We talk to the founders of Markaz - a brilliant, authentic Egyptian homeware brand that keeps rural communities in business while preserving traditional handicrafts.
With the recent opening of Ikea as an example, Egypt seems to be moving further and further away from its rich tapestry of local production, where Roch Bobois reflects your bougoise and khoos is kitch.
Founded by Mohamed Amin and Naila El Shishiny, Markaz is not some new boutique store capitalising on the public’s patriotic heart strings, upping the prices on knock offs of the real deal, but a 15-year old establishment who have been producing authentic Egyptian-made interiors and apparels from Aswan, Nubia, Sinai and beyond with a deep passion and insight into the importance of quality, locally made goods. “The main reason we started is because we highly appreciate these skills and want to maintain our heritage. Another reason is that there are unused treasures and traditional skills that are dying out. In Egypt we have plenty of craft skills but no products and that's something high in demand,” the founders told us.
The hand made products range from fun beach clutches to the most intricate of beading and embroidery applied on cushions, scarves, bedding and much more. It’s the kind of furniture you want to get your hands on if you consider yourself a bit of a hippie, beach bum, or naturist. The kind of stuff you want to see lying around a house to make you forget about the sepia toned concrete jungle that we reside in
Aside from the practicality and boho chic vibe the brand gives off, more importantly “it’s also the only source of income for many of these men and women," who produce them. “Usually it's the only job women in these areas are allowed to practice. By generating income and practicing the skill, we preserve the skill.”
The processes of creating these items are also painstakingly intricate, with Markaz not willing to cut corners: “samples are sent back and forth between us and the craft makers until we get the best quality possible. Every stage of the the making is quality controlled. It's more or less the same process with our partners all over Egypt and the finishing is usually done by NGOs in Cairo to ensure high quality too. Some of our products are actually combined and assembled from different parts of Egypt and this is why Markaz is different.”
So if you’re interested in switching up that generic throw away plastic laundry basket, with a vibrant wicker wonder born of Egypt (little Nubian boys not included), Markaz have a showroom at 1b, Road 199, entrance from Rd. 233, Degla, Maadi.
You can also check out Markaz on Facebook here