From Craft to Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local & Global Change

In this conversation, Seif El Rashidi will discuss the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt.

This conversation explores the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling center. Seif El Rashidi, co-author of the publication, The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (2018), and an expert in cultural heritage preservation, shares the stories of contemporary craftspeople who have found ingenious ways to maintain this time-honored art form in an age of machine-made mass production. Seif will share video footage of master-stitchers at work and discuss how the aesthetic of the craft has been adapted to cater to international audiences and adopted by contemporary designers.

Seif El Rashidi is an art and architectural historian whose professional expertise is in the preservation of cultural heritage. He is a specialist on the history and heritage of Cairo and is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (2018). He is currently the director of The Barakat Trust (, a UK charity that supports the study and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Islamic world. He was formerly the project manager of the University of London’s Layers of London Project (, the Magna Carta Programme Manager at Salisbury Cathedral (, and the coordinator of Durham World Heritage Site ( He previously worked for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Cairo (, and for Ahmad Hamid Architects. 

This conversation will be hosted by the series organizer, Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic World, Royal Ontario Museum; and Dr Heba Mostafa, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Department of the History of Art, University of Toronto.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. Photo: Ola Seif
Master craftsman Tarek El Safty with his son Mohamed. The craft has been passed down from father to son, and Tarek is hopeful that Mohamed and his sister will take the family workshop from strength to strength. Photo: Seif El Rashidi