Book Review: The Tentmakers of Cairo looks at Egypt’s overlooked art

Book Review: The Tentmakers of Cairo looks at Egypt’s overlooked art
'The Tentmakers of Cairo' looks at Egypt’s overlooked art. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 January 2019

Book Review: The Tentmakers of Cairo looks at Egypt’s overlooked art

Book Review: The Tentmakers of Cairo looks at Egypt’s overlooked art

BEIRUT: In the heart of medieval Cairo, facing the gate of Bab Zuwayla, lies the picturesque Street of the Tentmakers, Shari Khayamiya, lined with shops selling vibrant applique panels. This sewing technique, whereby textiles are sewn onto a ground material, is known as “khayamiya” and is unique to Egypt.

“The Tentmakers of Cairo,” by Seif El Rashidi and Sam Bowker, traces the origins of “khayamiya” from the 11th century to the present day. Khayamiya, the art of the tent, is derived from the Arabic word “khayma,” meaning tent.

It is difficult to understand why khayamiya has been the focus of so little attention besides a few articles, including an excellent piece in 1996 by John Feeny in “Aramco World Magazine,” a 2003 thesis and a 2015 documentary film by Kim Beamish.

Until the end of the 19th century, khayamiya was essentially viewed in architectural terms. The authors reveal clear links between tent panels and doorways from that period, “indicating that these textiles were conceived of as architecture in cotton.”

With their colorful patterns of greens, blues, reds and yellows, these distinctive textiles brighten up a street. In the words of the authors, “they unite ornament, function, and ritual in a spectacular display of Egyptian visual culture.” A more decorative khayamiya devoid of Arabic calligraphy emerged in the 1880s to cater for the needs of the nascent touristic market for souvenirs of Egypt.


What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life

What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life
Updated 07 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life

What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life

Author: Max Adams

Our planet is home to some 3 trillion trees — roughly four hundred for every person on Earth. In Trees of Life, Max Adams selects, from 60,000 extant species, 80 remarkable trees through which to celebrate the richness of humanity’s relationship with trees, woods, and forests.
In a sequence of informative and beautifully illustrated portraits, divided between six thematic sections, Adams investigates the trees that human cultures have found most useful across the world and ages.
In a section titled Supertrees, Adams considers trees that have played a pivotal role in maintaining natural and social communities, while a final section, Trees for the Planet, looks at a group of trees so valuable to humanity that they must be protected at all costs from loss.
From the apple to the oak, the logwood to the breadfruit, and the paper mulberry to the Dahurian larch, these are trees that offer not merely shelter, timber, and fuel but also drugs, foods, and fibers. Trees of Life presents a plethora of fascinating stories about them, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.


What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun

What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun
Updated 06 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun

What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun

Author: Dennis C. Rasmussen

Americans seldom deify their Founding Fathers any longer, but they do still tend to venerate the Constitution and the republican government that the founders created. Strikingly, the founders themselves were far less confident in what they had wrought, particularly by the end of their lives.
In fact, most of them — including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson — came to deem America’s constitutional experiment an utter failure that was unlikely to last beyond their own generation. Fears of a Setting Sun is the first book to tell the fascinating and too-little-known story of the founders’ disillusionment, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
As much as Americans today may worry about their country’s future, Rasmussen reveals, the founders faced even graver problems and harbored even deeper misgivings.
A vividly written account of a chapter of American history that has received too little attention, Fears of a Setting Sun will change the way that you look at the American founding, the Constitution, and indeed the United States itself.


What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla

What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla
Updated 04 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla

What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla

AUTHORS: Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

In The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments, use remarkable stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot.

Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. We spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.

 The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects.


Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 
Updated 03 March 2021

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

DUBAI: US-Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa’s book “Against the Loveless World” is among the finalists for the 2020 Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award, organizers announced this week. 

Susan Abulhawa is a US-Palestinian writer. (Supplied)

The political activist’s book begins in the Hawalli neighborhood of Kuwait. It tells the story of a woman who has as many names as she has homes, moving from place to place as a child of exiles and becoming one herself during the Gulf War.

With her mother, brother, and grandmother Sitti Wasfiyeh, Nahr navigates a life through Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, a home she knows so little of, and then an Israeli prison.

With dreams of marriage, of her own children and of freedom, Nahr’s fight to survive a world that is intent on testing her lands her in situations that could break the weak.

In an unthinkably harsh reality, and one that is a continuous experiment in resilience, Abulhawa pushes to the fore themes of identity and adaptability, posing the question: How can an oppressor know roots when they live by unearthing trees?

Read Arab News’ full review of “Against the Loveless World” here.

Abulhawa is competing against author Michele Harper for her book “The Beauty in Breaking” and writer Kiley Reid for her novel “Such a Fun Age.” 

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia museum established its literary award in 1950.

The last two winners for the award in 2019 were British author Edward Posnett and Canadian- American writer Witold Rybczynski for their books “Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects” and “Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City” respectively.


What We Are Reading Today: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

What We Are Reading Today: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod
Updated 03 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

What We Are Reading Today: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

When Hugh MacLeod was a struggling young copywriter living in a YMCA, he started to doodle on the backs of business cards while sitting at a bar. 

Those cartoons eventually led to a popular blog — gapingvoid.com — and a reputation for pithy insight and humor, in both words and pictures.

MacLeod has opinions on everything from marketing to the meaning of life, but one of his main subjects is creativity. 

How do new ideas emerge in a cynical, risk-averse world? Where does inspiration come from? What does it take to make a living as a creative person?

Ignore Everybody expands on MacLeod’s sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice. 

For example: Selling out is harder than it looks. Diluting your product to make it more commercial will just make people like it less. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. 

After learning MacLeod’s forty keys to creativity, you will be ready to unlock your own brilliance and unleash it on the world.