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AQS Chattanooga – The Tentmakers of Cairo

I had heard about the remarkable work of the Tentmakers of Cairo, men who ply the needle so expertly and with such great speed that they create a huge body of hand appliqued quilts unique to their region.  Sadly, their work is not highly appreciated in their own country, but thanks to Jenny Bowker, Bonnie Browning and the American Quilters Society (AQS), word about their art is spreading.  AQS also has committed to establishing a long-term market for these quilts in the United States. It was my first stop at the show.

Stitch Like an Egyptian

Stitch Like an Egyptian

I began photographing the wide variety of quilts, all various designs in hand applique.

Egypt 2


This large quilt caught my eye immediately and it also was positioned in the front of the exhibit.  I also saw the empty bench in the middle of the display where Tarek Abdelhay was plying his needle.  But, he was on his lunch break, which is precisely the only time that I could visit.  So, I  continued photographing.

Egypt 6

Some of the quilts were whimsical, like this one, and sizes ranged from quite small to bed size.  Prices ranged from $100 – $2,000 for the quilts, a bargain in my opinion.

Egypt 9

Among my favorites were the incredible Arabic calligraphy quilts.

Egypt 3

Some were so detailed it boggled my mind!  Each was more beautiful than the last.  But, my lunch hour was coming to a close, and I had to return to class.  Darn!  I planned to be back as soon as class ended.  So . . .

Tarek Abdelhay

Tarek Abdelhay

A little after 4 pm, there he was!  Tarek Abdelhay, one of the many appllique artists from Cairo, was there and I have never in my life seen anyone stitch so fast and so accurately.  It was just as amazing as promised.  And, he didn’t even use a thimble.  I watched for a long time, gaining an even greater appreciation for the work in the display.  I viewed the exhibit again, this time with awe.

The next few quilts follow without my commentary – as no words can adequately portray the beauty of  each.

Egypt 7

Egypt 10

Egypt 8


Egypt 5

Egypt 4

Such beauty!  I bought the book about their work (it is available online from the American Quilters Society.  One of the quilts came home with me too.  Can you guess which one?

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