While the world may be familiar with Egypt’s handmade products as some of the finest home decorations, pottery artwork, embroidered cloths, and handmade bags, an almost forgotten handiwork fights for survival in Upper Egypt. Making boxes out of palm leaves—where boxes are made of palm leaves after being reshaped—is an endangered craft.
Despite their creators having to collect some components of them from other parts of the palm, the boxes are known for their ability to withstand heavy weights and they are mostly used in transporting food commodities, as well as birds.
Another part of the craft is making handmade bamboo furniture. However, this part is largely known among people and many artisans still master creating it.
With more than 11 million date palms in Egypt, making palm boxes has been, like every other handmade craft, inherited throughout generations from ancestors. Most of the families working in this field are Bedouins. In the old days, it used to be their constant source of income, as the one common feature across different areas of the desert, is palm trees.
They are usually cut from the palm and left for several days to dry under the sun. This helps strengthen them and makes it easier to shape them according to the type of products they would be used to make.
Unlike other similar crafts, technology has not found its way into palm box production. With limited sources of income, manufacturers cannot use any machines in cutting or shaping the palm leaves. Hence, this leaves them with no other option but their hands to cut the palms and to use sharp knives to shape them.
All photos taken by Ahmed Dream.