For the fourth year in a row, the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (MSMEDA) is holding the Turathna (Our Heritage) exhibition for handicrafts. The exhibition was inaugurated by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli on Monday and will last until 15 October. The exhibition this year includes 1,100 exhibitors from 27 governorates showing their hand-made productions. These cover 32 crafts which comprise copperware, glassware, pottery, embroidery, arabesque, carpet making, and crochet.
Sixty-nine per cent of the participants are women and 10 per cent are special needs, according to Raafat Abbas, head of the MSMEDA non-financial services department.
Also, there are many participants from villages included in the Hayat Karima (Decent Life) initiative aimed at improving living conditions in Egypt’s poorest villages. Moreover, five Arab countries are participating: the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia which is the exhibition’s guest of honour.
The exhibition is an opportunity for skilled artists to display their work and promote their brands as well as shed light on supporting entities. Jackleen Maher is an engineer from Egypt’s Fayoum governorate who has been working on teaching women how to make products like bags and home decorations out of palm tree by-products, including palm fronds, with the help of Spanish Cooperation (SC) and the MSMEDA.
“Jadila, our project, aims at helping create jobs for women in Fayoum. We were able to train women on the craft and blend it with other crafts like crochet, embroidery and drawing, resulting in modern, much demanded products,” Maher said, adding that they were given training by MSMEDA.
The SC project works in Upper Egypt, Aswan, Fayoum, Al-Wadi Al-Gadeed and Marsa Matrouh on two crafts, embroidery and recycling palm tree byproducts. It aims at financially enabling women who work in traditional craft.
Abbas said that the project is an example of international cultural cooperation as it helps Egypt, one of the largest date producers, to make the best use of its 15 million date trees.
The SC also helps participants determine the price of their projects, create , and take professional pictures of products and e-market them through specialised companies. “We now have 120 applicants for the services of this unit. It is open for the public who could also get consultations from us,” Abbas said.
MSMEDA’s Executive Director Nevine Gamea said the annual exhibition aims to support craft and heritage, promote ancient Egyptian artwork and help those who work in craft, heritage, and artistic projects.
“It provides a unique opportunity to open new marketing windows for owners of small projects, especially in the handicraft and heritage sector,” she said.
“While the exhibition is successful in terms of making all the traditional products available to the public and the world, there is one grave problem that the participants are facing: the high prices of the raw materials they use, which makes the cost of the products higher. There should be raw materials that are from Egypt so prices are lower,” Hana, a visitor at the exhibition, said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.