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Homemade crafts at the Swiss Club bazaar

During last Friday’s Spring Bazaar at the Swiss Club in Imbaba, around 70 booths were scattered throughout the clubs luxuriant gardens, displaying handmade products from tablecloths to jewelry, olive oil to cakes. Handmade goods were showcased in every corner of the garden. Visitors milled about, admiring the thickness of carpets, the softness of silk shawls, and the perfection of pearl earrings.

The first booth that attracted my attention was filled with juicy purple olives in glass containers, dark olive oil bottles, dry mint packs and hexagonal boxes of dates, all directly brought from Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert. On a nearby table, and also from Siwa, were typical Siwi shawls, entirely black with orange trim.

A few meters away, I was attracted to a series of printed and colorful napkins, which I held between my fingers. “This is a table cloth imported from India,” explained Ibtisam el-Ansary, the founder of Shewar Art and Craft Gallery, showing the neatly folded piece of flowery fabric that has been dyed many times.

“This napkin required a lot of work as each of the colors on it have been added seperately,” she said. El-Ansary travels to India and Asia every three months to find pieces she ships back. In her apartment-showroom in Gezirat el-Arab, she also showcases pieces of Egyptian crafts and furniture, all of which closely resemble traditional artifacts. “The pieces I sell come from all over the world," she said, "but what they have in common is that they are made by hand.”

The young artists belonging to the Soul of Cairo group showcased their work on three tables. One displayed round trays decorated with oil-paint animals, like a smiling lizard and a plump red elephant. This is the work of Mido Abdel Salam, a young artist who is attracted to the children’s universe because “people always think of things that grown-ups may like, but not what the kids may enjoy.”

Abdel Salam explained that the Soul of Cairo in Maadi is an interactive gallery that offers workshops for children and adults like painting classes. His friend and colleague Heba Mohamed is a jeweler who focuses mainly on silver and small colorful beads.

Mohamed started making jewelry after learning how to design gold from an Armenian master, though she later abandoned that in favor of silver. “In my work I want to have the liberty to mix whatever influences I want, so you can find Turkish and Islamic patterns on these pieces,” she said.

Nearby, Eduardo Ortiz, a Colombian artist who also belongs to Soul of Cairo, showcased dozens of graceful-looking wire butterflies.

After the booths offering colorful bags and yummy cupcakes I made my way through the crowd to reach Yasmine el-Mehairy’s booth, which offered a charming choice of handmade cards for any occasions. A costumer asked el-Mehairy if she had cards to celebrate the imminent birth of a baby. She nodded and presented a few cards featuring baby pins and other cute motifs.

Behind the card display hung dresses and blouses in what seemed to be a very natural fabric. Yasmine, the clothes designer from Sudan, explained that the idea to create clothes came to her when she first became interested in Sufi philosophy. She pointed at a blouse on the table, made of a patchwork of old clothes and explained: “The different experiences of my life were woven onto one another like a patchwork and nourished each other.” Yasmine has a small atelier across from the old AUC campus in downtown Cairo.

Last but not least, Nermine Said, a gifted and creative jewelry designer displayed her two collections: Movie Star and Hippie Gipsy. Movie Star includes pictures of Egyptian cinema icons attached to long necklaces and earrings. The Hippie Gypsy collection is filled with buttons of all shapes and sizes.

These were the highlights of a sunny afternoon of homemade crafts at the Swiss Club Spring Bazaar. I look forward to another soon.

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