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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Hamdy: Glass and Metal Work for the Home
Road Nine in Maadi is no trendy shopper's paradise, but it does boast a few colourful shops with a flair for over-the-top knick-knacks, questionable antiques and hardware stores. Recently, we've found a whole new reason to make our way out to the tree-lined Cairo suburb: Hamdy is a small glass and metal-work shop located between Mermaid and Beano's café. Located a step down from street level, the shop can be hard to miss to the untrained eye, with nothing more than a few baskets of glass ornaments and, on most days at least, a lounging shop-keeper to mark its entrance.
Inside, shoppers are bombarded with a floor-to-ceiling display of every sort of oriental lamp, glass, ornament and bead that that you could possible cram into the small space. One wall is lined with lanterns made from recycled sheet metal and coloured recycled glass; these are of the same variety found in many stalls in crowded Khan El Khalili, but these exhibit some sturdier craftsmanship and a larger range of sizes. Insert a votive candle, and the light casts pleasant shadows. Small lanterns begin at 25LE and range up to 75LE for the taller, more ornately trimmed metal frames.
The opposite wall is absolutely packed with rows of thick coloured glass cups and drinking glasses; plain blue coloured glasses are priced at 10LE per piece, while prices increase for glasses decorated with multi-coloured flowers and some loud symmetrical designs. Plates, saucers and hanging globe ornaments are also on display and priced between 15LE to 25LE.
The shop’s single counter is laden with small baskets bearing hand-blown glass beads, from opaque daisies to translucent teardrop shapes, which are fastened to the rims of metal lamp shades to create a delicate fringe effect. For more home accessories, keep your eye out for the door curtains – around 100LE – made out of opaque purple glass beads strung along a sturdy thread. The curtains could easily accent any bohemian interior.
Despite specialising in glass craftsmanship, we were most taken by the store's delicate metal lampshades. These are displayed in abundance on shelves, ceiling and lamp stands throughout the store's small radius. Thin silver-sheet metal is shaped into small rounded and pointed globes (starting at 125LE) and decorated with pin-prick patterns. Some are decorated in symmetrical shapes or Arabic calligraphy, while others are entirely dotted with small holes to let the light of a 30-watt light bulb cast enchanting patterns across a room.
The smaller designs make better night lights than reading lamps. One in particular caught our attention: the lamp was crafted in a larger-than-life light bulb shape, complete with a base made to look like a screw and decorated with a pin-prick pattern for those wishing to light up a space with a little humour.
The common notion in the Egyptian market that the word ‘Imported’ stands for good quality has lead many business owners to neglect Egyptian-made products and even take pride in offering the costumer the imported ones. Now that almost everything we buy has been manufactured abroad, one can’t help but be impressed when finding quality products with the label ‘Made in Egypt’.
Among the local brands that are swimming against the tide, Inca & Co. offers a variety of furniture textiles and fabrics, which are designed by Egyptian artists and mostly manufactured in Egypt. Located on 26th of July Street next to Drinkies in Zamalek, the spacious shop well-organised and efficiently set-out. On the left, is a collection of fabrics is displayed on wall-mounted metal tubes, while other products, like cushions, are shelved on the other side. At the centre of the shop, a number of swatch books are displayed on a rectangular island.
One of the collections that can be found in the swatch books is ‘The Road to Marrakesh’, whose relatively light fabrics can be perfect for beach house furniture. From this collection, we liked a white fabric embroidered in black with a simple floral design (340LE per metre).
With a more complex design of flowers and birds, ‘Mexico Passion’ (460LE per metre) boasts a heavier material, durable for daily-use furniture. Not as heavy is the curtain-suitable ‘Winter Dust’ (325LE per metre), whose geometrical patterns come in various colours, including beige and light blue.
Besides fabrics, Inca & Co. has a versatile collection of products, including cushions (medium 325LE / Large 375LE), poufs (1150LE) and mattresses of different shapes and size. From the latter we liked the over-sized squared mattress (1980LE), which can comfortably take two persons, as well as a more firm mattress for a single person (890LE).
And like any Textile shop, none of the displayed items are available for instant purchasing; while the fabrics are received four days after placing the order, other products take to 10 days, which you can customise by choosing the fabric and adding tassels for an extra fee of 65LE.
In the textiles business, both durability and design are of great importance. And while Inca & Co. designs mainly cater to modern settings, the diverse collection promises good quality and taste – but at a price.