Sophisticated shapes, bright colours, and the reflective surfaces of glass objects seem to belie the fact that ultimately they are all crafted from sand. Egypt excelled in glass production already in antiquity, and in the Middle Ages, unmatched masterpieces were made in Cairo. The art of glass-blowing is still alive in the “City of the Dead”.
Ever since the early days of Islamic architecture, abundant cast or carved stucco ornaments adorned the walls of mosques, palaces, and houses. Mediaeval Cairo was no exception, and many excellent examples are preserved in the city, some as early as the 9th century. The craft is still thriving in the city today.
The mediaeval mosques of Cairo, including those in the Qaitbey area of the Cemetery include outstanding pieces of woodwork. Nowadays, numerous workshops in the city produce vast quantities of very diverse wooden objects, some of excellent artistic quality. Many traditional techniques are still practiced and transmitted to the younger generation.
The oldest known jewellery, a set of beads skilfully made of shells, is 82,000 years old – jewellery ornaments may be more than display of wealth and status, or a mere fancy. Perhaps they reflect some very deeply rooted trait of human nature, present since the dawn of civilisation.
The height of ancient Egyptian civilisation was during the Bronze Age. When iron was eventually introduced about three thousand years ago, the Egyptians kept producing useful and beautiful objects in bronze. In mediaeval Cairo, metal vessels and containers, lamps, candlesticks, various small objects and huge window-grilles and other architectural ornaments reached a very high level of artistic craftsmanship
A variety of crafts is practiced in the Qaitbey area of the “City of the Dead” in Cairo. Just a sample is presented here. A visitor will certainly be rewarded with discovering many facets of the colourful and vibrant neighbourhood which is very much a city of the living in spite of its name.