Most children are given kites by their parents, and even adults fly kites on various occasions, especially on the beach during the summer holidays.
Given the current coronavirus lockdown, though this is now easing, beaches and parks in Egypt are still closed to the public, causing many families to take to open areas and bridges so their children can fly their kites since rooftops or streets are often too dangerous.
A recent decision by the Ministry of the Interior has imposed fines on kite-fliers in certain areas and the confiscation of kites due to accidents to children flying kites. However, happily families are still going on outings with their children to make sure they fly their kites in allowed safe areas.
On one Saturday afternoon recently, many families gathered with their children on Abbas Bridge to fly their kites. The scene from a distance appeared like a carnival of colours, as if the coloured plastic kites had emerged from the River Nile. The whole bridge from the Giza side near the Ophthalmology Hospital to the Cairo side and the Manial district was covered with kites.
One family living in Faisal Street had come for the first time to Abbas Bridge so that their children could fly their kites. “I enjoy flying kites here. I like to watch it fly in the sky,” said little Yehia, their son.
“My son bought his kite from our neighbours who were making kites and selling them,” said Yehia’s mother. “We bought the large one for LE20 for my elder children and the small one for LE15 for Yehia. My son saw his friends and neighbours flying kites and insisted on getting one for himself, so his father brought one for him. It is a new activity for him,” she said, adding that the children were not allowed to fly their kites from balconies or rooftops.
“Before the coronavirus lockdown people would sit in cafes near the bridge. Now, they can’t do that, so they come here because there is a lot of wind that helps the children to fly their kites. I used to pass by the place and see families here with their children flying kites, so I thought it would be nice to bring my children too,” Yehia’s father said, noting that most of the kites are made of coloured plastic bags, reed sticks and cotton string.
“I saw many people in my neighbourhood flying kites, so I decided to make my own,” said Omar, a primary school student who was also flying his kite. “I brought all the material needed to make a kite, like the plastic bags and string. I used parts of coloured rubbish bags to make the tail of the kite. All in all, it took me one day to make it,” he said, adding that if he had used paper it would not have lasted as long.
“Ever since the beginning of the lockdown we have been staying at home. When we saw people making kites near our house in Giza, we decided to come here. If you stay here another hour, you will not be able to walk in this area because of all the kites,” Omar’s mother said.
There are also more and more Facebook pages available that present kite-lovers with information on making kites or even free designs. There are also Websites that sell kites.
Samir Mahdi is an electronics and electromechanical consultant engineer who decided to design a Facebook page to present creative kite designs for free with the aim of improving kite design and construction. “Making kites has always been one of my hobbies. I used to make kites for my children and the children of other members of the family during the summer holidays, and we would enjoy flying them on the beach. It is a very enjoyable hobby for all age groups,” Mahdi said, now a grandfather.
“The main goal of my Facebook page is to encourage children and young people by teaching them how to make their own kites. This is the source of real pleasure – not to buy a kite and miss all the fun behind it as most families do,” he said, adding that if a kite is bought a child or a young person will learn nothing and kite flying will become just a game he gets bored of after an hour or two. On the other hand, if he makes his own kite, he will acquire many skills. He will also have the opportunity to be creative, which is the real benefit, Mahdi said.
He is trying through his page to increase the number of creative people from all age groups. “Unfortunately, many people still want to buy ready-made kites, while those who want to learn how to make a kite are very rare,” he lamented.
His page has about 1,000 followers and was designed in 2018. It displays images of the kites that members have made and shows people how to make kites based on geometrical principles through videos posted on the Website. It also displays the different types of designs in Egypt and in other countries around the world.
A POPULAR HOBBY
“Kite-flying has always been my hobby ever since I was six years old. I still remember my first kite that my mother bought me. It was a yellow plastic kite in the shape of a butterfly with images of Ninja turtles on it, and my father taught me how to fly it,” said Mahmoud Amin, an engineer living in Al-Shorouk City and the administrator of a Website on kites.
“I now take my two children and my wife to fly kites to teach my children an Egyptian hobby inherited from our forefathers,” he added.
On his page, Amin focuses on teaching kite-lovers how to make traditional Egyptian kites, which are hexagonal made out of bamboo sticks and plastic bags and based on both geometrical and physical standards. The page presents users with a variety of information about kites and kite-flying, like wind speed and wind direction as well as the right time to fly a kite.
“The most popular designs are the star, triangle, chess, spiderweb and fan designs, to name a few. I prefer the star and always make myself star-shaped kites,” Amin said, adding that the average size ranges from half a metre to two metres in length. There are larger ones, but they are not easy to handle, especially for beginners. The best sizes are a metre in length and a metre and 20 centimetres across.
The site aims at preserving a well-established hobby and the heritage of kite-flying and to create a society of kite-lovers on social media. It was established in March 2020 with the aim of exchanging expertise between kite-lovers and encouraging others to practise kite-flying as a hobby. Abdel-Rahman Ahmed, a medical student, is an administrator of the page. Their posts have been seen by 20,000 users, but their followers are only 200 because the site is relatively new.
“I think that our only drawback is that we are not experts in Facebook, and this is why I call on anyone interested in the field to join our group to enrich it,” Amin commented, adding that they intend to post information about the history of kite-flying in different cultures and to organise workshops after the lockdown ends.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly