Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cairo, Egypt - Oriental Carpet School

5/16/2012 The workers were incredibly fast and talented as we watched them hand make carpets.  The school provides a way for students to gain an education, learn a skill, and perhaps earn money.

Some of the rugs were made with individual strings, using a double knotting technique.  These two students worked on either side of the carpet.  This young boy had very nimble fingers and was very fast at tying the knots.  I did pause as I watched, wondering if this was child labor or if this young man was learning a skill that would provide him with a livelihood.  These young workers also attended school.

 This shows the yarn used in the carpet hanging above the knotting area.
This is a close-up of the carpet. The bottom section has been closely trimmed. The top section shows the yarn in its shaggy state.

Carpets are made using different techniques.  In my opinion, I would consider the ones made on this loom to be "hand made".  I think that all of these are hand made and wouldn't consider these "manufactured".  I haven't been to a commercial rug manufacturing facility, but I imagine large unmanned looms.  (Is loom the correct term?)  It is interesting to note that the men worked these looms, their fingers now too large and perhaps not nimble enough to quickly tie the knots on the other type of carpets.

 This is one of the huge showrooms.  Carpets were available in many sizes, patterns, and materials.  Some are made of silk and these were more expensive. Some are made of wool.  Some were a blend.  I don't recall hearing of any "artificial" materials
 The patterns were incredible.  Very ornate and swirly.  The patterns are complex.

 Sadly, I do not know enough about carpets to know what is a good deal.  They would openly negotiate, include shipping.  Some of the passengers on the bus came prepared to purchase and knew the size and room colors that were needed.  I am not ready for this, but will tuck this away in my 'might do' list if I decide to replace my wall to wall carpeting with tile or hard wood...and make a trip to Egypt to hand select my carpets.  That would allow me to return with a purpose, although going all the way to Egypt to buy rugs makes me sound a bit excessive.
I left without purchasing one, even a little one. I was looking at a smaller one to buy as a sample item to frame.  It was $50-$75 on the first quote and since I really was not going to purchase, didn't pursue the pricing game with the salesman any further.  Aunt E was looking, and moved from silk to wool to blend to silk again, trying to make a decision. I don't think that she purchased.


Ginan said...

So interesting to watch them being made, but many questions to ask. Is a purchase supporting the people, or promoting child labor? I don't know enough about the politics or the merchandise to play in this game either!

Anonymous said...

Interesting and do not go alone! I met owner and was given a demonstration with Muslim teenager. I was charged $750 for a silk 70 by 58- 41 cm with 300 knots and a regular small wool rug. That anti-semite owner upped the prices. Do not trust your tour guide, either! They think nothing of women and Jews. They charged me a shipping fee and then on my customs ticket wrote the costs as $200. Bastards. I will never visit Cairo again. It's dirty and shady!

Anonymous said...

The owners are slave owners! $10 a day and no breaks in that sweat house! He tried to get me to work. I am sure beat the Muslim girl up and threw the carpets away that I touched. Anti-semitic and over-priced!