Most of us own or use objects created through craft, whether or not we call them by that name. They may be pieces of furniture, jewellery, or clothing, some object with which we decorate our home or use in everyday life. Behind each such piece is a person with an idea and with the command of craft that can bring that concept to life.
A craft maker might saw, solder, blow glass, sand, cut, or polish. They might use traditional skills that have been handed down through generations or they might experiment with cutting-edge practices and digital technology. Their products and the ways in which they work may differ vastly, but no matter how, where, why, or what they produce, they are united in a fundamental way: they make craft.
This website brings to you a comprehensive guide to traditional Egyptian craft in a very special location in Cairo: the area around the iconic complex of the great Sultan Qaitbey, a masterpiece of mediaeval Islamic architecture located within the “City of the Dead”.
The site lets you find craftspeople and their workshops in the vicinity of Sultan Qaitbey’s splendid monument. It gives you a chance to locate points of interest with interactive maps, and to explore both the world of traditional crafts and the unique heritage of the area through descriptions, photographs, and videos. Each click takes you closer to finding craftspeople and other places of interest. Each page will show you a different facet of the “City of the Dead”.
Enjoy your visit to the home of traditional crafts of Cairo.
CITY OF THE DEAD, CITY OF THE LIVING
As the city now called Cairo developed from its beginnings in the year 641 beside the Roman fortress named Babylon of Egypt (in the area known today as Old Cairo), it expanded northwards along the Nile. Between the city and the cliffs of the desert plateau to the east grew enormous Muslim cemeteries. Over centuries, rulers and dignitaries built religious complexes that in addition to domed mausoleums included mosques endowed as teaching madrasas, convents of Sufi mystics, and various charities. The “City of the Dead” was always intended to be also a city for the living. Nowadays numerous people live within the cemeteries that stretch for more than eight kilometres and include some of the most important historic monuments in Cairo.
CRAFTS ALIVE IN THE CITY OF THE DEAD
In its mediaeval heyday, when it was ruled by Mamluk sultans, Cairo was a commercial, intellectual and artistic centre of the Islamic world. The city consumed luxury goods from far away, and it also locally produced objects of excellent craftsmanship. Glass, metalwork, woodwork, pottery, textiles and illuminated manuscripts created in Cairo are treasured in the collections of world’s leading museums. Many traditional crafts are still practiced in the city. Some makers take pride in remaining faithful to historical methods and materials, while others prefer to combine modern materials and technologies with age-old techniques, finding new ways to breathe life into traditional craft.
Find out more about traditional crafts still present at the “City of the Dead”.