Arts & Culture

Tent Makers’ Market: Fatimid Cairo’s Fading History

Tent Makers’ Market: Fatimid Cairo’s Fading History

Credit: Ahmed Omar
Credit: Ahmed Omar

In a post-industrial revolution world in which machines have mostly triumphed over traditionally handmade items, it is becoming difficult for certain craft traditions, including Egypt’s deep-seated tent-making, to survive, not to mention stay competitive.

Built in 1600s, the Tent Makers Market, the so-called El Khayameya, is Cairo’s sole remaining medieval covered market which takes its name from the bright colored fabrics, including appliqué works, cushions, covers, Egyptian cotton bed covers, wall hangings, car covers and traditional Egyptian galabeyas (floor length dress clothes.)

The market is also famous for its colored fabrics used for the large street tents set for funerals, weddings, shop openings and other gatherings.

Credit: RFE/RL
Credit: RFE/RL

But it seems that the Tent Makers Market, where the Kiswah (the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca) was designed and manufactured until 1960s, is getting less and less popular these days.

“The new generations lost interest in our fabrics because machine-made wall hangings and cushions that are imported from China are cheaper and are to be found everywhere. The number of locals and tourists visiting the market is decreasing day after day,” Gamal el-Zahabi, the owner of a small shop in the Tent Makers Market told The Cairo Post Friday.

Zahabi, 64, who started working as a stitcher when he was 12, said that still feels optimism about the future adding that “the fascination of the brilliantly colored appliqué, handmade ottomans and other objects is irresistible for some people who appreciate art.”

ShariaKhayamia3a

The market thrives every year during certain occasions and events, including Ramadan and legislative and parliamentary elections, he added.

“In Ramadan [the month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset], ordinary people buy rolls of blue, red and yellow-colored fabrics decorated with Islamic designs in order to use to decorate balconies and streets. Cafes also use them in making Ramadan tents while the peak of our business is usually during elections, as many candidates buy large rolls of the tent fabric to set pavilions for their supporters during a speech,” said Zahabi.

DSCF2670-620x330

The Tent Makers Market is located in a 300-meter-long street overlooking Bab Zuwayla, Cairo’s medieval gate and the only one remaining from the 11th and 12th-century walls of Fatimid Cairo. It is a roofed alleyway with small openings for illumination and ventilation at its ceiling.

It comprises of a group of two-floor buildings on either sides of the street. The first includes small shops where the tents and appliqué works are displayed while the second floor is dedicated to small rooms where craftsmen reside.

The market was badly damaged following the 1992 earthquake and is still under restoration. It is open every day of the week except Sunday.

From Minya To The Big Screen: A Cinematic Tale Of Female Heroism
Ramadan Where the Sun Barely Sets

Subscribe to our newsletter


Arts & Culture
@TheCairoPost

The Cairo Post provides breaking news and quality, in-depth reporting on Egypt that is easily accessible and understandable to a global audience. http://thecairopost.com/

More in Arts & Culture

Trumpets, Dressage and Oasis Spa: a Golden Age Reflected in Ubuntu’s Latest Exhibition

Henry H.C. WooSeptember 19, 2018

Egyptian-French Actor Gamil Ratib Dies at 91

Egyptian StreetsSeptember 19, 2018

American-Egyptian Expedition Discovers New Tombs in Lisht Village

Nour EltiganiSeptember 18, 2018

18 New Naguib Mahfouz Short Stories to Be Published

Mirna AbdulaalSeptember 17, 2018

Sandstone Sphinx Statue Discovered in Kom Ombo

Sara AhmedSeptember 16, 2018

Reviving Egypt’s Lost Art Legacy: Naguib Sawiris Establishes Tahrir Cultural Centre

Mirna AbdulaalSeptember 15, 2018

King of Rock n’Raï Rachid Taha Dies Aged 59

Sara AhmedSeptember 13, 2018

Egypt’s Jewish Community Celebrates Jewish New Year

Sara AhmedSeptember 10, 2018
Egyptian Streets is an independent, young, and grass roots news media organization aimed at providing readers with an alternate depiction of events that occur on Egyptian and Middle Eastern streets, and to establish an engaging social platform for readers to discover and discuss the various issues that impact the region.

© 2017 Egyptian Streets. All Rights Reserved.