One of Egypt’s last fez makers is proud of its craftsmanship despite declining popularity

CAIRO, October 18 (Reuters) – For nearly 45 years, Nasser Abdel Basset has been a proud maker of the fez, the iconic felt hat that was once worn by Egypt’s elite, bureaucrats and students.

Located in the rue du Vieux Caire in al-Ghoureya, Abdel Basset’s workshop is one of the very few that remain.

“I learned the trade from an apprentice, I inherited it and I’m passing it on now. You say the craft is going to disappear? How is it? I pass it on to my children,” said the craftsman of 60 years. .

The industry flourished during the reign of Mohamed Ali Pasha, an officer in the Ottoman army who seized power in Egypt in 1805. Wearing the fez was almost compulsory for senior officials, public employees and students in the country. and was considered a sign of the wearer’s stature and education. .

However, after the country’s military overthrew the ruling Ali dynasty in 1952, President Gamal Abdel Nasser abolished the fez as it was seen as one of the symbols of the old ruling elite.

The students and scholars of millennial al-Azhar University as well as other Muslim clerics are now Abdel Basset’s only clients, as this is an important part of their uniform and their history.

“As long as al-Azhar is there, we will work,” Basset said.

Reporting by Ahmed Fahmy, written by Mai Shams El-Din, edited by Nafisa Eltahir and Ed Osmond

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