Egypt’s Gypsum Trade
Once crafting masks for mummies, today, the gypsum workers of Egypt make stuccos for homes and mosques.
Saeid Abdel Hadi is on his knees on the stone floor of his workshop, bent over a block of gypsum plaster with a small tool in his hand that looks like a scalpel with a blunt tip.
Located on the ground floor of an apartment building, Abdel Hadi’s small workshop has no windows and has only one single light bulb hanging from the ceiling – though it’s not turned on. The daylight streaming in from the open door, reflecting in the whiteness of everything in the room, is enough for Abdel Hadi to work. The floor is entirely covered in a white layer of gypsum plaster, continuing up the walls. His hands and arms are covered with white spots, as is his face, jeans and tools – and there are white handprints on the walls, left by Abdel Hadi leaning against it.
With the scalpel, he begins to scrape off plaster from the block and carve the shape of a leaf. These are the last details added to a large piece of stucco ornamentation, requested by a customer for the façade of his new house. Abdel Hadi has been working for almost two days on a single block of gypsum, using only his hands and an assortment of simple tools and brushes. His process to make decorative gypsum plaster is the same one used since the days of the pharaohs.
‘You need to get all the little things right. If you don’t pay enough attention, it will never turn out beautiful,’ says Abdel Hadi as he takes a break to smoke a cigarette.
Read the whole story at Atharna