Rawya - a well-known pottery artist in Tunis (Photo: Amira Noshokaty)
Fayoum Governorate's Tunis village hosted the 6th annual Tunis Village Pottery Festival last week, to showcase arts and handicrafts that have made the village a much-beloved local gem.
This year AlexBank sponsored the otherwise crowd-funded festival, adding it to the Bank's Ebdaa Min Masr initiative (Creativity from Egypt) which connects, sponsors and helps over a 1,000 Egyptian handicraft artists to promote their artwork in and outside Egypt.
The village, known particularly for its handmade pottery, has long been a hub of art and culture icons as well as a winter destination for tourists looking to enjoy a unique mélange of culture and nature an easy drive from the bustle of Cairo.
The festival was created by Egyptian potter Ahmed Abu Zeid in 2011, and has drawn more visitors every year.
Amina, the youngest pottery artist in Tunis. (Photo: Amira Noshokaty)
Representatives from Ebdaa Min Masr helped organise the festival by posting signage outside artisans' houses, providing a map of the grounds, including the folk music stage, street puppet shows, and tens of booths along the main street of Tunis village showcasing authentic handicrafts.
Pottery at Mahmoud Sherif's workshop in Tunsi village. (Photo: Amira El-Noshokaty)
Tunis village, a two-hour drive from Cairo, has around 10 workshops run by truly talented potters as well as a pottery school established by well-known Swiss potter Evelyne Porret.
Porret came to Tunis some 30 years ago and helped revive the deeply rooted art of pottery in the village, establishing the town's first pottery school.
"I taught my siblings as well as my children pottery," explained Rawya, a local potter and student of Porret's, whose traditional pottery is quite popular in the Egyptian market for fair trade goods.
Rawya, most famous potter of Tunis showing us her work. Photo by Amira El-Noshokaty
Against a picturesque background of limestone houses topped with golden domes, surrounded by palm trees that cast their shadows against Qaroon Lake, five-year-old Amna El-Sherif held up a piece of her own pottery artwork.
"This is a donkey; I helped my aunt design it," she explained to Ahram online.
Amna, youngest potter in the making in Tunis (Photo: Amira Noshokaty
"I am a proud student of Evelyne [Porret] who implemented true human development in this village," said Mahmoud El-Sherif, who opened his own pottery workshop in the village in 2004.
Photo by Amira El-Noshokaty
"The aim of this festival is to promote pottery as well as Fayoum as a whole," El-Sherif said, adding that "In [nearby] Nazla village, we practice Bokla, which is the oldest pottery technique in the world."
For lovers of natural history, he added that nearby Wadi Hitan is "about 40 million years old."
Wadi Hitan is an ecological preserve home to the world's largest collection of well-preserved whale fossils.
Yet, at the end of the day, what makes Tunis truly special is its people.
Photo: (Amira El-Noshokaty)