the fibres than using large machinery, helping the cotton to retain its softness and strength.
An important factor in indicating high quality bed linen fabric is the thread count. This is the number of threads woven in one square inch of fabric. In general, the higher the thread count, the more luxurious, dense and soft the material will feel. However, thread count is not the only thing to consider when buying bed linen – you should also look at where the cotton is grown and the type of weave used. For example, a cotton satin weave will feel soft and silky, whereas a percale weave will feel crisp and smooth, like a freshly laundered cotton shirt, and is more durable due to its denser weave.
At Malaika, we’ve chosen to use 320-thread-count Egyptian cotton percale for all our bed linens, which combines a soft, silky-smooth feel with the crispness and durability of a percale weave. Because of the superior quality of the cotton and the weave, our cotton softens with every wash, but never loses its crispness.