In Egypt, dye workshop fights to survive

Fri Apr 8, 2016 7:06am EDT
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By Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's hard-currency crisis and competition from modern factories in Asia and at home threaten one of the last dyeing workshops in Egypt but one of its owners takes comfort in the trade's ancient resilience.

Mohamed Mostafa boasts that the trade dates back 3,000 years, so it can survive anything.

"It is sick but it won't die," said Mostafa, who runs the grimy workshop built in 1901 along with his father and brothers. "If God is willing it will last another 100 years."

Times are tough.

Mostafa says prices for raw materials have exploded since an uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, triggering political upheaval and bringing the economy to its knees.

Before those days, when protests in Tahrir Square raised high hopes of a bright future for millions of Egyptians, the small workshop used to bring in around 700 Egyptian pounds a week. That has fallen to 400.

A shortage of dollars needed for the purchase of goods has also taken its toll on the small business, which once had numerous workers.

The workshop, with its old television and water jugs covered in dirt - see Reuters photo essay at - faces fierce competition from factories in countries such as China and India.   Continued...

Workers colour yarn at a dye workshop in old Cairo, Egypt, March 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh