Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cairo: Day 1 - Tentmakers

As evening fell in Islamic Cairo, we finally arrived at Tentmakers' Street (souk/bazaar/khan). Until I read an entry on Jenny Bowker's blog "Postcards from Cairo" I did not know that this covered street was built in 1647 for shoemakers. The fact that it is a covered street lined on both sides with narrow shops lends the shopping experience there a kind of intimacy. And the prices are certainly much more reasonable than if you were purchasing these same items in the Khan el-Khalili or in a shop in Luxor!
Khan Khayamiya (Tentmakers) at night
I was heading to see my friend Ayman Molokhya, from whom I had purchased three wonderful pieces last March--and I just realized that I never posted those pictures:

I couldn't quite remember where Ayman was located, just that his shop was on the right as one headed south along the street, so I ended up stopping to visit with, and eventually buy from, a lovely older gentleman, Ashraf Hashem. He was able to show me some new product lines: dervishes with skirts of silk and appliqu├ęd canvas bags. Of course, we had to drink. This is an important part of any visit in Egypt. This evening we opted for hot karkaday (hibiscus). While I looked and we visited, Ashraf asked me my name and proceeded to draw it in calligraphic shapes: a bird, a fish, a mandolin and a teardrop!
Delightful! And here are my purchases from this shop:

As we were leaving and heading out of Tentmakers, we saw Ayman outside his shop. He recognized me and we stopped to chat and admire his work. But both Andy and I were too exhausted to do any serious shopping at this point. So I gave him the photo we had had taken last time:
And I promised him I would return. Which I did, but that's the subject of another post...


  1. I have some of Ashraf's work too. He did a lovely bird of my Mom's name, Diane. I have been going to him for years. I love this section of the Khan but I missed it this year.

  2. Hi there, I was wondering if I could make a request. I am currently writing a blog (to be submitted later this evening) on Egypt to win a holiday to Egypt. I have all my photos except 'the street of the tentmakers' I am a photographer and do not like to just take other peoples photos like many people do online. I was wondering if I could use your photo and have your full name so I can make credit it to you.

    Hope I get to see the wonderful places you talk about.

    Many thanks

  3. Sorry for the delay, Kelly!I have been in Porto and am at the airport now. No access to emails until now. Sure, go ahead and use the photos with credit. Besr, Marie

  4. I am so glad that I found your blog. I saw the Stitch Like an Egyptian display at the American Quilter's Society/Quilt Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan in August 2012. I was so taken by the Boat Calligraphy made by Ashraf Hashem at the exhibit that it brought tears to my eyes. I see that you have purchased one. They were for sale at the Quilt Show but it had already been purchased. Do you know how I could get in touch with him? Do you have any background information on how/why/what the idea for this was? I would appreciate any information you can give me. Thanks, Becky

  5. Hi Becky!
    Yes, his work is wonderful. I managed to find one of his cards (the ones mentioned and shown in the post). Here is his contact info:
    I don't know what the idea was other than it depicts a sufi dancer (dervish). Have no background at all. Sorry!
    Let me know if you do get in touch. Good luck!
    P.S. If you search his name on Google "ashraf hashem" and search images you will find some photos of his work.

  6. Marie.
    Great blog and photos. You may be interested in our facebook page which we have been using to publicise both the Khiamiah and the documentary film we are in the midst of producing. I have used one of your photos on the site. It certainly is an interesting street and the longer I am there the more interesting it becomes.


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Salaam aleikum!