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The Kid Should See This

Papyrus makers in Egypt keep their 5,000-year-old craft alive

Egyptians invented papyrus paper at least 5,000 years ago, replacing clay tablets and revolutionizing the written word. They used it for things like marriage contracts and shopping lists. They also turned the plant into a weaving material for sandals and baskets.

Cheaper paper made from wood pulp or plant fibers eventually replaced papyrus paper, and the plant became nearly extinct in Egypt by the early 1800s, until an art professor and an engineer brought back seeds from other African countries in the 1970s. They set up plantations and workshops in Al-Qaramous, and papyrus became the center of the local economy.

harvesting papyrus sedge
Papyrus maker Atef Mohamed Shehata, worker Mona Metwally, and artist Saied Tarakhan are three of the people who are keeping the Egyptian art of papyrus alive.

From managing a small papyrus sedge farm to employing people in the village workshop, to cutting and pressing the plant fibers, to creating and selling the screen printed art to local tourist vendors, these Egyptians hope to continue the tradition to which their families have been dedicated.

This Business Insider video documents the art and the industry of this ancient craft.

layering the papyrus
painting on papyrus
Related exploration with The Met: Papyrus in Ancient Egypt and Papyrus-Making in Egypt.

Watch more about Egypt, paper, and how things are made:
• The Japanese handmade paper of Kyoto Kurotani
• Old paper, new paper, a classic Sesame Street short
• Party hacks: How to make paper, edible straws, & leafetti
• Stone Lithography, a demonstration at Edinburgh Printmakers

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