El Kattan Carpets: Carpet Factory and Heritage Site in Cairo
Seham El Oraby
Egypt has never been famous
for its handmade carpets. Artefacts, falafel; yes, but carpets, not so
much. Situated in Hadayek El Kobba where it once had a clear view of Kobba
Palace is one of the oldest handmade carpet factories in Egypt.
Kattan Carpets opened its doors in 1930 as a carpet factory. Once a palace
belonging to Khedive Ismail, it is now hidden between a gridlock of
buildings that gradually appeared over the years, as Cairo increasingly became a metropolitan city.
of its hidden location, it may be hard to get to: once you get to Hadayek El Kobba
right near the palace, ask around for directions to El Kattan Carpets as there are
various side streets that you need to pass through to reach it.
from the outside in, the factory doesn’t seem the part. The foundations of the
palace still stand, along with the detailed, painted high ceilings, windows and
chandeliers. Certificates hang on most walls and the few pieces of furniture
that remain in the owner’s office have resided there since his grandfather opened
the factory back in 1930.
in the courtyard leads you to where tens of employees work
uninterrupted eight-hour days, sometimes on more than one carpet at a
time. The ages range from as young as nine-years-old to as old as 65.
Their job seems simple; knotting and tying different coloured threads
together by using a wooden, hand-sized stick with a sharp edge to cut the
thread. The speed and accuracy at which they follow patterns and colours
on a grid is near impossible; their swift hand movements and attention to
detail is why El Kattan Carpets has a clientele base not only in Egypt but around the
world as well.
can very quickly, but calmly and collectively jump from one carpet to the next
without pausing to take a break or another glance at the patterned grid that they
follow. Conjunctionally, in another room you’ll find one worker trimming
the excess thread off of a finished carpet. There are also three
workers in the sun-enveloped courtyard scrubbing a rug by using
good old fashioned soap and water, having just finished two others
now air-drying on a pole.
the last stage of carpet production, one worker is solely assigned the task of
placing a thick border of thread around it, placing the final touches on
the carpet. Carpets are available for purchase, starting at 500LE all the way
up to several hundred thousands, depending of course on the textiles and the
size of the carpets.
leaving El Kattan Carpets, not only will you have been exposed to a vast
collection of rugs and carpets in different colours, materials and sizes;
but you will also have had the chance to explore the historical building. According
to recorded documents, the Ministry of Culture has officially signed El Kattan
Carpets as a site of historical significance. But that’s just the icing on top: as with most
tourists who visit, you’ll be more interested in how a ball of thread
can turn from something that many of us take for granted every day to a
beautiful piece of furnishing art.
Kattan Carpets is legally registered by the Ministry of Labor as the only training center for handmade rug manufacturing. The company gives back to the Egyptian community by providing training courses to underprivileged children in Cairo
slums; thus providing a platform to educate and fight unemployment. According to their Facebook page, El Kattan Carpet’s goal is ‘to teach a dimishing worldwide skill as well
as offering and providing job opportunities for young adults and assist
them in having a better standard of living.’
For more information about its products and training courses, visit El Kattan Carpet’s website.
Cairo 360 does not condone child labour in any way, but we insist on reporting situations as is.