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Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Egyptian villagers struggle to keep art of papyrus-making viable

Papyrus, used as a writing surface by the ancient Egyptians, is the main livelihood for residents of a Nile Delta village

Reuters , Thursday 18 Jun 2020
Mohamed Abdul Rahman, 18, son of a papyrus farmlands and workshops owner prepares a papyrus sheet be
Mohamed Abdul Rahman, 18, son of a papyrus farmlands and workshops owner prepares a papyrus sheet before drying it at a workshop in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in Sharqia Governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt June 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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A village keeping the ancient Egyptian craft of papyrus-making alive has seen demand for the paper collapse after the novel coronavirus pandemic brought Egypt’s foreign tourism sector to a near standstill.

Papyrus, used as a writing surface by the ancient Egyptians, is the main livelihood for residents of the Nile Delta village of Al-Qaramous.

“If there is tourism, there is a price for the papyrus,” said Abdul Rahman Mostafa, a 47-year-old farmland and papyrus workshop owner. “Because there is no tourism, we have to stop producing.”

A villager cuts papyrus plants in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in Sharqia Governorate
A villager cuts papyrus plants in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in Sharqia Governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt June 13, 2020. Picture taken June 13, 2020. (Reuters)

The paper is made by cutting strips from the stalk of the papyrus plant, pressing them together, and drying them to form a smooth, flat sheet.

Many of the residents of Al-Qaramous, about 80km (50 miles) northeast of Cairo, are involved in farming, processing and decorating papyrus with Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs or images of pharaohs before it is sold in tourist spots on the Red Sea or in Cairo.

Mohamed Abdul Rahman, 18, son of a papyrus farmlands and workshops owner checks sheets if the papyru
Mohamed Abdul Rahman, 18, son of a papyrus farmlands and workshops owner checks sheets if the papyrus is dry at a workshop in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in Sharqia Governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt June 13, 2020. Picture taken June 13, 2020. (Reuters)

“The selling price of paper is less than the cost of making it,” said Wagdy Mohamed, a 33-year-old owner of a workshop where papyrus sheets are decorated.

“If this goes on, the product will disappear completely. We pray to God that things get better, and we look forward to next season,” he said.

Egypt has confirmed about 50,000 cases of the new coronavirus and the number of reported cases has continued to rise in recent weeks as the government eased restrictions on movement and allowed some hotels to reopen at limited capacity.

International flights to the main Red Sea tourist resorts are due to restart on July 1.

Sayed Abdul Rahman, 9, son of a papyrus farmlands and workshops owner holds drawing on papyrus plant
Sayed Abdul Rahman, 9, son of a papyrus farmlands and workshops owner holds drawing on papyrus plant at a workshop in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in Sharqia Governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt June 13, 2020. Picture taken June 13, 2020. (Reuters)

Mohamed Reda, 23, carries papyrus plants at a farm in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in
Mohamed Reda, 23, carries papyrus plants at a farm in al-Qaramous village, amid COVID-19 concerns in Sharqia Governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt June 13, 2020. Picture taken June 13, 2020. (Reuters)

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