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Made in Egypt

Festival promotes local goods, Egyptians spirit

A woman picks through belts and bags made by Maha Amin, who owns a local clothing company called Secrets (Photo by Elizabeth Stuart)
A woman picks through belts and bags made by Maha Amin, who owns a local clothing company called Secrets
(Photo by Elizabeth Stuart)

Nestled among charm bracelets etched with Egyptian proverbs and internet-meme inspired broaches, jewellery designer Yomna Farghaly at the Made in Egypt Festival Saturday displayed a chunky, pink ring adorned with sharp, blood-drawing spikes.

Farghaly’s accessory designs take inspiration from Egyptian culture. She fashioned the ring, a glittery take on brass knuckles, after more than 100 women were sexually assaulted last summer during protests calling for former president Mohamed Morsi to step down.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said, “but every Egyptian woman knows, harassment is part of our culture.”

Farghaly’s table was one of dozens at the festival, held at Zamalek’s breezy Aquarium Grotto Garden, showcasing goods and services with a decidedly Egyptian flair. There were intricately beaded belts and sweeping headscarves adorned with ancient Egyptian coins. One booth sold bouquets made of sugar cookies. At another, a vendor hawked hand screen printed T-shirts.

Yasmine Emad, a master’s student at Cairo University, organised the Made in Egypt Festival to promote local business.

“Decades ago, Egypt was a major world exporter,” she said. “Somehow we lost that. Now we import a lot of goods from China.”

Emad has been rallying Egyptian vendors for the event since 2011, when, after the 25 January Revolution, she noticed an uptick in entrepreneurship among her friends.  The first year, she held the event on a friend’s roof and most of the visitors were friends and family. This year, she booked local comedians and musicians to entertain the crowds picking their way through rows of tables piled high with clothes, home goods, toys, and books. Children jumped, squealing, down an inflatable slide while moms, munching on Egyptian-made shawarma, sat back and watched.

Egyptians have grown tired amid political turmoil and economic strife over the past three years, Emad said. “But we are a proud people,” she said. “An Egyptian out of Egypt is like a fish out of water.”

If someone wants to show that spirit, Farghaly coyly suggests: “Check out my collection.”

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