Book Review: The Tentmakers of Cairo looks at Egypt’s overlooked art

roya almously
Wed, 2019-01-09 12:42

BEIRUT: In the heart of medieval Cairo, facing the gate of Bab
Zuwayla, lies the picturesque Street of the Tentmakers, Shari
Khayamiya, lined with shops selling vibrant applique panels. This
sewing technique, whereby textiles are sewn onto a ground material,
is known as “khayamiya” and is unique to Egypt.

“The Tentmakers of Cairo,” by Seif El Rashidi and Sam
Bowker, traces the origins of “khayamiya” from the 11th century
to the present day. Khayamiya, the art of the tent, is derived from
the Arabic word “khayma,” meaning tent.

It is difficult to understand why khayamiya has been the focus
of so little attention besides a few articles, including an
excellent piece in 1996 by John Feeny in “Aramco World
Magazine,” a 2003 thesis and a 2015 documentary film by Kim

Until the end of the 19th century, khayamiya was essentially
viewed in architectural terms. The authors reveal clear links
between tent panels and doorways from that period, “indicating
that these textiles were conceived of as architecture in

With their colorful patterns of greens, blues, reds and yellows,
these distinctive textiles brighten up a street. In the words of
the authors, “they unite ornament, function, and ritual in a
spectacular display of Egyptian visual culture.” A more
decorative khayamiya devoid of Arabic calligraphy emerged in the
1880s to cater for the needs of the nascent touristic market for
souvenirs of Egypt.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News
Book Review: The Tentmakers of Cairo looks at Egypt’s overlooked art