Villages and Histories

Every piece of cloth, from the fabric used to wrap the dead bodies found in the mummies of Ancient Egypt, up until the time of the Industrial Revolution, was hand woven. Weaving technology has changed very slowly over the centuries. It is believed that looms evolved from those used by ancient Egyptians, as evidenced in the wall paintings of tombs and other burial finds from the Middle Kingdom.

From the Faiyum region of Ancient Egypt, some of the earliest evidences of spinning and weaving comes from a piece of woven linen, dating back to about 5000 BC. The Faiyum is a region of the Nile River Valley, north-west of Cairo, fed by a branch of the Nile. The Predynastic period holds the earliest evidence of grain crop cultivation in the Faiyum. During the Egyptian 12th Dynasty, there were summer palaces and pyramids built here by kings. In the Roman period, the Faiyum produced most of the grain for the Roman Empire. In the cultivation of grain crops, sheep played a very important role. After the sowers scattered their seed over the land, a flock of sheep was often herded out onto the land to be sure the seed was pressed down into the soil.

All over the world, the path of the hunter-gatherer to the herder/farmer was followed by many, and Egypt was no exception. For longer than most others, Egypt has been a country whose economy was based on farming. The farmer and the laborer form the backbone of the Egyptian way of life even still today, and not much differently than in the distant past.

Although Egypt's population is now well over 60 million, the banks of the River Nile are still home to almost all of Egypt's population, and is still providing almost all of the daily water needs.

Agricultural crops now grow year-round because of the ability to control the water flow down the Nile from the Aswan Dam. The Nile River divides into two branches north of Cairo. The Nile Delta Region is the area between the two branches, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Together with the Nile River Valley, the Delta contains the most fertile soil in the world, and produces some of the world's highest crop yields. Common crops are wheat, barley, corn, rice, cotton, tomatoes, cucumbers, mangos, dates, bananas, guavas, peaches, etc.; the markets are always overflowing with produce. Clover is grown in the winter as a cover crop and is the primary feed for Egypt's many water buffaloes, cows, horses, donkeys, goats and sheep.

Villagers of the farming community struggle to make ends meet and often seek ways to supplement their meager incomes. Although the family loom is no longer necessary to produce the family's clothing and other textile needs, the love of weaving has remained constant. The art did not die out with the advent of textile manufacturing. Weaving has always provided an outlet of creative expression, and the Egyptian's creative energy level is high. The delightful, everyday use of design and color in an otherwise drab, desert-colored world is a charming characteristic unmatched anywhere in the world outside of Egypt.

Now, with the growth of global markets and telecommunications, new opportunities are presenting themselves in ways that even rural villagers can take advantage of. New markets are being made daily, and renewed interest in ancient traditions is sparking the bright flame of creative expression, lighting like smiles on the faces of many energetic farmers, farmers' wives, and on the beautiful faces of their children.