Tag Archives: Egypt

A Dyeing Tradition in Egypt: Photo-essay

Salama Mahmoud Salama, 75, the owner of a dye workshop looks at yarns in the workshop in old Cairo, Egypt, March 17, 2016. Egypt's hard currency crisis and competition from modern factories in Asia and at home threaten one of the last dye workshops in Egypt. But one of its owners takes comfort in the trade's ancient resilience. Mohamed Mostafa boasts that the profession dates back 3,000 years, so it can survive anything. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SEARCH "AMR DYE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES

Salama Mahmoud Salama, 75, the owner of a dye workshop looks at yarns in the workshop in old Cairo, Egypt, March 17, 2016. Egypt’s hard currency crisis and competition from modern factories in Asia and at home threaten one of the last dye workshops in Egypt. But one of its owners takes comfort in the trade’s ancient resilience. Mohamed Mostafa boasts that the profession dates back 3,000 years, so it can survive anything. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Amr Abdallah Dalsh
April, 2016

Egypt’s hard-currency crisis and competition from modern factories in Asia and at home threaten one of the last dyeing workshops in Egypt but one of its owners takes comfort in the trade’s ancient resilience.

Mohamed Mostafa boasts that the trade dates back 3,000 years, so it can survive anything.

“It is sick but it won’t die,” said Mostafa, who runs the grimy workshop built in 1901 along with his father and brothers. “If God is willing it will last another 100 years.”

Times are tough.

Mostafa says prices for raw materials have exploded since an uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, triggering political upheaval and bringing the economy to its knees.

Before those days, when protests in Tahrir Square raised high hopes of a bright future for millions of Egyptians, the small workshop used to bring in around 700 Egyptian pounds a week. That has fallen to 400.

A shortage of dollars needed for the purchase of goods has also taken its toll on the small business, which once had numerous workers.

The workshop, with its old television and water jugs covered in dirt faces fierce competition from factories in countries such as China and India.

The shop, which dyes material used for shirts and sheets and other goods, takes about three days to turn around the product, relying on a father and two sons to run the show, compared with about 15 people before Mubarak’s demise.

Still, history suggests obstacles can be overcome. The trade goes back to First Dynasty, 3,100 years before Christ.

Born in 1937, Salama Mahmoud Salama still exudes pride despite the challenges after 42 years on the job. He speaks of customers from Cairo, Alexandria and Aswan as he sits beside sacks near a poster of a politician with Happy New Year wishes glued to a wall.

“At first Egypt traded in cotton and silk now they import so the industry is weak,” said Salama, dark-skinned and wearing a white skull cap. “Before there was funding by the government.”

Puffing on a cigarette, Mostafa still takes great pride in his profession.

His t-shirt, covered in dye stains, speaks volumes about the amount of work he puts in, hoping to overcome the odds while toiling away in the workshop surrounded by narrow alleyways in the Darb al-Ahmar area of informal settlements in old Cairo.

He says there are only four workshops like his in all of Egypt.

“Handwork is better. You have greater control over the colour in phases,” he said, recalling how his trade once produced goods in high demand on the same level as tea and sugar.

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Affiliation and Dual Passports Complicate Journalist’s Case

passport“A Canadian is a Canadian and deserving of diplomatic protection, whatever one thinks of his or her affiliations,” writes  International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. Today’s column deals with an Egyptian court’s sentences of three journalists this week. Two complications plague the controversial case: the tricky issue of dual citizenship, and their employment by Al Jazeera, a news outlet whose English service professionalism is widely respected, but not in any way matched by its controversial Arabic service. An excerpt:

It’s easy and entirely justifiable to let loose an outraged rant at the prison sentences handed down in Egypt to three Al Jazeera journalists, including Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, after a piece of judicial theatre so farcical it denigrates the name of kangaroo courts.

But whether Fahmy, the acting bureau chief in Egypt for the Al Jazeera television network, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed deserve more consideration than the thousands of other people caught up in the Middle East power struggle is a more difficult question.

Like all journalists operation in conflict zones, they took measured risks in order to do their jobs. That doesn’t mean they are the authors of their own fate, but it does mean they knew what they were getting into, or should have done.

The three were arrested on December 29 last year at Cairo’s Marriott hotel where they had set up a temporary office while they reported on protests against the military ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood administration of President Mohammed Morsi the previous July. After the coup, the military declared the brotherhood a terrorist group. The three Al Jazeera men were accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, broadcasting “false news,” and undermining Egypt’s national security by suggesting the country was on the brink of civil war … read more (subscription required*)

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Dual Citizenship no Guarantee of Protection

For deeper background on the dynamics surrounding Egypt’s government, Al Jazeera, and the state of Qatar – which owns Al Jazeera – read Manthorpe’s column earlier this month, in which he explains how “from being the poster boy for a modernizing Middle East, the filthy rich Gulf state of Qatar has become a menace:”

Soccer bribery is the least of Qatar’s sins

Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page is here.

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Journalists collateral damage in Middle East rivalries

Detained journalists on trial, regional rivalries and allegations of terrorism are roiling the Middle East. International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe  explains in a new column. Excerpt:

Qatar_rel95A bitter feud among Arab states over relations with radical Islamic groups and how to confront regional rival Iran is threatening to bring new volatility to the already raging insecurity in the Middle East.

The feud pits the oil-rich emirate of Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf States of the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. At the heart of the rift is the financial and moral support by Qatar for militant Islamic groups in North Africa, Egypt and rebels fighting the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria, some of which are linked to Al Qaida and other jihadist groups.

Of special concern is Qatar’s vocal and financial support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a network of radical Islamic followers throughout the Middle East and North Africa and which has been declared a terrorist organization in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Log in to read, New rift among Arab states adds to Middle East security threat. ($1 site day pass or subscription required*)

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Arab Winter of Discontent Lingers

The so-called Arab Spring inflamed democratic imaginations even as activists, citizens, soldiers and rulers clashed violently throughout the region. More than three years after it began, writes international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe, the democratic potential of the revolution has yet to be realized. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:

Manthorpe B&WThree years after the flight into exile of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali triggered popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, there is little to show for the cost in blood and chaos … The picture is not all of doom and gloom, however. In all four countries where long-standing dictatorial regimes were toppled by the popular uprisings, the hammering out of new constitutions is in process, with elections in the offing.

Log in to read the column, Arab Spring Still Waiting to Blossom.*

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