Less than a few kilometers from Memphis, the 5000-year-old capital city of Pharaonic Egypt, modern day some Egyptians strive to keep alive a fast dying tradition, that too is nearly 1500-years old — the legendary art of weaving ‘magic’ carpets.
weaving in old Egyptian hieroglyphs
The magic carpets of Asia, which have found mention everywhere from ancient texts to Uderzo and Goscinny’s Asterix comics have long been the hallmark of Persians and Arabs who took over the reigns of Egypt from the Romans in 640 AD.
But today this art is facing the danger of dying out with the younger generation, much like in Kashmir, more interested in ‘proper jobs’ than in learning to make carpets. But Egypt, it seems, is not willing to give up just yet.
Because of the population explosion, the school systems can’t handle the quantity and run two sessions a day. Therefore, children go to school for just a half-day and the other half day learn a craft such as carpet weaving
There are more than 200 carpet schools, each of them training some 40-odd school children this ancient art. All of these children go to school and are getting a proper education.
It has to be seen to be believed, the way a design or a picture takes shape — woven purely by hand, as children sitting in front of different boards — weave with their small fingers — intricate and identical designs on huge silk and woolen carpets.
It takes weeks, often months to make a single carpet. Imagine the kind of patience and dedication one must have to make carpets for a living. Each design has to be identical on a carpet. So the children must be excellent artists and good with their hands. Their small and flexible fingers, can be the best weavers.
The children go to these schools either every summer vacation which lasts three months, or after finishing their school day and homework. It takes four summers for each of them to emerge as sort of ‘graduates’ after which they can go in for higher training.
To create a simple design like that of a peacock or a flower on one single square meter of a woolen or silk carpet, one needs to tie an amazing one million knots.
The scheme has been very successful. We are confident now that the art of the magic carpet will not die in Egypt.
winding the yarn
the finished carpets
showing the expensive silk carpet
display of theme carpets
(a Bukara design,
Uzbekistan in Central Asia)
ready for the buyers
People and Places