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


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


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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