Capital city of Egypt with 19 million inhabitants, Cairo (in Arabic al-Qāhirah, the Victorious) is the largest metropolitan area in the Middle East and Arab region. For centuries, the city has been a major centre of cultural life, retaining to this day, its historic prominence with major cultural sites, including the Giza pyramid complex. Historically known as a hub of renowned craftsmanship, Cairo celebrates this heritage within its historic centre by calling the neighbourhoods after different craft practices. The local creative economy mainly relies on the vitality of the crafts and folk art sector which represent 80% of the city’s cultural activities.
Communities living in the historic centre are key in the continued support of crafts and folk art within the city. Throughout the years, they initiated craftsmen guilds specializing in pottery, glassblowing, coppersmith, ceramic and jewellery. To promote their artworks and know-how, the City organises a wide range of fairs such as the Diarna Fair or the Youm Misr (A day in Egypt); the first fair dedicated to promoting the craft heritage of Cairo. The City also hosts the Heritage Forum, aimed at increasing awareness around the creative sector. The International Festival of Drums and Traditional Arts is also a flagship event linking traditional folk art and music practices.
In the early 20th century, Cairo bore witness to a rapid urbanization due to rural exodus. This resulted in a number of residents moving into the city outskirts, leaving an inactive historic centre behind. To revive the area, the Urban Regeneration Project for Historic Cairo has identied culture and creativity as key enablers in restoring the heritage and culture of the once prestigious area. Alongside this, the Creative Cairo strategy focuses on establishing participatory mechanisms to engage citizens in all steps of the regeneration process of the historic centre.
As a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Cairo envisages:
- organising a series of specialised training sessions designed to strengthen artisans capacities and quality of crafts products;
- developing a design for a multipurpose urban square, offering periodical markets for exhibitions and selling of craft products;
- restoring and repurposing public buildings for Community Craft Centres;
- advocating and promoting the importance and value of cultural centres initiated by citizens and artists as open spaces for creation; and
- engaging in partnerships with other UCCN members through the Creative Cairo strategy, providing professional development and international exchanges within Cairo’s cultural sector.