The Traditional Crafts of Egypt (American University in Cairo Press), edited by Menha el-Batraou
The subject is large, and The Traditional Crafts of Egypt addresses that vastness through tidy division: 11 chapters, each on a particular medium, whether clay, leather, glass or stone. The beautifully composed color photography, including many pictures of contemporary artisans weaving or working their kilns, illustrates a book whose mission is greater than decorating coffee tables. The text has universal implications, not only on the distinct pleasure of owning handcrafted items but also for a way of life in which “the producer, laborer, and manager are one.” Written with bright clarity, the text touches on the history as well as the poetry of objects in a nation whose dates run into thousands of years. The Traditional Crafts of Egypt also strikes a somber note in its admission that the country’s artisanal production is endangered, the victim of declining tourism caused by regional turmoil.