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Aslam Bookbinder: Artisan of al-Darb al-Ahmar, Cairo

Aslam works in the Al-Azhar university. This is a second job.

As a child he was taught how to make books by local masters in al-Darb al-Ahmar. Today, he teaches a colleague from Al-Azhar university the craft.

The pages are glued to the spine with glue and then stacked and compressed while the glue dries.

They produce around 150 books a day, though when they are big books or more expensive ones, this can drop to ten a day. They reproduce ancient texts rooted in Egypt’s social history. The books are mainly for export. They go to Islamic countries.

They are currently binding a tafsir, a commentary on the Qur’an, written in 630 hijri (1232 CE). It is about fuq Islam; the day-to-day ruling guidelines. They are preparing it using an old-fashioned book binding technique.

A recently bound tafsir

“It is hard work but I like it.”

‘The Artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar: Life and Work in Historic Cairo’ exhibition is taking place at the Royal Geographical Society, Exhibition Road, London, from 22 March to 24 April 2018.

This exhibition showcases the people and personalities that make up daily life in this unique district, home to over 1,000 artisan workshops and 60 monuments of Islamic architecture. It presents artisans at work, some of whom are part of a tradition going back a thousand years but whose skills may not last another generation. More information available here.

For more information, please contact: christopher.w-steer@akdn.org

Created By
Christopher Wilton-Steer
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