Thursday May 23rd, 2024
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Where the 3,000 Year-Old Art of Khayamiya is Being Kept Alive in Cairo

In the heart of Islamic Cairo, Souq Al Khayamiya has been continuing a tradition in textiles dating back to the pharaohs.

Fadila Khalid

Where the 3,000 Year-Old Art of Khayamiya is Being Kept Alive in Cairo

Amidst the vibrant alleys, the scent of exotic spices and the insistent clamour of haggling merchants that so readily defines Islamic Cairo's marketplace lies Souq Al Khayamiya. There, the rhythmic tapping of hammers against fabrics leads you to the heart of the souq, where skilled artisans create breathtaking Khayamiya textiles - a craft and art form that dates back to the time of the pharaohs.

Consisting of elaborately patterned and colourful appliques applied to the interior of tents, the decorative textile art form serves simultaneously as shelter and ornamentation. Khayamiya possesses the three layers typical of quilts – a heavy "back", a background "top", and elaborate appliqué over the "top". Khayamiya has been an integral part of Egypt's cultural heritage for centuries, with a rich history that reflects the country's artistic and cultural diversity. The art form has survived centuries of changes in Egypt's political, social, and economic landscape and is still practised today.

The souq is a testament to the enduring legacy of this ancient art form and the craftsmanship of the artisans who keep it alive. Through its intricate patterns and vibrant colours, Khayamiya showcases the beauty and richness of Egypt's artistic heritage. It serves as a reminder of the country's past and the vibrant artistic traditions that have been passed down through generations. Today, Khayamiya is not only an important cultural artefact but also an expression of contemporary Egyptian art, with many artists and fashion designers incorporating these ancient techniques and motifs into their work.

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