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

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Khaled Abd al-Hamid (Osta Khaled)

 

Osta (‘craft-master’) Khaled was 10 years old when he started learning carpentry in his uncle’s big workshop in the Citadel area. Later he opened one of his own in Manshyet Nasr. Due to the recent events in the country, and the increase in rents, he moved with his work to the area, where he lives. He mostly produces furniture, working in different styles inspired by historical European furniture, and also in traditional Islamic forms, which he personally prefers. He doesn’t think highly of pieces looking like mass-produced goods, in which he sees an American influence, and he considers them dull and tasteless. While mindful of not losing the artistic touch in his products, he also strives to make them compatible with today’s standards. To make his furniture practical, he often produces folding pieces, or items made from detachable elements. His commissions have included a conference hall for the Governor of Luxor and a speaking podium in the Cabinet Office. However, he values the ethics and craftsmanship of his profession over material gain. He shares the widespread opinion that the young generation, used to the Internet and other conveniences of a modern lifestyle, lacks the patience and perseverance necessary for proficiency in traditional handcrafts. He is determined, however, not to pull out of his profession, which he considers an art form.