1001 Nights - Stories of Traditional Handcrafts from Egypt

History of Garagos Pottery and more ……….

About Us

25 kilometres North of Luxor, a small village called Garagos lays in the heart of Upper Egypt's rich and fertile agricultural land.  My family have lived there for many generations, a small Coptic community who have made their living from farming. 

In the 1950's a collaboration between a French Jesuit Priest and the famous 'Architect for the Poor', Hassan Fathy, resulted in the building of a small pottery. 

The best clay was sourced from Aswan, a French potter trained the local youth and slowly Garagos became renowned for producing the charming hand-crafted pots it has now become famous for.

The pottery was responsible for bringing many tourists to Garagos and certainly contributed to the economic growth of the community.  However, this was to change in 1997 when a terrorist attack took place at Queen Hatchepsut's Temple, resulting in the death of 62 people.  This terrible event impacted on the tourism industry all over the country, but small attractions such as the pottery – especially being off the beaten track, was to feel the impact most strongly.

My wife and I travel back to Egypt several times a year to visit family in Luxor, Garagos and Cairo.  It was on one of these visits that the idea for 1001 Nights was borne.

It is customary to sit with the family to eat and talk – the two always go together – plenty of talking and always plenty of eating!  On many occasions we have listened to the stories that have been passed down the generations.  The story of the pottery isn't an ancient tale but one that nonetheless changed the circumstance of the family.  Very few tourists visit Garagos now.  The pottery attends an annual exhibition in Cairo and Alexandria and this has been the mainstay of the business.  However, since the Egyptian uprising most aspects of life have become unstable, particularly the economy.

For some time we had been talking idly about ways to help promote the pottery.  It seemed that during our visits to Egypt it was easy to become enthused with ideas on how to raise awareness of Garagos as a tourist attraction.  We felt that the story behind the pottery and of the craftsmen who work together to hand-make the products is the aspect that would interest people the most. 

Throughout our travels in Egypt, we have met several other craft producing families.  All with similar stories – younger generations giving up the family business (and therefore the craft) to work elsewhere along with a country in turmoil which has resulted in a drastic drop in tourism (and therefore the economy.) 

It begs the question, what does the future hold for these traditional hand crafts?  We certainly don't hold the answer to this.  What we aim to do through 1001 Nights, is to tell the stories of the families that produce the crafts and to promote the hand crafts themselves.

The stories are the golden thread that binds this project together.  We took our influence from the most famous book of Arabic stories – One Thousand Nights and One Night, also known as the Arabian Nights Tales and Alfa Leyla we Leyla in Arabic.

We hope you find the 1001 Nights website of interest.  Please take a look at additional photographs and video's  by following the links to Youtube, Facebook, Flickr and Posterous.  We welcome any enquiries or feedback.

Peter and Stephanie Yousef