For 27 years Hasan has been producing al-Khayamiya textiles. He started tent-making at 17 whilst in college. “I had to fight with my father to do this. He wanted me to get a normal job. But I could tell that something very good would come out of this. It started because as a boy I would walk along al-Khayamiya street and I was so intrigued by people working with this tiny thread. They would be creating beautiful things. I wanted to learn how it was done.”
After he started, he began creating a new style, with new colours and he began to make a name for himself. “It is a very difficult craft. It requires a lot of concentration and patience. It is very hard for men. It is usually done by women.”
“When I see the final product, it is like seeing a finished painting. Then it feels worth it.”
Discovered in some of the Pharaonic temples, tent-making is one of the oldest crafts in Egypt. During the Fatimid period (10th - 12th century), tent-makers would produce the the kiswah, the fabric that covers the great stone at Mecca, as well as tents, cloths and saddles for those setting out on the hajj (pilgrimage).
The Sultan, sitting nearby on a balcony upon the ancient Fatimid gate, Bab Zuwayla would watch the caravan headed for Mecca depart in procession.
“We are lucky to have been born here" - Hasan Adri
Built in 1650, the Street of the Tentmakers is a succession of workrooms and shops whose interiors are lined with colourful, decorative textiles.
“Today, our craft is 80 percent dependent on tourism. The market is not as lucrative as it used to be. Ultimately, it’s about God’s will; Riz – the abundance that comes to me from God.”
“Chinese imitations do not represent any importance for me. They tried to replicate our work but couldn’t. They are not even competitors. Theirs is a completely different product.”
“If you start to think about it as a business, it is no longer a craft. For me it started as a business but because I grew to love it, my position changed. My focus now is about creating something, and putting myself into it.”
To keep the craft going and to support disadvantaged women from Cairo, Hasan negotiated an arrangement to use one of the rooms at the Museum of Islamic Art to host weekly training sessions in Khayamiya and other crafts. With the skills they learn, the women who attend can earn a living. Hasan provides this training at no cost for the last 15 years.