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As the river deposited alluvial silt, raising the level of the floodplain, and land was reclaimed from marsh, the area available for cultivation in the Nile valley and delta increased, while pastoralism declined slowly.
In addition to grain crops, fruit and vegetables were important, the latter being irrigated year-round in small plots. Papyrus, which grew abundantly in marshes, was gathered wild and in later times was cultivated.
The eastern desert, between the Nile and the Red Sea, was more important, for it supported a small nomadic population and desert game, contained numerous mineral deposits, including gold, and was the route to the Red Sea. It offered the principal route for contact with Sinai, from which came turquoise and possibly copper, and with southwestern Asia, Egypt’s most important area of cultural interaction, from which were received stimuli for technical development and cultivars for crops.
Immigrants and ultimately invaders crossed the isthmus into Egypt, attracted by the country’s stability and prosperity.
Basin irrigation was achieved by simple means, and multiple cropping was not feasible until much later times, except perhaps in the lakeside area of Al-Fayyūm.
In various periods there were immigrants from Nubia, Libya, and especially the Middle East.
They were historically significant and also may have contributed to population growth, but their numbers are unknown.
Egypt needed few imports to maintain basic standards of living, but good timber was essential and not available within the country, so it usually was obtained from Lebanon.
Minerals such as obsidian and lapis lazuli were imported from as far afield as Anatolia and Afghanistan. The fertility of the land and general predictability of the inundation ensured very high productivity from a single annual crop.