Appliques From The Street Of The Tentmakers Cairo Egypt

Appliqués from the Street of the Tentmakers

One of the joys of walking around the bazaars of ancient Cairo is a visit to the Street of the Tentmakers. It is a seventeenth century complex of buildings, with a long street with shops filled with appliqué panels of the most amazing range of colours and designs. The appliqués from the Street are part of a tradition that goes back to at least the time of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun, who died in 1323 BC.

The author in the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, December 2014.The author in the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, December 2014.This online TRC exhibition builds on a 'real' display organised in 2015 at the TRC in Leiden. It includes historical and technical information as well as showing a very wide range of panels with traditional geometric designs, intricate Arabic calligraphy, ancient Egyptian tomb scenes, modern lotus designs, as well as birds, fishes, landscapes and folk stories. In fact, all aspects of traditional Egyptian life.

The exhibition at the TRC, and this online outcome, have been made possible with the help of the appliqué makers from the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, and the director and staff of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute, Cairo, Egypt.

All the appliqués housed in the TRC collection are shown in the 'chapter' Photographs of All Objects, see below, and the illustrations in this chapter refer directly to the TRC digital catalogue.

A short film about the 'real' exhibition can be downloaded here.

For further information, see the relevant entry in TRC Needles.

For this online exhibition:

  • Author: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood
  • Web-design: Joost Koopman
  • Exhibition design: Willem Vogelsang
  • Publisher: TRC, Leiden.
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Copyright: All illustrations of objects housed in the TRC collection can be used free of charge, but please add to the caption: "Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden" and the pertinent accession number of the object.


1. Introduction

Appliqué is a textile technique whereby one or more textiles are sewn onto a ground material, usually of cloth, in a decorative manner. The earliest surviving examples of Egyptian appliqués…

2. Appliqué

Appliqué is a technique whereby one or more textiles are sewn onto a ground material, usually of cloth, but leather may also be found. The cloth appliqués are made by…

3. Historical examples

Examples of appliqué have been recorded from various archaeological sites throughout Egypt. Most notably, appliqués were found in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun (d. 1323 BC). These…

4. Medieval appliqués

Various examples of 'real' appliqué as well as inlay appliqué (inlay patchwork) survive from the medieval era in Egypt, namely from the Fatimid (969-1171) and Mamluk (1250-1517) periods. Surviving examples…

5. Street of the Tentmakers

By the twenty-first century the production of tent appliqués can still be found in a small number of Egyptian cities and towns, but the most famous is the Shari’ Khayamiyya…

6. Preparing and making a design

Until the latter half of the twentieth century, the appliqué was made exclusively by men (khayamij; ‘maker of tents’) and boy apprentices, but at the end of the century a…

7. Appliqué patterns and colours

During the twentieth century the style and colours used for the appliqué panels have changed considerably. An early twentieth century description of the Street of the Tentmakers and the two…

8. Current designs

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, various types of patterns were being used to decorate appliqué panels. The main forms are geometric or Islamic, calligraphic, and Pharaonic, as well…

9. Photographs of all objects

The collection of the Textile Research Centre includes a large number of appliqués from the Street of the Tentmakers in Cairo, most of them being produced in the late twentieth and early…