Diwan Abaza: Knick-Knack Treasure Cove in Maadi
While browsing the eclectic shops in Degla, Maadi – on the lookout for nearby Bio Shop – we suddenly found ourselves distracted by a set of rather large wooden giraffes and horses placed outside a peculiur shop; taking only a moment to contemplate, we quickly stepped further into its almost underground space to see what other interesting items it might have in store.
Diwan Abaza is more like a workshop-come-shop; home accessories and knick knacks create a pleasing clutter and there are so many items that it’s difficult to absorb all at once. At first glance, it is obvious that the merchandise is raw, aged, original and largely handcrafted. Owner and artist, Mohamed Abaza, enjoys working with natural materials and prefers to create pieces that are environmentally friendly and have character because of their age and a past history. For example, he collects old newspaper articles, cinema and train tickets, and stamps, then turns them into pretty postcards or envelopes – to which are attached an easy 3LE price tag.
Abaza visits Alexandria weekly to teach art classes to children and this is where he finds most of his wooden treasures. Special items include a choice of lovely old wooden doors (4000LE) and frames that have thick, worn engravings. Wooden panels with cut-out patterns (385LE) can also be found and, hanging by the window, are a couple of wooden horses (950LE) that originally belonged to a Ferris wheel. There are several wooden children’s toys as well; a horse built on wheels goes for about 85LE, while a small wooden chest ranges at around 225LE. A large round wooden table comes with a pretty inlay done using coloured nails and costs somewhere around 8000LE while a reasonably sized sofa was priced at about 3000LE.
There are several other items that can be found at Diwan Abaza that may not be handcrafted, but express the artist’s appreciation for times gone by and the quality that comes with age. Radios for around 2000LE are avadate back to the 1930s. One can also find wooden flutes, old bottles, mini origami boats, patterned matchboxes and clothes pegs, not to mention a bunch old-school locks and a jewellery section.
Abaza’s atelier is a great place to go for a gift or if you’re looking for an authentic, alternative way to decorate your house. All the work is simple, yet heartfelt and has been likened to what the Chinese call ‘mingei’ – meaning the Art of the People. Sticking to basics and creating one-of-a-kind pieces at very reasonable prices, while highlighting Egyptian culture through his use of traditional motifs, Diwan Abaza is definitely a hidden treasure in Maadi and we’re glad we came across it.