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City of the Dead Glassblowers

Nestled deep within the necropolis of Cairo, there is lots of life to find. Near the tombs, Hassan Hodhod and his family operate a glassblowing workshop started by his grandfather during the Ottoman Empire. Today it is one of the oldest remaining glassblowing workshops in Egypt.

As a child, Hassan’s father always pushed him away from the craft, telling him that it was hard work and he should study to create a better future for himself instead. But his father’s passion for the work was contagious and Hassan continuously went behind his back to try to blow glass. Eventually his father agreed to properly teach him the craft.

As he grew older, Hassan became passionate about boxing and went on to become a professional boxer. This will be forever remembered in Egyptian pop culture thanks to the award winning film Kaboria loosely based on his life. His father’s glassblowing studio even made an appearance in the film.

After a few years, Hassan returned home to rejoin his father at the studio. Upon his return, he looked for ways to make improvements to the business. His first project was renovating the glass melting furnace from wood to gas power to make it more environmentally friendly. He also introduced new blowing techniques and developed new colors and textures in glass through the addition of oxides.

Before the glassblowing can begin, recycled glass bottles from around the city are collected. The glass is washed and separated by color, then broken into smaller pieces and melted at 1,500 degrees Celsius.

Hassan wants to assure the glassblowing craft will not die out once he finally retires, so he has involved his entire family. His wife, son and daughters all work in the studio, truly making it a family affair. Hassan explains: “My father performed this craft until he was 80 because he loved it. I love this craft too, so I taught it to my son.”

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