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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Basheyer: One-Stop Oriental Shop
Who doesn’t love gorgeous hand-made crafts, jewellery and leather products at affordable prices? On an afternoon wandering around City Stars’ Khan El Khalili, we discovered a little shop worth telling the masses about: Basheyer. It’s a charming store full of goodies, where no bargaining is necessary.
There are shelves upon shelves of colourful, hand-made crafts. Candle holders, incense and oil burners, as well as mugs, tea sets and kettles– you name it, Basheyer has it. Our favourite item is the charming hand-painted, Arabesque-styled mirror in hot pink; the perfect accessory for an antique vanity or a great way to add some colour to a dull hallway.
There are also several leather products that strongly resemble products from Sami Amin. Large wallets with several pockets for credit cards and coin purses are carved with simple geometric shapes. They’re so beautiful; they could really resemble little leather clutches suitable for eveningwear. There were also several leather bags of shapes varying from medium-sized satchels with straps to larger smart-looking, office-style bags.
The centre of the shop holds glass showcase tables displaying a variety of antique jewellery, including an interesting mix of Bedouin and Afghani styles. There are also some beautiful contemporary jewellery pieces made of silver and plenty of stones. More affordable bronze jewellery is also available.
Towards the back of the showroom is also a nook filled with the rainbow’s stretch of colourful scarves, some of which are hand-embroidered, Bedouin-style. There are also usually a few antique Bedouin dresses with complicated and colourful hand-stitched flower embroidery.
Though the shop is mostly female-centric, there are still gifts suitable for both sexes, including clay-moulded ashtrays, a chessboard made of leather with steel pieces and Islamic lighting fixtures. Many of the crafts range between 30LE to 45LE, while leather wallets go for around 200LE and leather bags cost between 350LE to 650LE.
As a result of mass production, few shops in Cairo delve into the joys of handcraft labours. Carpentry and metal work were once common hobbies; nowadays it’s a rarity to see a city dweller employ their hands to such forgotten crafts.
However, there is a thriving industry hidden in the city that seeks to provide simple, creative, handcrafted products.
Starting out in Marsa Allam – at the Deep Sea Eco Lodge – Gezazy specialise in home accessories and decorations made from empty glass bottles. When the tourism industry began to falter following the January 25th Revolution, the owners relocated to a workshop in the Fustat region, and a classy showroom on Street 250 in Maadi.
Entering the showroom is like taking a step into the mind of creative genius; the inspirational vibe of the shop feels like a museum of idiosyncratic fun. Apart from the kiosk made of glass and wood, the majority of décor and furniture is made of reused materials; there’s a wood pallet walkway filled with lit-up green glass bottle bottoms, as well as tables made from wooden spools and glass bottle plant pots. All the lighting in the showroom, from lamps to chandeliers, is made from repurposed liquor and wine bottles.
Since their products are highly open to customisation, prices vary case by case; but on average, simple candle holders – made using half a glass bottle and attaching a wooden base for the candle – cost 75LE and when altered, fluctuate to 100LE upwards. The glass is customised primarily through frosting.
Taking into account the addition of a light bulb socket and switch, their lamps start at 125LE. Classical and modern chandeliers are also available for prices starting at 300LE; however, these are especially open to customisation and can reach prices as high as 3000LE. One particular example that caught our eye was a collection of Smirnoff bottles, hung from a wooden plank attached to the ceiling (300LE/meter).
Gezazy also support peers in their field by selling their products at the showroom. Here, expect to find suitcase and tyre seats made by Reshakel, along with the intriguing line from Am Ezzat – a man who makes eccentric motorcycle and car models out of everyday objects including cutlery, soda cans and tear gas canisters. Also sold are the products of Mohamed Atef, who creates robot-shaped lamps out of pipes and other metal junk that would leave Cairo’s geeks smiling. With the exception of B2eedy’s wooden and textile products made in the Saeed region of Akhmim, everything at Gezazy is created from recycled, pre-used items.
Gezazy offers creative, revamped items at moderate prices, bringing unique, hand-made, environmentally friendly products to the market.