The heart and home of the 'Tentmakers of Cairo' is a covered street where the sun slants in, highlighting the dazzling, coloured wall hangings. Stitchers sit and sew in every shop.
Tentmaker work is brilliantly coloured, hand done, needle turned applique, made by the men. Their skills have been passed on from father to son, grandfather to grandson, since the time of the Pharaohs.
The applique hangings were made to decorate the insides of tents, or to create screens that would decorate a whole street when extra space was needed to celebrate Ramadan, or a wedding, a new baby, a henna party, or even a funeral.
The designs of these magnificent, stitched pieces draw inspiration from Egypt’s Pharaonic and Islamic traditions, as well as from nature. Pieces range in size up to three or even four metres square.
The stitching tradition is dying out because the hangings are not highly valued in Egypt where they are considered utilitarian household goods. There, the hand-made work is being replaced by machine-printed cottons. The number of stitchers has dropped from around 650 in the early 1900s to around 30 to 40 today.
However, those stitchers who are still working are amongst the best artists and they are now producing works of art that would grace any home, anywhere.