This fine book on the medieval craft of sewn tent panels in Cairo – a craft that is still very much alive – is the first major book on the topic to have been published. The appliqué work known as khayamiya is still produced in the crowded centre of historic Cairo. The textiles are sewn by hand in brilliant colors and intricate patterns along a street known as the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’.
The Tentmakers of Cairo brings together the stories of the tentmakers and their extraordinary tents—from the huge tent pavilions, or suradeq, of the streets of Egypt, to the souvenirs of the First World War and textile artworks celebrated by quilters around the world.
It traces the origins and aesthetics of the khayamiya textiles that enlivened the ceremonial tents of the Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties, exploring the ways in which they challenged conventions under new patrons and technologies, inspired the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and continue to preserve a legacy of skilled handcraft in an age of relentless mass production.
Drawing on historical literature, interviews with tentmakers, and analysis of khayamiya from around the world, the authors reveal the stories of this unique and spectacular Egyptian textile art.