Sunday,20 August, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1347, (1 - 7 June 2017)
Sunday,20 August, 2017
Issue 1347, (1 - 7 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Ramadan in khayameya

Mai Samih goes shopping for a Ramadan lantern and finds a variety of homemade products all using the tentmakers’ fabric khayameya

photo: Sherif Sonbol

Ramadan this year has taken on the colours of khayameya, the fabric used for tents that comes in red, yellow, green and blue colours and uses traditionally Islamic floral motifs.

Almost everything for Ramadan seems to be made out of this fabric this year, from lanterns to ful (fava bean) and konafa (a type of oriental sweet) carts to cups and jug sets. Wall decorations are made out of khayameya paper, sometimes using children’s cartoon characters like Bougi and Tamtam, Fatouta, Bakkar, Sponge Bob, Amm (uncle) Fouad and so on.


photo: Sherif Sonbol

Khayameya is unique since it has a purely Egyptian spirit and has attracted more people to buy khayameya-themed Ramadan lanterns, for example, especially as they are cheaper than the plastic imported ones. Some people are even buying khayameya material from the Darb Al-Barabra district in Islamic Cairo to make their own decorations at home.

Other people buy the more-expensive Chinese-made lanterns, since it is a mowsim, or a special time of the year, or they buy khayameya work or wooden lanterns that are the size of the palm of the hand, or even lanterns that can be displayed in the living room that are the size of a table. The latter have been selling well since they were introduced to the Egyptian market some three years ago.

Om Fares, a lantern shop-owner in Giza, gives details about the trends in Ramadan decoration and lanterns this year. “The trending decorations are ful carts, khayameya lanterns, khayameya tissue boxes, khayameya cloth printed with cartoon images like Bougi and Tamtam, Amm Fouad, Fattouta and Bakkar for decoration, and last but not least coloured bead lanterns,” she says.


photo: Sherif Sonbol

“The most bought are the bead lanterns, but anything Egyptian is popular,” she adds. While she was speaking, people were also buying small wooden lanterns with “Ramadan” inscribed on them in Arabic or ones with Islamic motifs such as flowers.

In terms of the prices of khayameya decorations, Om Fares says that khayameya ful carts are around LE120, khayameya tissue boxes are LE30, khayameya cloth with cartoon characters is LE15 per metre, khayameya cushions with Bougi and Tamtam or other cartoon characters  are LE30, and a set of khayameya cups and jug is LE40.

Chinese-made Bougi or Tamtam characters on roller skates are LE60 each. Bead lanterns are LE25, LE50 or LE80, depending on size. The prices of khayameya chairs range from LE100 to LE150, also depending on size. A model of a mosque made of khayameya is around LE150.

Customers come from all backgrounds and are mostly women, often mothers buying for their children, aunts for their nieces, nephews or siblings, and grandmothers for their grandchildren.   

“Prices are high, but it is a must for us to buy the children lanterns since it is Ramadan and it only happens once a year. I bought a Bougi lantern for each of my sons and a Tamtam one for my daughter. I have to buy one for each child so that they don’t fight,” says one mother who chose to speak under condition of anonymity.


photo: Sherif Sonbol

Youssra Taha, also buying wooden lanterns for her nephews, agrees. “I do not like to buy the plastic toy lanterns that are imported since I am used to the traditional shapes that we had as children. On the other hand, my sister’s children are eight and two so they are too young to understand this, as they just want toys. Last year, I brought them small metal lanterns lit with candles, but they were too hot for them to carry, so I am buying them the wooden ones this year as they are more suitable for children,” she said.

Taha says that last year she helped her mother make decorations at home using coloured egg boxes hung on the wall.

Her mother also made a crochet lantern and a frame for it out of plastic in the shape of a lantern to decorate her living room.


How to make Ramadan decorations

You will need some coloured paper or cloth, a sewing machine or needle and thread, and a piece of cardboard paper.
- Draw the shape of a star, a crescent or other shape you like on the cardboard, and then cut it out.
- Put the shape on the coloured paper or cloth and cut out multiple shapes in cardboard.
- You will now have many shapes you can sew together with the needle and thread or the machine until you have a string of them. Make sure you keep a 15 cm distance between each shape.
- Hang the finished string of shapes on the wall to make an effective decoration.  

To make a paper Ramadan lantern at home, you will need a piece of cardboard paper, coloured paper tissues, a glue stick, a pair of scissors, a piece of string and a drawing in the shape of a lantern.
- Put the piece of cardboard on a table, draw the shape of a lantern on it, and cut it out.
- Cut the lantern windows out and turn the lantern upside down.
- Stick the paper tissue on the lantern’s windows to make them look like coloured glass.
- Stick the lantern on a piece of string or make a hole in its handle at the top to hang it and thread the string through. Your lantern is now ready to be hung up.

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