Egypt’s hugely popular heritage handicraft fair, Diarna, is back again following months of suspension on account of COVID-19 pandemic, during which activities involving large gatherings were banned.
By the sea
Diarna was held from 6 to 17 August 2020 at Egypt’s northern Mediterranean resort of Marina, some 98km west of Alexandria.
The fair, which had been opened by Social Solidarity Minister Nevine al-Qabbag, also written Kabbaq, on the evening of 5 August, welcomed 22,000 visitors and realised sales of EGP one million.
Strict COVID-19 distancing rules and cautionary measures were applied. Pavilions were spread out over an area that comfortably allows social distancing, and corridors were at least 4 metres wide. A limited number of guests were admitted at a time; visitors were checked for their temperature before being allowed in, they were obliged to wear face masks and spray their hands with disinfectant. The fairground itself was disinfected twice a day.
Over an area of 600 square metres, Diarna showcased goods produced by 37 exhibitors from various regions in Egypt, represented by nine governorates. These goods included high quality handmade products such as seashell handicrafts, bed sheets, rugs, jewellery, crochet products, home ornaments, designer goods, leather, cosmetics, palm-frond products, and food products. Ms Qabbag said that the goods most in demand were handmade bed sheets, rugs, brass accessories, heritage gowns, and dried food. “This owes to their excellent quality and affordable prices,” she said.
The Minister praised the innovation efforts most producers put into their work. It is noteworthy that they innovate with material and design to offer visitors products which invariably contain elements of novelty despite their traditional origin.
“Diarna”, literal for “Our Homes”, started off in 1958, sponsored by the Ministry of Social Affairs—today the Ministry of Social Solidarity—under the name “Productive Families Fair”. The aim was to market products of cottage or home-based industries in order to help families increase their income. It has steadily grown, today featuring products from all of Egypt’s 28 governorates, and has expanded to include goods produced by craftsmen and micro industries, also a few public sector companies that sell at discounted prices personal and home products in high demand by the public. It now opens in various cities across the country at different times of the year, generating good revenue.
Exhibitors are keen to display their traditional goods, including foods such as cheeses, baked products, traditional home-made pasta, sun-dried herbs, pickled greens, and others. There are also traditional cosmetics and hair products made of natural herbs and Aswan henna. The Productive Families project now includes some three million families from all over Egypt.
Ms Qabbag expressed her happiness at the resumption of culture and heritage activities after months-long suspension on account of coronavirus. She said the upcoming months will see more fairs held with implementation of all cautionary measures. The last Diarna fair held before the coronavirus outbreak had opened in Cairo on 27 December 2019 and ran into January 2020.
According to Ms Qabbag, Diarna is among the biggest fairs of its kind in Egypt, and it illustrates the Ministry’s keenness to support producers of handicrafts and help them market their products.
The fair is steadily going green; it adheres to eco-friendly practices and sustainability requirements.
19 August 2020