Egyptian village wins fame for adopting ancient pottery making techniques

FAYOUM, EGYPT (XINHUA) – The Nazla village of Egypt’s Fayoum governorate has been famous for its potters who keep the ancient Egyptian pottery making techniques alive.

“All potters in the village have inherited the craft from their ancestors… pottery has been the main job for the village for generations,” Hosny Ahmed, one of the leading potters in the village, told Xinhua.

The village, located some 130km southwest of Cairo, lies in a valley where a water canal runs through, which encouraged the local authorities to add the site to the governorate’s ecotourism map.

“Everything at the village is unique; the village is now on Fayoum’s ecotourism map for its environmental, natural and ecological value,” Ahmed said as he made a pot using one of the oldest techniques of pottery manufacturing.

Potters at 20 workshops of the village use their hands and a very old-style wooden wheel to make pots. They would put the wet clay mixed with straw in a hole in the ground and hammer the material with their hands to form into different shapes.

“It is all about our hands and the hole in the ground,” Ahmed said. “We use the wheel to make specific pieces.”

After shaping the raw clay into pieces of arts, the items are kept in open air to dry and then fired in eco-friendly ovens. Ahmed revealed that the village’s first generation of potters erected their workshops on one of the riverbeds of the canal to make good use of the canals’ clay in pottery making.

“We still adopt the same techniques used by ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago, which has granted us a global fame because this way is only used in our village,” the 39-year-old potter added.

He noted that they are not only keeping the ancient methods of pottery making, but also doing a great job in introducing their art to modern audience. “We are not thinking of giving up these methods because we want to preserve the heritage of the Nazla. We know that all industries, including pottery, are using up-to-date machines and technologies, but we have to maintain these old ways to keep them alive,” the father of four children noted.

He pointed out that using such methods made them distinguished among potters worldwide, adding that tourists come from different countries to watch them make clay items using these old techniques. Ahmed said most of the workshops at the village make the same products such as cooking pots, water, milk and grain vessels, homewares and decorations. “We sell some 95 per cent of our produce in Egyptian markets and export the rest to European countries,” Ahmed said as he sipped from a hot cup of tea.

The beautiful landscape of Nazla did not only attract tourists and pottery lovers, but also movie and video-makers who were inspired by the spectacular scenery of the countryside. “Many famous movies and songs have been filmed here,” Hosny Mohammed, a 60-year-old potter, told Xinhua. “The site has been an attraction for cinema makers for decades.”

Mohammed, who has been in the business since he was 12 years old, said the pottery-making has added beauty and fame to the place.