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Peter’s picks: traditional tentmaking fabrics of Egypt under threat

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Discover the vivid appeal of khayamiya, sadly fading under the bright light of modernity. By Peter Gould.

pick9-khayamiya

How much do you know about khayamiya? If you’re anything like me, until recently, you knew nothing at all. It was a chance introduction to art historian Dr Sam Bowker that brought me to this stunningly beautiful centuries-old tradition of Egyptian tentmaking.

The work is characteristically colourful and vibrant, with each piece distinctively cut and hand-stitched. In recent years the traditional process has declined because of a flood of mass-produced imitation khayamiya fabrics and falling tourist numbers.

Fortunately Sam and his colleagues have documented the highly skilled Cairo craftsmen for their forthcoming feature film, The Tentmakers of Chareh el-Khiamiah, directed by Kim Beamish.

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