Its amazing isn't it, how looking for one thing leads to another? I had gone hunting for the binder Abdel Zehen, behind Al Azhar mosque and stumbled across a quaint little gallery called Al Khatoun.
Around the corner from the busy streets of Al-Azhar is a courtyard between Beit Al-Harawi and Beit Zeinab Khatoun, and, tucked in this courtyard, is Al-Khatoun Gallery.
The interesting part of the gallery is that it is housed in an erstwhile masbagha (dyeing house), which was abandoned in the 1970s. 4 artists (Hani El-Bora'i, owner of an iron workshop and creator of gorgeous standing candelabras; experienced gallery owner Ayman El-Azabawy; artist Mustapha Khalil, whose distinctive style appears on several items throughout the gallery; and Suzanne El-Masri a designer and the creative talent behind a unique range of silver jewelry) got together, bought the place from its owners, and, restored it to a quaint little gallery.
The gallery has some really interesting stuff - a pile of old movie posters printed on canvas, canvas lamp shades with arabic calligraphy, trays painted with “saha wa afiya” (the local equivalent of “bon appetit”), arabic poetry on lamp shades, filgereed metal candlestands and coasters, beaten aluminium bowls and platters, cast iron standing lamps, wooden boxes painted with old arabic movies in technicolour, very quaint & old fashioned furniture, CD boxes & magazine holders in hardwood covered with printed canvas, running lengths of canvas printed with calligraphy & images of belly dancers, lots of silver & stone jewellery, some clothes made of light cotton...its a delight to browse through the store.
And the best part of the shop, no one breathes down your neck. You are free to browse through the store and as and when you need, someone will appear to help you with the prices or try out whether the lamp is working etc.. the staff is friendly and helpful without snapping at your heels all the time!
I picked up a calligraphied CD box and lampshade, a quaint travelling mirror and cosmetic contraption in wood, a couple of old movie posters, and a set of beaten brass & aluminium coasters...
I loved the place, and the atmosphere. It was like stepping back a little in time. Its difficult to believe how peaceful and quiet the place is even though its located right in the middle of bustling Islamic Cairo!
3 Mohamed Abdu Street,
behind Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo
Telephone: (02) 514 7164.
Open daily from 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. during Ramadan (and until 9:00 p.m. during the rest of the year)