Egypt papyrus makers keep tradition alive

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AlQaramus, Egypt

In the lush green fields of Egypt’s fertile Delta Valley, farmers and artisans are struggling to make a living as they keep alive the Pharaonic-era tradition of making papyrus.

In the 1970s, an art teacher in the village of Al-Qaramus taught farmers the millennia-old techniques for transforming the plant into sought-after paper decorated with ornate drawings and text.

The village and its surrounds, located about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Cairo, now make up the largest hub of papyrus production in the country, experts in the sector say.

Once used by ancient Egyptians as writing paper, local artists now decorate the papyrus with hieroglyphics, Arabic calligraphy and representations from antiquity and nature to create souvenirs for eager visitors.

But tourism in the North African country has taken a battering since its 2011 revolution, and after a Russian airliner was downed by the Islamic State group in 2015.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further debilitated the sector: Egypt earned just $4 billion in tourist revenues last year, a quarter of what it had anticipated before the global health crisis.

Today, Al-Qaramus has 25 farms trying to make ends meet by selling papyrus, compared to around 500 prior to the revolution.—AFP

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