Egyptian craftwork at its best

Mai Samih , Tuesday 5 Mar 2024

Al-Ahram Weekly checks out the products at the Deyarna Handicrafts and Heritage Exhibition in Cairo.

Egyptian craftwork at its best


The 66th edition of the Deyarna Handicrafts and Heritage Exhibition, held at Cairo Festival City Mall, ends on 9 March.

This year, the event is hosting 450 exhibitors, with the Sinai and Red Sea governorates as guests of honour. There are also guest exhibitors from Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Mauritania, Djibouti, and Somalia displaying products reflecting their distinct cultures.

Sabreen is from North Sinai and has been working in embroidery for 15 years. She said that this was the first time she had taken part in the fair.

 The price of her clothing, mostly gowns, depends on how much embroidery it has. This year, things are more expensive, she said, because of costlier raw materials.

Sabreen said the exhibition was her only opportunity to sell her products, which are mostly made by housewives as their only source of income.

“Exporting our products would be a good idea,” she said.

According to Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabbaj, the exhibition is seeing the participation of investors and businesswomen from several Arab countries, in addition to the Handicrafts Export Council.

The ministry aims to develop expanded business partnerships to provide export opportunities for Egyptian products and promote Egyptian products abroad, she said.

International fairs are good for business, said another exhibitor, Samah Al-Fiqi, a designer and trainer in traditional handicrafts who specialises in talli, a type of embroidery on tulle fabric using silver and gold thread popular in the Sohag governorate.

“We inherited the craft from our mothers and grandmothers,” Al-Fiqi told Al-Ahram Weekly, displaying evening dresses and blouses and shawls.

Al-Fiqi also complained about price hikes. While there is a factory that produces tulle fabric in Cairo, the gold and silver thread used in the embroidery is imported from India.

There has been a 50 per cent increase in the prices of raw materials, she pointed out, adding that it would be a good idea to produce the thread in Egypt.

Another craft exhibited at Deyarna is khayamiya (tent-making). Abdel-Hamid from Beni Sweif inherited this craft from his father and grandfather and now designs home accessories like cushions, curtains, and wall hangings.  

He recycles fabric so he has no trouble in finding it at good prices. “I buy bits and pieces of fabric from clothes factories. In recycling the material, I am saving money for myself and the customers,” Abdel-Hamid said.

The wall hangings and cushions with images of birds and lotus flowers are what his customers like best, he added, saying that 45 families work with him, especially housewives who he trains in the techniques required.

 “We would like to see a fair that lasts all year round where we can sell our products,” he told the Weekly.

To help such artisans out, Al-Qabbaj has launched the Herafi (craftsman) card to provide banking, operational, and marketing benefits to artisans and improve their insurance and social protection.

According to assistant to the minister Mervat Sabreen, the card provides services like soft financing in cooperation with the Nasser Social Bank at an interest rate ranging between seven and 13 per cent, training opportunities, and technical support, in addition to the opportunity to benefit from the Central Bank of Egypt’s initiative to provide free bank accounts and marketing opportunities inside and outside Egypt.

 A protocol has been signed with an economic empowerment programme with a portfolio exceeding LE4 billion to serve more than 2.5 million direct and indirect beneficiaries of the projects that the ministry finances, she said.

Some 125 exhibitors have so far been trained on insurance issues and others, she added.

Al-Qabbaj also witnessed the signing of a cooperation protocol between the Rural and Environmental Industries Support Fund, the Handicrafts Export Council, and the Nidaa (Call) Foundation at the Exhibition to establish a factory for 800 workers to manufacture handmade carpets.

Held under the slogan “Egypt Speaks through Craftsmen”, the Deyarna Exhibition is held under the auspices of the European Union, the Bank of Alexandria, and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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