CAIRO - 8 June 2023: Wooden dolls have been a sincere part of the Egyptian heritage for a long time, with the craft is struggling to survive.
Egypt Today paid a visit to Egypt's Delta governorate of Sharqia, to explore the art of making the wooden dolls in different shapes and designs.
The artist, Mohamed Saeed Gharib, 77 years old, is one of five artists who still preserve this craft.
Photo of Artist Mohamed Saeed Gharib
He told Egypt Today that he finds comfort and satisfaction in working on new dolls, despite him suffering from a physical disability.
Gharib went on explaining his passion to the craft, which he spent his life doing, since he was 13 years old.
"When I was a preparatory student at Ahmed Orabi School in the 60s, I discovered my talent during drawing classes, when the teachers noticed my skill in drawing artistic paintings and using clay to shape statues of leaders such as: Abdel Nasser and Orabi and others, to the extent that the Directorate of Education relied on me among a number of talented people in other art-related tasks, and we were rewarded for that," he added.
And he continues: "I made an income when I was a student, the art of making puppets attracted me at that time, and took all my time besides studying."
"I was then appointed at the Agricultural Bank, and during that period there was a war of attrition and I joined the military service that lasted until victory October,” he said, pointing out that during that period he was practicing his hobby of drawing and making puppets, and he participated in art exhibitions for the army, one of whom was visited by President Sadat at the time, who admired a picture Gharib drew of him, and honored him.
And he adds: "My whole day is here in my house, among the work tools next to me, in the hall I sit for more than 12 hours, I do the coloring and decorating that needs craftsmanship and extreme precision, which is what distinguishes an artist from another.
And he points out by saying that he is keen to embody Egyptian characters in his wooden dolls such as: the peasant woman carrying the plaster on her head, the camel, as well as carts of koshari, beans, watermelon and potatoes.
Gharib draws these works, on a paper, and goes to the lathe that turns the wood of the orange trees into the required pieces. His products are in great demand by tourist bazaars and exhibitions.
He concluded that this handmade art is needed abroad and is marketed as touristic in bazaars and others, but it faces extinction due to the death of many artists, of whom only five are left.
He noted that there is there are training courses provided to teach young people about this craft to revive it.