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Egyptian luxury brands look to the past as they carve a place in the sun

A collection of jewellery fabricated at the Azza Fahmy workshop in Cairo   -  
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Egyptian luxury brands are harnessing the power of traditional craftsmanship from jewellery design to carpet weaving to bring the country's ancient cultural riches to the world.

Azza Fahmy is an Egyptian master jeweller whose signature Islamic art-inspired pieces have made her famous.

"We do not have a luxury industry. We have stores that import brands from abroad, and we have some people trying to enter the global arena, but there is a long way to go, and you have to learn it and follow rules that we do not have. For example, if you look at the Arab world, you will find that those who succeeded in making a name are counted on the fingers of one hand", said Azza Fahmy, Egyptian jewellery brand founder.

But the sector is struggling as it faces a shortage of skilled workers as well as competition from abroad.

"With regard to the industry in terms of materials, there is a severe shortage, and this caused us problems, as prices rose very quickly in a short period. Of course, it happened in the whole world but in Egypt particularly, we face many difficulties", lamented Mohamed al-Kahhal, co-owner of a handmade carpet company.

Egyptian brands want to draw on 6,000 years of history spanning ancient Pharaonic times, the Mamluk, Ottoman and modern eras.

"We started because Egyptian cotton is famous worldwide , but when we started 20 years ago there where no home-grown brands, so you would find Egyptian cotton in forging brands all over the world but nothing in Egypt, everything was just being exported", concludes Goya Gallagher, founder of Cairo-based Malaika Linens.

Egypt faces a painful economic crisis that has tanked the local currency and restricted raw material imports.