Technology changing furniture industry in Egypt
By A’laa Koddous Allah
Damietta governor, Ismail Abdel Hameed Taha has announced that the first phase of the new furniture city in Damietta will be inaugurated soon. Damietta has for long been known as the ‘City of Furniture’ for the excellent quality the furniture it produces.
Many brides, when they begin to furnish their new homes, travel to Damietta to buy good quality furniture at cheaper prices than the furniture sold elsewhere. “I prefer to go to Damietta and furnish my flat from there,” Ola Helmy, who lives in Cairo, told The Egyptian Mail.
“I can find whatever I want there. They cater to all tastes with different styles.” She said that she wanted all her furniture to be made with the unique decorative wood carvings for which Damietta is famous.
But how much longer Damietta will preserve its reputation for wood carving is now a question. The development and availability elsewhere of new machines able to do some, at least, of the carving threatens to make Damietta’s traditional sculptors redundant.
The machines work automatically according to a computer programme and are not in need of the skilled hands of the traditional carvers.
One of the Damietta sculptors, however, stoutly defended his work when interviewed. “The new machines can’t ever do what we do with our hands,” said Abdo el Bersh.
“There is always a difference between a machine-made product and a handmade product. The machine product will never have the same effect or the same value.” He said that with the appearance of the new machines, many workers had decided to use them. They make the work easier. They don’t require the time or the effort of hand carving.
“I inherited this profession from my grandfather and my son has inherited it from me, but now my son has decided not to work in this industry any more ,” El Bersh, who is in his fifties, said.
“My son is convinced that the new machines will soon control the market, so he should either look for another job or take training to be able to work with the machines.”
He said that the new furniture city in Damietta would also harm the profession as most of the workshops there would have the new machines. “Our profession,” he said,” is on its way to extinction.”
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Tarek Qabeel, has announced that the construction of the new furniture city in Damietta is proceeding according to plan. “Ninety-nine per cent of the construction work for the production units is finished,” he said.
“The new city is a successful model of co-operation between the government and the private sector.” It reflects the strategy of sustainable development for Egypt. The workshops in the new city will use new machines.
“The new furniture city will be one of the largest industrial areas specialising in the furniture industry in the Middle East,” Qabeel said.