While many countries harbour the world’s most breathtaking destinations, the capital cities are often a defining aspect of any nation. The heritage and attractions of many nations are often monopolised to the major cities.
Egypt, like many other countries, is famous for only three or four of its most well-known cities. Meanwhile, many hidden gems remain unknown to the greater public, including to those who live in the country itself.
Last weekend, Yadaweya and Designobia Zone joined forces to highlight the beauty of several forgotten Egyptian cities. The two entities organised an exhibition for hand-made products in the heart of Abasseya.
The two-day event showcased the work of many local artisans from Siwa, Marsa Allam, Hurghada, and a few other cities.
“We work with around 2,000 artisans based in 28 governorates. We focus on about 500 different products, including seashell products, wood, accessories, thread work, and leather,” according to Said Saad, founder of Yadaweya.
Yadaweya is an association that aims to support and train local artisans. The founders of the entity are in constant war with technology, as many of the country’s hand-made industries are currently suffering due to the increasing dependence on machinery and imported goods.
“We scout for talented artisans around the country. Our team either visits them to help them further develop their work or create new designs. Meanwhile, we call them to settle any details related to shipments and orders,” said Saad.
The developmental entity is mainly located in Upper Egypt and Hurghada. However, their first headquarter was originally based in Cairo. Therefore, they plan to return to the capital in the next couple of months through opening their new office at the GrEEK Campus in Downtown Cairo.
The public’s feedback to Yadaweya and Designobia Zone’s event was heart-warming, to say the least. Yadaweya mainly depended on social media for marketing, and was surprised by the high number of interested attendees.
“The event’s feedback was spectacular. The first day attracted a great number of attendees, which actually surpassed our expectations,” said Saad.
The products of the exhibiting artists and artisans ranged from home accessories, herbs, and paintings, to jewellery and garments. However, all products had one element in common: they were all designed and made by local artisans all over Egypt.
“We are a social activity based in Siwa. We accept work from local designers then distribute it through our network of women, and they work from their home,” said Salma Mohamed, one of the exhibiting artisans.
According to Mohamed, the increasing trend and focus on hand-made embroidery has helped turn heritage garments into fashion statements that many customers constantly ask for. Accordingly, the ladies do not only generate a decent income, but they also spread their Siwan culture across Egypt.
“The recent outbreak of embroidery and handmade accessories has helped us tremendously. A lot of people currently ask for specific designs based on international trends,” said Mohamed.
Meanwhile, international trends have also touched the work of another group of women that work miles away from Siwa. While embroidery is currently saving Siwa’s iconic abayas and bridal garments, statement jewellery has turned locally-made jewellery into a high-demand product.
“I am from Marsa Allam. I work with six ladies who specialise in hand-made accessories made from wood and semi-precious stones. I help them sell their items in Cairo,” said Zainab Mahmoud.
According to Mahmoud, the recent political and economic changes have not affected their business. In fact, needed awareness has been increasing steadily, in parallel with international trends and fashion.
The exhibition also included other forms of self-expression and hand-made art. Along with the wearable products, the organisers have also included a true self-taught artist to showcase the lifestyle of the highlighted areas.
“I hand paint people and scenery inspired from our heritage and traditions. I have previously exhibited my work in various places in Cairo,” said exhibitor Amna Ali. She added: “I have always known how to paint and sketch. It is a God-given talent. All of the exhibited sketches capture my family members and friends.”
Despite it being the first collaboration between Yadaweya and Designobia Zone, the two entities successfully managed to attract a great number of interested guests that did not only welcome the products, but have also gladly interacted with the exhibiting artists.
“This is our first time to host Yadaweya. We believe in hand-made products and artisans, which is why we are absolutely happy about teaming up with Yadaweya,” said Donia Ashraf, public relations team member at Designobia Zone.
Designobia is specialised in art and design, as the team hosts specialised exhibitions and workshops to raise artistic awareness and knowledge.
“Designobia Zone is an art space as well as a co-working centre. We host exhibitions and local artists. Meanwhile, we are also currently working on a big artistic event coming this October under the name of ‘Art Shower’,” said Ashraf.