On our first day in Egypt we visited a carpet making school that was close to the pyramids at Saqqara. We were told that education is compulsory in Egypt up to the end of primary school level. In agricultural areas, however, the children were an integral part of the workforce – planting, harvesting etc and were needed in order for the family to survive. Someone came up with the idea of carpet schools where the children would not only learn a trade which would supplement the families income but would also give them some formal education – reading, writing and arithmetic.
We entered on the ground floor of a two story building and the manager took us over to one of the carpet makers. His fingers fairly flew as he tied knots. Our lecturer asked him to slow down so we could observe how it was done and even then I was in awe at the dexterity of his fingers.
I had been expecting to see young children but all the carpet weavers were of an older age – ex pupils who were now teachers and artisans in their own right. We saw wool carpets and silk being made either by knotting or on a loom.
We were then taken upstairs to the showroom where we were given a cup of hibiscus tea to enjoy as we wandered the finished articles. This was our first example of a showroom. Men hover waiting for you to start looking and then they pounce and don’t let you go.
We would have bought one but we weren’t given a chance to wander unhindered to allow us to decide which carpet was our favourite. We left without purchasing but we did enjoy the textures we saw.