We are excited to announce that the Aga Khan Foundation will be hosting an exhibition of photographs at the Royal Geographical Society, London, between 22 March and 24 April inclusive.
A maze of narrow and winding alleyways, al-Darb al-Ahmar connects visitors with a past and a way of life that can be found in very few places in the world today. A huge array of crafts are made here – from brass lanterns, colourful textiles, and glassware, to silk carpets and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The designs are often unique to Cairo and, in some cases, to the district itself. It is an astonishing creative output.
Due to recent political instability and a shifting external perception of Egypt, however, the future of many of these crafts is under threat. The number of tourists visiting Egypt halved between 2011 and 2016, while the cost of raw materials such as wood and brass has increased. In the absence of a vibrant market, tourists or otherwise, many of these crafts – some of which link to traditions going back a thousand years – may not last another generation. The loss of this rich cultural heritage and creative output would be significant – the world and Egypt would surely be poorer because of it.
Efforts are being made by the government, non-government partners – such as the Aga Khan Development Network – and passionate individuals to support the artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar. This exhibition brings attention to those efforts, while it also celebrates the people, culture, and activity that takes place in this dynamic but fragile place. These photographs showcase the personalities who make up daily life and attempt to present a side of Cairo that is not often seen online, on television or in newspapers outside Egypt. Ultimately, this exhibition aims to inspire greater interest in this relatively undiscovered district of Cairo and encourage people to visit this special place – “the soul of Egypt”, as one artisan described it.
The Artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar: Life and Work in Historic Cairo runs from 22 March until 24 April 2018 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm
including 24, 25, 30 March and 2 April, 10am – 4pm
Admission is free.