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


On the main street crossing the Qaitbey area of the cemetery, close to the large residential building erected by the Sultan at the northern end of his funerary complex, is a small shop that rents colourful tents for social gatherings, primarily weddings and funeral ceremonies. Many of them are made in the famous “Tentmakers’ Bazaar’ (al-khiyyamiyya) in Historic Cairo, in front of the Bab Zuwayla city gate. Tent-making has a long tradition in Egypt, which was governed for centuries by rulers of Turkish origins, who always remembered and valued their nomadic roots and used magnificently decorated tents on different occasions.


Nineteenth century European travellers depicted veritable canvas palaces used by Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha and his dignitaries. Today, colourful tents are indispensable for any large gathering in Cairo. Their designs ingeniously blend ancient Egyptian motifs into Islamic geometric patterns. The shop in the Qaitbey neighbourhood is so small that to mend and maintain the tents, its employee works outdoors in the street.

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