Arts & Entertainment

Egyptian fez-maker keeps centuries-old craft alive

By Sarah M. Qassem

Cairo, Nov 26 (EFE).- Tucked away in a narrow alley crammed with pedestrians and vendors in one of Cairo’s stone-paved medieval streets, Nasser Abdel Basset gets behind what he claims to be a 600-year-old molding machine to craft his latest fez.

The 59-year-old is one of the few craftsmen left in Egypt who are still making the once traditional red headdress worn by almost all Egyptian men until the 1950s.

“I learned the art of making fezzes from skillful craftsmen back when I was just a boy,” Abdel Basset tells Efe.


Egyptians donning the fez dates back to the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, who was appointed by Ottoman sultan Selim III to govern Egypt in the 19th century.

But the fez began to disappear in 1958 when then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser banned the headwear because it symbolized the former monarchical rule, which he helped overthrow in a military coup six years earlier.

Despite the ban, Abdel Basset has kept alive the art of crafting the traditional hats, and is passing it on to younger generations.

“You say this business is doomed but I beg to differ. I am teaching it to my sons,” he says.


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