Sunrays filter through rows of glass Ramadan lanterns, spraying colour over the narrow alley in Al-Darb Al-Ahmar. People view the displayed lanterns with admiration as they walk by, but only a few negotiations with shop owners end in a sale.
Using Lanterns in Ramadan celebrations is a tradition that goes back to the Fatimid era. Over the years, lanterns have been used for celebrating Ramadan by both kids and adults. Like many Egyptian business owners, the craftsmen who make the holiday lanterns are struggling to stay afloat amid economic and political instability. But they also face a unique challenge.
Over the past decade, mass produced toy-shaped lanterns from China have flooded the Egyptian market, slowly suffocating the traditional lantern industry.
The half-metre high traditional handmade lanterns, made of steel or copper, and coloured glass decorated with oriental patterns or calligraphy, take hours to build, but cost almost the same price as the imported toys of the same size. The Chinese lanterns have trendy designs, flashing lights, sounds, and moving parts.