HANDS ON Traditional Crafts at The City of the Dead in Cairo

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Khaled Ali

 Khaled first came to the area in 1970, when his father taught him the profession. He has been teaching his two sons for the past 15 years to preserve the profession from extinction. The workshop, entered from an attractive small courtyard, is tucked away in a quiet side alley that branches off the street across from the masterfully carved dome of al-Gulshani, part of Sultan Qaitbey’s complex. There is a retail shop attached to the workshop, but the majority of its products are distributed to the market by an intermediary agent.

 

Until recently, they used wood as fuel in the kiln, but now it is gas-fuelled. The oxide compounds used in colouring of the glass are produced locally in the workshop. The products are a mixture of everyday-use objects such as glasses, plates and vases, and also decorative pieces. The prices differ according to size and design. For example, hand-crafted, free-blown drinking glasses can be bought for L.E. 8 apiece, while lamps of elaborate designs that are labour-intensive in production range in price from L.E. 300 to L.E. 450. A few years ago, a governmental agency dealing with family and children development assigned a group of students to Khaled for a training course that lasted two months. After the turbulent events following January 2011 however, the project was terminated. Khaled believes that the area does not receive sufficient attention from the government.