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Coming to America with the Egyptian Tentmakers - again!

I have done so much since I last blogged that it is hard to even think of writing again. I am relearning how to do it - click on photographs for huge images - and I apologise - I will fix them tomorrow and work out how to share them with Flickr when I am less weary. It is well after midnight here.

In early December I was in Cairo again. It was an interesting period. Major demonstrations were happening outside the president's palace and friends were worried about the trip. I made one concession to the level of activity - I booked my two lovely drivers, Mohamed and Ibrahim, solidly for the time I was there.

I went with Bonnie Browning from the American Quilter's Society- and we had a wonderful trip. We were going to select work from the Street of the Tentmakers (Sharia Khayamiya) for two AQS shows, Lancaster and Paducah. Lancaster has less space and will have a smaller show but we will have two tentmakers working at both shows. Tarek Abdelhay and Hosam Hanafy are delighted to have the chance to visit America again - last time in Grand Rapids they were treated like rock stars. Their only complaint is that it is too far away.

Arriving on Saturday evening gave us a rest day as the tentmakers were closed on Sunday. It is their only day off.

So we did what people do in Egypt - we went to the pyramids. I love Dashour - but it is a long way out and we had such a limited time so we decided - or I decided as Bonnie was letting me organise her - that we would concentrate on Saqqara and Giza.

Saqqara is a rural area. There are wonderful fields of crops and fodder, and long stretches of date palms. These are used so thoroughly in Egypt. Obviously the dates are a very valuable crop - but they also trim lower fronds so they do not fall off. These are stripped and the green parts are used for woven baskets, the firm centres of the fronds for strong neat boxes for fruit and vegetables, and the slightly knobbly date stems are turned into stiff brooms.


I think this wins the competition for most heavily laden bike for the day!

Fruit and vegetables are sold along the road.


Saqqara is the site of the first pyramid. For those who did not know - tombs were originally covered with a mud brick structure like a wide square bench. It was called a mastaba as that meant bench - and it was about the height of a man's shoulder. Then mud brick was replaced with cut stone blocks for more important people. It was Imhotep - the architect of Djoser, the pharoah of the time, who decided to see what happened if you put another mastaba on top of the first - and another - and another.

Bonnie found a friend!

There are many other pyramids there - and some are still under the drifting sands of the desert.        We went into one - Teti's pyramid. It has spectacular pyramid text on the walls and beautiful stars at the top of the walls and on the ceiling - and so many see it as a little pyramid with a crumbling top - but inside it is lovely.

We had called into Wissa Wassef as I really wanted to show Bonnie the tapestries. I was really sad that Alphonse was sick - sad that he was sick and sad that he was not there. He usually shows us around and there was no-one to fill in for him - so we could not see it. But - just at the turnoff in Harrania was a lovely surprise. There was a real khayamiya for Bonnie to see. It was a small tent, set up inside out so the pretty walls were on the outside instead of the inside and with a family living in it, while they sold fruit in front.


And inside they had put up some of the printed screen - and on the floor was their sleeping baby.


It was a lovely day.

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Reader Comments (1)

Hello Genny :) will u plz send me Mr hossam email ? or any contact number ?
i live in Egypt and want to contact him for business thing...u can also give him my email alshaimaamaaly@yahoo.com..I'll b so grateful if u can help..thank u

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlShaimaa Maaly

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