Just One Person from Around the World: The Crate Maker of Fares Island, Egypt

CadyLuck Leedy from TheTravelLadyInHerShoes has an interesting weekly challenge called Just One Person Around the World. After reading this, check out the other submissions, which have fascinating stories behind them from all over the world!

This is Mohammed, the last person to practice the craft of handmade crate making in Upper Egypt. He seems elderly but I wonder if his life and his profession have taken their toll on his body. He is probably in his late 40s or early 50s.

The crates he makes are pretty much uniform in size and are much in demand. They will hold mangoes to be shipped north to Cairo. They are made from the stems of date palm leaves, which are dried and stored until they are rigid enough for crate-making, yet malleable for cutting to precision and making holes.

Mohammed told us that although his assistants (his son and another relative) know the craft, they are not interested and he does not encourage them to pursue this trade, so he believes this craft will die out when he retires. He spends hours sitting cross-legged on the floor and putting together crates using a lot of repetitive movement, but also putting pressure on his toes and fingers. It was more important, he said, for his children to get an education.

He was in the middle of filling an order of 200,000 crates when our tour group visited, but he invited three people from our group to help him out, thus making up for the lost time spent talking with us! The three volunteers were all women. (Click on each photo to see it in its entirety)

He gave his first helper a special gift (left) and ankhs (right) to the rest of us. He also passed around samples of his work (middle).

(We took this trip with Overseas Adventure Travel in Dec 2018-Jan 2019.)

13 thoughts on “Just One Person from Around the World: The Crate Maker of Fares Island, Egypt

  1. Wow, what a craftsman! I love your photos and the accompanying story – this is just the sort of encounter I value when I travel ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a shame his craft will die out when he goes but I can understand why younger people aren’t interested in taking it on, as it seems arduous work. You hear the same story everywhere, don’t you?

      • Yes, it is U.S. based, but I’m sure the UK and other countries have similar tour companies, where the tours are a mixture between expected tourist sights and out-of-the way sights – personal contacts with residents in the country you’re visiting.

      • Yes, we’ve used a couple in the past – Selective Asia are particularly excellent (we plan to travel again with them as soon as we can)

  2. Oh my gosh! What an interesting post! Can you imagine how nimble his hands and feet must be, to do this? I wonder if he suffers from any arthritis? I am so glad he asked for helpers to join him, what an experience! To think, that we sometimes THINK we have a hard workday! I can see why his son and relatives will not pursue this career! But, I am glad you shared it with us, we are the lucky ones! Cady

  3. Fascinating, yet sad that he is the last of these artisans. And although he has a tall order to fill he was willing to take the time to show visitors how to create his work. Thank you!

  4. Pingback: Just One Person From Around the World: Croatia – ThatTravelLadyInHerShoes

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