Exhibition opening: The Artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar / by Christopher Wilton-Steer

Artisans slate 2.jpg

I am excited to announce that an exhibition of my photographs will open on 22 March at the Royal Geographical Society, London. The exhibition celebrates the people, culture and activity that takes place in al-Darb al-Ahmar, a historic district of Cairo that is said to be home to 1,000 artisan workshops. 40 monuments of Islamic architecture are located in al-Darb al-Ahmar dating back to the Fatimid dynasty which founded Cairo (al-Qahirah - the Victory) in the 10th century. Several of these have been restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, often drawing on the craftsmanship of the neighbourhood's artisans.

A maze of narrow and winding alleyways, al-Darb al-Ahmar connects visitors with a past and a way of life that can be found in very few places left in the world today. A huge array of crafts are made here - from brass lanterns, to tents, glassware, and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl - using designs that are unique to Cairo and, in some cases, the district itself. 

The exhibition captures the life and diversity of this historic and dynamic place as it is today. It showcases the people and personalities that make up daily life and show a side of Cairo and Egypt that the media or tourist industry rarely present. In doing so, the exhibition will present artisans at work, some of whom are part of a tradition going back a thousand years, but whose skills may not last another generation.

This exhibition aims to inspire greater interest in this relatively undiscovered district of Cairo and encourage people to visit this special place – “the soul of Egypt”, as one artisan described it.

The Artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar: Life and Work in Historic Cairo runs from 22 March until 24 April 2018 at the Royal Geographical Society. 

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm
including 24, 25, 30 March and 2 April, 10am - 4pm

Admission is free.

This exhibition is supported by the Aga Khan Foundation

Read more about the artisans in this Guardian photo essay

Alive with artisans: Cairo's al-Darb al-Ahmar district - a photo essay

Amid the quarter's busy streets, a thousand workshops maintain centuries-old craftmaking traditions. These workers' ancient skills are celebrated in a new exhibition at London's Royal Geographical Society