Keeping heritage alive: Women in Egypt's Sinai bring Bedouin embroidery to virus fight - GulfToday

Keeping heritage alive: Women in Egypt's Sinai bring Bedouin embroidery to virus fight


A handout picture provided by El Fayrouz shows colourful Bedouin-styled face masks.

In El-Arish, the provincial capital of Egypt's North Sinai, a group of women sew colourful Bedouin designs on masks to combat the coronavirus.

Egypt's toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has reached over 28,600 cases, including more than 1,000 deaths.

"I learnt how to embroider when I was a young girl watching my mother," homemaker Naglaa Mohammed told.

egypt-face A woman sewing colourful Bedouin-styled face masks, at the city of El-Arish.

A versatile embroiderer, she also beads garments and crafts rings and bracelets.

Now with the pandemic, she has been designing face masks showcasing her Bedouin heritage.

Mohammed has been able to eke out a meagre living with her embroidery skills.

"We work and are given our dues depending on the orders we get... with the masks it has been a new challenge we've tackled," she said.

Bedouins are nomadic tribes who traditionally inhabit desert areas throughout the Arab world, from North Africa to Iraq. Many have now integrated into a more urban lifestyle.

egypt-mask On display are colourful Bedouin designs on a face mask to combat the coronavirus.

Egypt's Bedouin textile tradition of tatriz -- weaving and beading rich geometric and abstract designs on garments, cushions and purses -- has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

But for Amany Gharib, who founded the El-Fayrouz Association in El-Arish in 2010, the violence has not dissuaded her from keeping Bedouin heritage alive while at the same time empowering local women.

She now employs around 550 women like Mohammed -- many of them casually or part-time -- as part of a textiles workshop.

"The masks are composed of two layers -- one inner layer directly on the face which is disinfected, and the colourful, beaded one outside," Gharib explained.

egypt-facemask Bedouin-styled face masks made by women members of the association, at the city of El-Arish.

All the women take the necessary precautions while working, including wearing gloves and masks while using sewing machines.

The finished products are washed, packed and shipped off to distribution centres in Cairo, where they are sold online in partnership with Jumia -- Africa's e-commerce giant -- for about 40 pounds ($2.50) each.

The beading process takes about two days for each mask, Gharib said.

Dire economic conditions in Egypt have been even tougher for women of the Sinai since the pandemic began.

"Times are really tough for the women but we have adjusted," Gharib said.

Related articles