1001 Nights - Stories of Traditional Handcrafts from Egypt

History of Garagos Pottery and more ……….

Saturday 31st March 2012 - Garagos History Project

I have been home for nearly three weeks now and Peter 2 weeks.  Peter had a busy week after I left Luxor and he even managed a trip to Hagaza too which seemed quite eventful.  The family in Garagos are also related to people in Hagaza who are involved in the wood craft project.  Peter set off by car with his brother Michael and cousins David and Waseem.  They were to call in and see El Raheb (a convoluted family line) and also call in to visit the wood craft project that Hagaza is famous for and that is owned by El Raheb.

Unbeknown to them there had been a shooting in Hagaza the day before.  As they approached Hagaza there was a very high police presence - they saw at least 9 police cars when they arrived in the village and had inadvertently been following behind another convoy of police involved in the investigations.  It transpires that it was a policeman that had been shot dead.  He had come to Hagaza to arrest a man suspected of some kind of criminal activity and upon arrival at the mans house was shot dead - either by him or a member of his family.  Peter comments that the death of an ordinary villager would not warrant a fraction of the police effort that he witnessed here.

After meeting with family El Raheb took Peter and the others to the exhibition of the wood crafts - unfortunately the work shop was closed so they weren't able to see the products being made.  Peter tooks some great photographs of the products and purchased a number of items to bring home.

David, El Raheb, Peter and Waseem at the Hagaza Wood Craft Project

Also in his last week Peter spent time in Garagos overseeing the building of a family 'Mandara' - a meeting place for the men to come and sit during occasions such as weddings and funerals.  This can sometimes be a tent or a canopy but here they are building a brick and concrete structure.  Each family has contributed to the cost of this.

He also went to observe a large wall being constructed around the land belonging to his Aunt Mariam and her family.  This is a measure to protect the land from being encroached upon by neighbours - a problem that has existed from time immemorial.  Family members have turned out to help in the walls construction. During my stay Peter's father showed me a map of the village.  It isn't a map in the usual sense - it was a map outlining the land boundaries so literally a map of the various plots of agricultural land - used as part of a legal proof of ownership should ownership be questioned in the future.

Peter was also able to spend more time speaking with his family about the history and in particular trying to outline the family tree.  Last  week Peter produced a piece of paper where he had taken notes of this and it was really fascinating to listen to him describe the family lines - who was a direct descendent from who and then who married who.  I would imagine if this was mapped out graphically on an actual family tree there would be lines going vertically and horizontally.  Birth records were not kept until the last few generations of family - all the information that Peter has in annecdotal - and here lies one of the issues we will face in trying to establish the facts around the history of Garagos.  The only records that are likely to have been kept are church records and records pertaining to land ownership. 

In the meantime we have  set up a private Facebook group for family members to access and to upload photographs and to share information.  There isn't much activity yet but I think we'll need to show exactly what the project/book is going to look like before we get more interest.  It is fair to say that the people we have spoken to so far have been more than happy to share their stories with us - albeit with conflicting information.  By the time we return in autumn we hope to have the beginning of something to share with them - even if it's an introduction to the book.

I'm still reading research material whenever I can - I'm currently reading 'The Egytian Peasant' by Henry Habib Ayrout.  I have read in some of my internet research that Father de Montgolfier actually came to Garagos with Henry Habib Ayrout - also a Jesuit preist and who established the Catholic Association for Schools in Egypt.  Through him schools were brought to poor rural communities such as Garagos and in turn contributed to the development of those communities in partnership with projects such as the Garagos Pottery and the Hagaza Wood Craft Project.

We are still keen to try and promote the Garagos Pottery wherever possible and still have small amounts of products available which we sell through Ebay (usually when there is a free listing weekend!)  I will put together some directions to Garagos from Luxor over the next few days with a few snapshots of useful rather than interesting landmarks taken through the window of a speeding car!