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Khaled Khalida Furniture designer: Artisan of al-Darb al-Ahmar, Cairo

Khaled learnt his business as a child when he delivered beans to his father's workshop which he set up on 1969 after a stint in the military. It was there that Khaled saw objects being decorated with mother-of-pearl and became intrigued.

His company produces about 150 different wooden objects, many of which are stacked around in his storeroom; boxes, backgammon sets and ornamental chairs. Many share intricate black and white Islamic geometric motifs, embossed with mother-of-pearl. He sells most of his products in North Africa and the Middle East.

An artisan cuts strips of polyester that are used to create the geometric patterns that cover the furniture.

The decorative covering is made from thin strips of polyester. It is heated up and stuck to the wood. The mother-of-pearl comes from mollusc shells imported from Australia. The wood is mahogany and comes from Hungary.

mother-of-pearl is added in geometric patterns.

The source of the designs are Islamic and Arabic patterns found in old Islamic books.

Mother-of-pearl comes from molluscs imported from Australia. These shells are typically a calcareous exoskeleton which encloses, supports and protects the soft parts of a mollusc, such as a snails or clams.

“The craft is dying”, he says, laughing, “I am not teaching my kids this craft. I became part of it because of my father, and the name, but I am not encouraging my kids to work on this. I believe you should do what you love.”

Khaled's workshop employs around 20 people.

‘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. Kindly supported by the Aga Khan Foundation.

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 here.

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

Created By
Christopher Wilton-Steer
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Christopher Wilton-Steer

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