Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1255, (23 - 29 July 2015)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1255, (23 - 29 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Textiles Museum reopens

The Textiles Museum in the Al-Nahassin area of Islamic Cairo has reopened its doors to the public after restoration, writes Nevine El-Aref

Al-Muizz Street
Al-Muizz Street
Al-Ahram Weekly

In the Al-Nahassin area of Al-Muizz Street in Islamic Cairo stands the sabil (water fountain) of Mohamed Ali, now welcoming visitors after a four-month closure for restoration.

In 2007, a primary school that had encroached on the sabil was shut down, its pupils sent to other schools and the desks and blackboards removed. The space was then restored and redesigned to house Egypt’s first textiles museum.

The sabil was originally built on the orders of Mohamed Ali Pasha to commemorate his son Ismail, who died in Sudan in 1822. It consists of a large rectangular hall with a rounded, marble façade and four windows surrounding an oval marble lavabo.

 The “logo” of the Ottoman Empire, featuring a crescent and star, decorates the area above each window. The sabil’s wooden façade and the top of the frame are decorated in a rococo and baroque style, which was the main style used in several Mohamed Ali-period buildings.

“Converting the sabil into a textiles museum came about by chance,” said Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, Ministry of Antiquities assistant for Islamic and Coptic monuments. The restoration of the building left open the question of how to use it in the future: closing it would lead to its rapid deterioration and opening it to tourism would not have worked since the building does not have the distinction of neighbouring monuments.

The Dar Al-Kuttub administration had asked the Ministry of Culture to vacate the textiles hall on the upper floor of the Islamic Museum, which was originally in the possession of the Dar al-Kuttub.

“This inspired us to create Egypt’s first textiles museum in the Mohamed Ali sabil in Al-Nahassin,” Abdel-Aziz said.

The museum displays 250 different textiles and 15 carpets from the late Pharaonic era to the Coptic and Islamic periods. Among the objects on display are tools and instruments used by ancient Egyptians to wash clothes, along with illustrations showing the different stages of cloth laundering.

Costumes, Christian religious icons and clothes from different centuries of the Islamic period are also on display.

Among the most beautiful items are a red bed cover ornamented with gold and silver thread that is said to have been a gift from Mohamed Ali to his daughter on her marriage. As well, there is a covering for the Kaaba in Mecca, in black velvet and ornamented with Qur’anic verses and woven with gold and silver thread, that was sent by King Fouad to Saudi Arabia.

Abdel-Aziz explained that restoration work at the museum started in April this year and saw an upgrade of the museum’s security system to international standards and repair cracks in walls and floors.

The restoration included the sabil’s cistern, he said. A ventilation system was installed in the cistern located beneath the sabil, to reduce the pressure of water in it. The volume of water has been reduced to 500 cubic metres instead of the earlier 1,770 cubic metres.

The sabil’s stone and wooden decorative elements have also been restored and a textiles conservation laboratory established inside the museum.

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