The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Al Ghouri Papyrus Art Centre

Al Ghouri Papyrus Art Centre: Expert Papyrus in Cairo

reviewed by
Melissa Howell
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Al Ghouri Papyrus Art Centre: Expert Papyrus in Cairo

The centuries-old practice of turning Egyptian papyrus leaves into paper
is nearly mocked today at many of the shops in Cairo’s Khan El Khalili market,
where poor quality souvenirs are hawked to unsuspecting tourists. The cheaply
made products may discourage many modern Cairenes from even considering this market
as a place to shop for gifts. However, a recent visit to Al Ghouri Papyrus Art
Centre proves that Khan El Khalili still has quality products that beautifully
represent Egyptian history and talent.

Al Ghouri Papyrus Art Centre is one of those special Egyptian treasures
that – while hardly a secret – feel like one. A thin door leads to a steep, rickety staircase with only enough light
shining through the window to illuminate the dust in the air. The dreary
entrance leads to a brightly lit space of three small rooms, whose walls are
covered with samples of intricately painted papyrus leaf paper.  

Immediately noticeable is the care taken to preserve the pieces in this
shop; each painting is displayed behind glass, keeping the paper flat and dust-free. You will likely be greeted by one of the shop’s
two owners, who will proudly boast about the shop and the quality of their
work. For the briefest of moments, this
begins to feel like the dreaded Khan El Khalili experience of being fed a line
and pressured to purchase.

Here’s the difference, though: upon comparison, their
work really is far better than the poorly stamped and airbrushed Pharaonic
themes placed on fraying papyrus (or worse: banana) leaf paper that you may
find elsewhere in Cairo. And once
finished with his short spiel, the salesman will retreat and let you browse the
selection in peace.

A great number of the paintings are letter-paper-sized and embellished
with Pharaonic images, but there is also a vast range of sizes and themes
available at Al Ghouri Papyrus Art Centre. From small banner-style paintings
all the way to pieces that are nearly a metre wide, you’ll find themes of
wildlife, scenes of Cairo and plenty of calligraphy.

Prices will vary a bit depending on how intricately the papyrus is
decorated, but the smaller sizes tend to cost around 80LE, while some of the
larger mural-sized works can cost several thousand LE. Expect to pay more for paintings on the dark
brown paper; as the process of making this variety of papyrus art takes longer
to complete. While these prices may seem high for artwork found in Khan El Khalili,
the care taken to make and handle these paintings sets them apart from simple

360 Tip

The Art Centre is located around the corner from Al Ghouri Complex, where Tannoura performances are frequently held. Although poorly marked, the shop is well-known; so ask a nearby vendor if you need help finding it.

Best Bit

The quality of the papyrus art at this shop is excellently preserved. The pieces are displayed behind glass and carefully wrapped first in plastic then in a hard tube upon purchase. They even offer framing services!

Worst Bit

You may find it tougher to haggle here than elsewhere in Khan El Khalili.  

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