The day we visited the Step Pyramid in Saqqara, and had lunch at The Saqqara Palm Club, nobody really felt like leaving the bus when it stopped in front of a big yellow building. Everyone was hot and tired. It was around  3.30 pm by then and we were all looking forward to getting back to the hotel – but being part of a tour the choice is to go along or sit in the bus……….I was glad I went along!

We entered the building by the lower floor where we saw children as young as seven and as old as 17, sitting on looms weaving carpets. With my western trained mind ‘child labour’ was my first thought – it wasn’t so. These children were orphans which had been taken off the streets, and had been given a home here. This was a Carpet School

Photo Steve Ott

And for a few hours a day, part of the children’s education is to learn weaving carpets from the older craftsmen who work here. – Their little fingers tied each new knot effortless, and quickly, following a pattern hanging in front of them.


After seeing how these carpets are mad, the only thing on everybody’s mind was  how can I buy one I didn’t need a carpet, but I was as keen as everybody else to go  upstairs were hundreds of carpets were waiting for us  – piled up, rolled up, and hanging on walls.

Photo Steve Ott

It made it hard to  find the right one (I needed one after all) – “Sorry I am so slow making up my mind, but they are all so beautiful.”

And with a friendly grin the young salesman answered,” Ok – is what I do – you want more to see?”

“Yes, can we look at that stack over there?” And when Ismal held up the next one, I felt as if the bright, happy colours and its natural fauna design had all the sunshine of Egypt woven into it.

Photo B. Nioche

No, I am not using it as a  carpet, it has become a  wall-hanging, brightening up my office and my days. Here some close-ups of the work

Detail of Carpet

Detail of Carpet

Detail of Carpet

More from Egypt soon


About Brigitte Nioche

Author of Getting Over Growing Older Other titles - Dress to Impress, The Sensual Dresser, What Turns Men On.
This entry was posted in Egypt, Restaurants. Dining, Tourism, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jacques says:

    Great insight and beautiful photography illustrating the story


  2. missmartie says:

    Brigitte–I am afraid you were misled; most of these children are not orphans but come from very poor families and are forced to do this work for mere “pennies” a day. I have seen many of these youngsters blinded from the very close work and long hours, with perhaps only a bowl of “foul madoumas” at noon; they don’t play, they don’t sing & they certainly don’t learn to read and write. Yes, the carpets and wall hangings are beautiful but none are worth this exploitation…Jehan Sadat tried mightily to discourage these practices when she was First Lady of Egypt.


    • Marty – thank you for your input – I am sure you are right and there are places which exploit children in the way you describe, however, in this case I don’t think this is true – please go to their website and look. They mention the children in their ‘about us’ and looking at the pictures and seeing the working conditions, which are airy, light and pleasant it does not look like they abused – and having been there I can confirm that what is shown on their photos as well as mine is how the working conditions really are –
      I appreciate your comments and inside anytime – after all you have spent more time in the Middle East than I – but I am trying to catch up!!!!


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