On the banks of Rosetta, the eastern arm of the Nile river, lies a city named Fuwwah. Walking through the narrow streets of this ancient city, you can still see the remains of the Pharaonic, Roman and Islamic civilizations in the architecture.
Fuwwah’s people pride themselves in knowing the secrets of handweaving kilim carpets, passed down from one generation to the next since the times of the Pharaohs. Small workshops are scattered throughout the city, often with the family living above it. Over decades, many families were keen on teaching their children the craft in addition to traditional schooling. This was done to develop patience, attention to detail and focus from an early age.
Unfortunately, due to a decline in sales to tourists, lack of business skills, and stagnant wages, younger generations have been diverted away from the weaving. When you take a look in the workshops today, you will mainly find grandparents behind the looms. With this aging generation, the thousand-year old craft of kilim weaving in Fuwwah is in danger of extinction.
Luckily a young couple in Cairo has taken an interest and created Kiliim, a social enterprise committed to reviving the tradition by introducing the weavers to modern designs for their time-honored technique. Through their commitment, they have been able to increase the weavers’ wages to fair trade standards, improve their working conditions, and build more looms to expand their workshop. A kilim weaving school is planned to teach new generations the craft, so it can continue to thrive in the future.
There is now a glimmer of hope that the kilim weaving tradition in Fuwwah will live on. So the artisans may continue to work on their wooden looms like a musician playing an instrument with synchronized smooth moves. Pushing the naturally dyed wool yarn back and forth to create the design, and setting it with a comb, guaranteed to last a lifetime.