Bedouin women struggle to sell crafts due to tourism decline

LEADIN

Bedouin women in Egypt are finding it difficult to keep their craft businesses afloat because of a decline in tourism.

Handmade garments used to be popular with visitors to the Sinai area, but an increase in criminal activity and the threat of terrorist attacks means many tourists now avoid the area.

Storyline

Needlework and craft work is a delicate art which women in Egypt have learned for many generations.

Here in St Catherine, most women carry out this type of work to help provide for their familes.

The area at the foot of the Sinai Mountains was once popular with tourists. But increased criminal activity and continued terrorist attacks mean many tourists now avoid the area.

Craft worker Om Abdelrahmen says she and her co workers are now being forced to look at alternative ways of selling their goods:

“I hope to make this work reach outside here, to export it or send it to Cairo. I used to sell my handmade work to tourists but now there are no tourists and people depend on the work to put food on tables,” says Abdelrahmen.

In order to reach as many potential customers as possible the women put their goods out on the street.

“We go to a place called Wadi El Talaa where we set up in the street. If someone would like to buy something they will buy it in the end. They’ll buy a bag or a purse, I mean not many things,” explains Abdelraham.

But business has slowed down so much that some of the women have virtually stopped making new goods since those they made years ago still haven’t sold.

“There are some pieces that I made four years ago and no one has bought them so far. I used to make a lot of pieces and sell them but now I’ve almost stopped because there is no work,” says craft worker Om Mohamed.

Whenever a rare tourist bus visits St Catherine, the women still display their goods on the street in the hope that someone will buy an item.

Then they take what doesn’t sell back to their homes again, knowing it could be a long time before new holidaymakers arrive.