Imbedded right in the heart of old Egypt lies a long isolated street where only tent-makers and their tents exist. Colourful tent-cloths, beautiful embroidered pictures and tiny miniature tents dot the location.
Leaning on his handcrafts, a middle-age man sitting in his tent shop totally consumed in his work. Unfortunately, all his hard work does not seem to be paying off. “The wide collection that you see hanging up on the walls stays there for over 10 to 15 days untouched,” he complained of the low traffic in the area to the Daily News Egypt. “We used to change the entire collection every week, maximum,” he said, “but now it has all changed.”
According to him, the fault lies with both the authorities and the tour guides. “All the tourists are automatically drawn to the Khan Al-Khalili area. Nobody ever comes over here except for the people who know the place well. Otherwise, the tour guides just take them straight to Khan Al-Khalili. And the authorities are doing nothing to help us with increasing the traffic, despite our continuous complaints.”
Inheriting the profession from his grandfather and passing it on to his son, he is heartbroken by the situation the business has find itself in, and even the Ramadan season is not helping. “All that gets sold are the printed tent-clothes,” he clarified. “The business of hand-crafts does not get any boost during Ramadan. Nobody cares about the hand-crafted products except for the tourists, and they seldom visit us anymore.”
He does have a point. Walking through the Khayameya we didn’t come across a single tourist but this was not the case in Khan Al-Khalili and Al-Hussein. “It is not about the tour guides,” another tent-maker, Mohsen Molokheya, dared to differ. “The market is in turmoil due to the scarcity of tourists in the entire country. Add to that the lack of security and the traffic crises; how would you expect a tourist to come and visit?” he said.
Molokheya confided to the Daily News Egypt that the entire tent-making business has been rather inflated for the past four years, but added that things hit rock bottom after the 2011 January uprising. “Back in the day, Ramadan season meant clients coming to us to buy large chunks of tent-clothes for hotels and resorts. Now, even those people do not have enough money to buy new material.”
It is nice, tranquil, full of colourful creative products and amazingly hardworking people but, even still, the Khayameya area is still suffering from post-uprising neglect.