“I am passionate about details. They are what bring out the best in me, and the best thing I can do; and no handicraft brings out the beauty of a design’s details as much as Ramadan lanterns and Arouset Al-Mouled [AL-Mouled doll],” said Menna Gira, founder of Gira Dolls, a start-up specialised in making seasonal heritage handicraft objects.
Gira, 28, started her small project six years ago, right after graduation, by making a few amount of Arouset AL-Mouled, a Fatimid era inherited doll that is usually purchased during the Islamic celebration of Prophet Mohammed birthday celebrations. By portraying the doll in new styles, Gira soon gained a wide base of customers who await her annual made dolls. However, this year, the young artisan decided to expand her craft into making Ramadan lanterns.
The lantern, also a Fatimid era legacy, is known to be distributed before the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
The young artisan is a graduate from the faculty of Mass Communication, Cairo University, and is currently following her master’s degree in integrated marketing.
For this Ramadan, Gira decided to create a modernised lantern, apart from the regular one people are used with.
“I made a lantern for the Qatayef and Konafa men [which are Middle Eastern desserts commonly served in Ramadan], and I also made a lantern for El-Mesaharaty [the person who wakes people up with a drum to eat before dawn],” Gira explained.
Other than that, Gira did not exclude the regularly shaped lanterns that people are usually familiar with and love.
“I made shapes for everyone, with every possible size, in order to meet all tastes,” she added.
From her point of view, what makes her lanterns unique other than the regularly sold ones, is the attention she pays to the tiniest details of someone’s cloths, the quality of the used patterns, and the added stones.
“I make every lantern and doll with my own hands, I pay attention to the smallest details, and the process of sewing the cloths,” she explained.
Gira further added that despite adding the stones she particularly gets for the lanterns and the dolls, the prices she sells the products for are quite reasonable.
“They range from EGP 17.5 – 300, depending on its size and the number of decorations in it.” she said.
Despite the high risks of the field of lantern making, Gira states she sold almost all the amounts she made.
“I did not want to start with more than 500 lanterns in order to see how things go, especially with everyone saying that the market is currently witnessing one of its harshest phases. Yet, I was lucky to sell over 450 lanterns of different shapes and sizes, leaving only a few lanterns in stock,” she added.
Helwan-based, Gira is currently seeking to expand to other governorates in Egypt, in order to afford everyone access to her handicrafts.
Following a detailed expansion plan, the young woman is currently establishing her workshop in which she plans to make thousands of Arouset Al-Mouled and Ramadan lanterns, as well as establishing her own shops in as many governorates as possible.
All photos taken by Mahmoud Fekry