Tentmakers and Tourists: The Re-Orientation of Khayamiya

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Khayamiya, or Tentmaker Appliqué, is a spectacular form of Egyptian textile art. It has been made in Cairo since the days of the Ottoman Empire, with antecedents known from the Pharaonic era. This vibrant art form was once manifested as elaborately decorated tents, designed as impressive ceremonial backdrops for public events. However, the Khayamin (or Tentmakers) dramatically changed their output from the 1890s, moving away from Khedival tents to create Neo-Pharaonic and Folkloric scenes on smaller linen panels. These were designed as practical souvenirs for visitors to Egypt, unlike the grand tents that were usually purchased by Egyptians, for Egyptians. By the 1920s, the traditional forms of Khedival Khayamiya had been superseded to the point of extinction. The souvenir format had become so popular that 'Vintage Egyptian Appliqué are now regularly seen circulating in the international antiques trade. Even contemporary Khayamiya continues to find its most important following within non-Egyptian audiences, though this may be set to change as the Tentmakers embrace emerging Egyptian cultural identities. The invention of touristic forms of Khayamiya presents a striking case study in the dynamics of interaction between Egyptians and their international visitors at the turn of the nineteenth century. These objects are manifestations of touristic perceptions of Egypt, as imagined by both Egyptians and visitors to Egypt. They demonstrate both the resilient entrepreneurial spirit of the Tentmakers and the ongoing cultural significance of the Khayamiya as a uniquely Egyptian art form, centered upon perceptions of what Egyptian culture 'looks like'.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventVisions of Egypt: Literature and Culture from the Nineteenth Century to the Present - University of Hull, UK, United Kingdom
Duration: 06 Sep 201307 Sep 2013


ConferenceVisions of Egypt: Literature and Culture from the Nineteenth Century to the Present
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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