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Eshq: Egyptian Startup Reviving Heritage, Culture in Handmade Accessories

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Eshq: Egyptian Startup Reviving Heritage, Culture in Handmade Accessories

Photo by Maryam Raafat

An Egyptian startup is reviving the country’s culture and heritage by bringing timeless, incomparable handmade accessories to its clientele who splurge themselves in fashionable looks.

Launched by the end of 2014 and run by an Egyptian female designer and journalist Maryam Raafat, Eshq – or passion in English – is all about reviving and promoting Egyptian pharaonic, Nubian, Bedouin, folkloric and rural culture through its bracelets, necklaces, bags and a various array of other accessories.

Raafat crafts accessories using copper, genuine leather and precious stones.

“I have always been influenced and inspired by Egyptian heritage with all its variations,” Raafat, 32, said. “In Egypt, every governorate has its own heritage and culture.”

“We have different styles, including the Bedouin style, the style of the Siwa Oasis, Upper Egypt, Pharaonic and the countryside style,” the young entrepreneur told Egyptian Streets. Raafat’s passion for accessories design started when she was at college.

“At that time, I was fond of gathering raw materials and making necklaces and bracelets out of them. I have never had the idea of starting such a project until I heard of a workshop on copper making.” In this workshop, Raafat learned how to work with copper to craft accessories. “And since then I began to know about other workshops.”

“I attended several workshops on accessories making, finishing and patchwork. I also took part in workshops on how to make macrame art. Such workshops have enabled me to learn about several techniques that I can use to craft different types of accessories,” she said.

Raafat, now, has her own gallery which also includes the work of two of her colleagues. The gallery, which is located in Old Cairo and is called “Al-Moulid”, attracts dozens of customers every month. Raafat’s clients are mostly women who still prefer the grace and beauty of Egyptian culture and heritage.

Raafat’s knowledge of and interest in Egyptian heritage and its elegant taste can be significantly shown in her selection of handmade accessories.

For the time being, Raafat said that most of her work reflects the Pharaonic and Bedouin heritage, but she seeks to introduce new styles in her products. The young designer is also inspired by “the heritage of India or the East in general”. “Apart from the Egyptian heritage, some of my works have the Indian flavor,” she added.

The young accessories designer has also started to give workshops on handicrafts and she hopes to start exporting her products abroad. Raafat has taken part in several exhibitions across the country, including in Cairo, Fayoum and Dahab.

“I hope that I can take part in exhibitions on handicrafts in other countries and start selling my products there,” she said.

Now, Raafat said that she is facing uphill challenges, including in the foremost soaring prices of raw materials following the floatation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar.

“The prices of the raw materials have recently been soaring and that forces me to increase the prices of accessories,” she said. However, the young entrepreneur said that such challenges have never discouraged her from moving ahead with her business. “Accessories-making has become a lifestyle for me, not just a hobby. “For me, no day passes without working on accessories or thinking about new ideas,” she added.

From Raw Materials to Designed Products by the Hands of Egyptian Women
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Menna A. Farouk is a Cairo-based journalist. Her work appeared in several local and international news organizations. Follow her on @MennaFarouk91

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