Hussien Darweesh is a farmer, an engineer, a craftsman and a musician – of sorts.
Darweesh is famous among Egyptian musicians for crafting the nay, an ancient woodwind instrument made from dried, hollowed-out reeds.Making a nay, he said, requires him to draw on knowledge from all those disciplines.
“Knowing the musician is essential to make an exceptional nay,” he said. “Each player has his distinguished breath and preferred range.”
Traces of the nay, estimated to be between 4,500 and 5,000 years old, linger in drawings on Pharaoh’s temple walls.
Darweesh has been perfecting his craft for 12 years.
His one room workshop in the heart of Cairo is filled with hundreds – maybe thousands – of nays in different sizes. He knows them as a father knows his children, easily recalling where each reed was plucked and the date each instrument was born.