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Thursday, 24 October 2019

Egypt's timeless professions: Tapestry weavers

Handmade tapestry goes back for centuries, and the methodology of weaving has changed little over the years

Amira Noshokaty , Friday 22 May 2015
Views: 1530
Views: 1530

In a tiny workshop on Cairo's historic Al-Moez Street, tireless hands are weaving coloured threads together to create a tapestry.

The workshop's owner, Khaled Ragab, has been hand-weaving tapestries for his entire working life.

The 42-year-old inherited the profession from his father, growing up in a little village in Kafr El-Sheikh,

"In Foua, everybody works in tapestry," he explained.

Handmade tapestry goes back for centuries, and the methodology of weaving has changed little over the years. One of the main advocates of the craft in the last century was renowned architect and visionary artist Ramsis Wissa Wassef (1911-1974), who managed to revive the art as it was fading and gave room for numerous local artists to bloom.

"This is the picture I am working on,” explained Ragab, pointing to the tableau. “It's called Souk Baghdad (“The Baghdad Bazaar”). I draw it on the threads and then weave it bit by bit." Each tapestry takes an average of one and a half month to complete.

Ragab says that while some Egyptians still buy tapestries, the decrease in the number of tourists in Egypt has had an effect on his business.

"Yes, people still appreciate hand-made tapestry, but the demand for it has decreased due to the scarcity of tourists, and so only the talented were able to survive, " he said.

Nowadays in Al-Moez Street only sixty handmade weavers are still in business, and sadly a lot of them do not pass down the profession to their children.

"I myself didn’t, because it is no longer a good source of income in this day and age. I do it because I have nothing else to do, and because I am good, but I can't guarantee that my son would be talented enough to make a living out of tapestry," he said.

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