The Pottery Center
Tucked away in the outskirts of old Cairo lies an interesting artistic development of both modern and traditional dimensions. The Pottery Center, a modern adaptation of traditional practices, values and crafts, was developed to enable a more accessible and elaborate setting for the treasures of local handwork.
This part of Old Cairo (or al-Fustat in Arabic) is also known as The Religious Complex or "Mogama Al Adian" as it contains architectural remains and religious monuments from each of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Very popular amongst both tourists and Cairo residents, the Religious Complex is an area that also housed many local Egyptians, tradesmen and craftsmen. The craft-shops existed in an unorganized fashion with an overwhelming amount of products that would fascinate every visitor. Although perhaps inappropriately displayed and accommodated, these primitive shops were part of the culture that makes the region what it is, an authentic glimpse of Old Cairo.
In an attempt to create a more organized setting for the popular tourism destination, the location was taken over by large-scale professional developers, who had to unfortunately relocate the artisans, and then demolished then rebuilt the shops in a much more modern and picturesque manner.
The atmosphere inside the current Pottery Center is quite different from that in the area surrounding it, the historical Old Cairo, a abundant with old monuments, unique religious architecture and small markets of local stature. The Center reflects a modern setting, with fresh gardens and pristine walls that accommodate the creations of local craftsmen, well-organized and distributed over 54 craft stores. The products are all traditional and cultural crafts including pottery, ceramics, glass, textiles and wooden products.
The pottery includes pots, vases, saucers, statues and relief-work. The statues are largely images of the local Egyptian countryside created in the traditional Egyptian style of sculpture which reflects a bulky yet serene feeling. The massiveness of the block of stone or clay from which the statues are created provide a strong contrast to the fine features and delicate poses in which the statues stand. Ancient designs and pharaonic influences adorn the products, which are neatly displayed in arched niches in the walls.
The products reflect careful workmanship with extreme skill and dexterity that is typical of local traditional crafts. The entire location maintains a traditional Egyptian and Islamic feel through geometric designs inspired by Islamic art and architecture. Intricate mashrabeya woodwork, a traditional Islamic craft of carefully interlaced wooden marbles, is also created in the Center. Originally, mashrabeya was created in Islamic culture as windows to help mask those in a household from the outside world. Today, and for decades, a mashrabeya has been appreciated for the independent art-form that it is and the fine skill that's required to make it; mashrabeya woodwork has been for decades used as decoration in windows, doors, tables, chairs, etc.
The location is comprised of a vast open area that leads to a corridor of shops, a courtyard with domes, arches, geometric designs and a central Islamic-style fountain. The entire Center reflects a modern but authentic design theme, built in the concepts of the Egyptian Architect, Hassan Fathy, who created "the architecture for the poor" a form of self-sufficient design made with local construction materials. The intention of the Pottery Center architecture was to recreate a feeling of the genuine Egyptian culture, the countryside where many of the potters and craftsmen are from, and a reflection of the surrounding region, the historical Old Cairo.