Saturday 3 of December, 2022
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How Architect Karim El Hayawan Turned Old Cairo Into A Sweet Fantasy

We walk you through the Mouled El Naby sweets Maquette that is shifting the trajectory of storytelling in the F&B industry.

Farida El Shafie

Eclectic architect and designer Karim El Hayawan tore through rigid corporate and commercial structures to deliver a heartfelt love letter to the city that birthed him. Riddled with surrealist sentiments, Hayawan’s take on expert sweet makers Abdel Rahim Koueider’s Mouled El Naby AD is akin to a toddler dipping their toes into sandy waters for the first time; an experience brimming with childlike reverie and playful sentiments. Modest in composition, the one minute clip not only caught the attention of like-minded designers in the industry but catapulted viewers back to a time when losing yourself in figurines and tiny plastic trees was the espoused escapist mechanism of choice. 

“I would never do anything commercial unless they know they’re in for something surreal. I promote surrealism, and I fight surrealism with surrealism,” El Hayawan tells @SceneEats. “What we’re living in is absolute absurdity, and unless you actually embrace it, the movement tears you apart. We also live in a country where nothing functions logically, so it’s very entertaining to respond to that.” 

What started as a commissioned advertisement turned into a 48-hour spirited dive into the Avant-Garde art scene. As the architect and his colleagues tirelessly worked on the Maquette, the postmodern motif that tethered the syrupy small-scale mock-up became that of the sweet maker who ‘built the city’ as well as the dexterous history that eventuated in Mouled El Naby sweets. Cognizant of the cultural significance at hand, El Hayawan called upon songstress Ghalia Ben Ali to animate the story. Propagating a series of snapshots involving music boxes, Ben Ali’s vision perfectly meshed with that of the overarching message, and in turn, lit a match to the already existing spark.