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Light up your life

Try and relive the olden times by making your own candles at Darb1718’s candle-making workshop

Candles are more than just romantic, due to the often interrupted electricity they have become a staple of Egyptian homes (Photo from  Darb 1718 Facebook page)
Candles are more than just romantic, due to the often interrupted electricity they have become a staple of Egyptian homes
(Photo from
Darb 1718 Facebook page)

During the past few years, Egypt has suffered (and is still suffering) from power cuts during the summer, allegedly from an overload of stress to the national power grid. Whatever it may be, the result is darkness and stifling hot houses. The gas shortage makes it even more difficult. Needless to say, the demand for candles and flashlights has soared and the sought-after items have sold like hot cakes (or they would be if only the electric ovens worked).

Your choices in the candles section lie between the inferior candlestick type, which burn with the worst smell ever, or the fancy perfumed type, for which you have to be an heiress to afford their ridiculous prices. However, there is a hidden third option: make your own, but do refrain from using human fat (Fight Club reference, in case you did not notice).

It is believed that candles were invented sometime around 400-300 BCE, and originally made of whale fat, with the oldest candle discovered found in the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty in China. In addition, archeologists have uncovered several Chinese artifacts believed to have been used in candle-making from 403–221 BCE.

Thankfully, the candle-making craft has come a long way, and now materials are accessible to regular citizens. So, put your spear away; there’s no need to go hunting for whales just yet.

Darb1718 is holding a candle-making workshop to help mere mortals acquire the skill. The instructor, Imad Agha, was ready with answers for our questions. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts- Sculpture section. He is also a member of the syndicate for applied art, and some of his works are displayed at the Egyptian Modern Arts Museum.

“Participants will learn how to create candles using a mold. They will also learn how to make that mold from various materials, and then how to pour the candle in it,” he explained, “they will be able to create any shape they want.”

He stressed that the workshop will be very interactive, where he will listen to what the participants want and try to make it happen. “It is a chance to get creative with candles,” Agha said. He explained that he will give the participants a chance to go wild with the shapes. “Each participant will be given clay and asked to shape it to whatever form they want.”

The molds might be the most important aspects of candle-making. “Participants will get to make molds from gypsum, rubber and silicon as well. The last two materials are used for permanent molds, which will enable them to produce a large quantity,” Agha explained. The workshop is perfect for anyone who wishes to start a candle business, whether it is a factory or a shop, he said, adding that the process is quite easy to execute.

“You can add any colour or perfume to the candles’ raw material as long as they are in the liquid state,” Agha explained. This will be part of the learning experience for the participants, how to dye and perfume the candles. Agha added that even after the workshop is over, participants will be able to make their own as the materials are readily available all over Cairo especially in Al-Azhar market.

As for a final showcasing of the students products, Agha said that he will leave it to the participants. If they will be willing to display their candles, then it is possible to make a small exhibition at Darb1718 for them.

The workshop will begin on 14 September and will cost EGP 1100. The deadline for registration is 10 September.

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