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Egyptian heritage rug manufacturer Kahhal 1871 presents rugs with a contemporary Arabic vibe

DUBAI: Kahhal 1871, Egypt’s oldest manufacturer of handmade rugs and carpets, takes a contemporary twist by presenting a series of rugs created by 14 of Egypt’s most promising artists and designers.

The Outloud Collective, a multidisciplinary art and design exhibition, will take place in Cairo’s iconic Cinema Radio – built in the 1930s and one of Al-Ismaelia Group’s ambitious downtown restoration projects – during three days.

The brainchild of the event is Mohamed A. El-Kahhal, fifth-generation general manager of Kahhal 1871, whose vision is to create a meeting point between the brand’s heritage and respect for traditional craftsmanship. rug making and contemporary art and design.

Portrait of Mohammad Kahal. Provided

“Everything we do is handmade, which means we use the same craftsmanship that my great-grandfather set up in 1871,” Kahhal told Arab News. “What’s crucial now is that we also showcase modern designs by collaborating with local designers, artists and fashion designers – this is the best way to support, develop and gain international traction for the Egyptian creative scene.”

Founded in 1871 by Abdallah El-Kahhal – a young Syrian who immigrated to Egypt – and specialized in handmade rugs and carpets, the brand has become over its 151 years one of the most respected carpet manufacturers from Egypt. It built its first factory in 1902 and opened its first showroom in 1936. More recently, in 2017, when Mohamed became general manager, in addition to producing its own collections, Kahhal 1871 began to commission collections specially designed by artists and designers.

Carpet Fernand Leger for Kahhal 1871. Supplied

The event, now in its second consecutive year, features carpet designs for Kahhal 1871 by some of Egypt’s brightest talents, including architect Ahmed Fayyed; architect and designer Cherif Mursi, fashion designers Mounaz and Aya Abdel Raouf, founders of fashion brand Okhtein; founder and creative director of Form Design Engi Jaouda; Design Avenue Managing Partner and Design Director Karen Fadel; renowned architect and founder of Alchemy Design, Karim Mekhtigan; Parson graduate and founder of fashion brand Maram Paris, Maram Aboul Enein; the principal architect and chief designer of Alchemy Design, Mohamed Fares; the managing partner and creative director of the firm Design Avenue, Mohamed Talaia; Mahally designer and founder Mona Hussein, Design Point co-founders Nehal Leheta and Karim El Hayawan; and interior designer and founder of her eponymous business, Yasmine Makram Interior Design Studio.

“Mohamed El-Kahhal approached us last January and the fact that he included fashion designers intrigued us,” Aya Abdel Raouf, one of the founders of fashion brand Okhtein, told Arab News. “We had the ultimate freedom to choose any theme and treat the rugs as if they were canvas.”

Carpet design by Karim Fayyad for Kahhal 1871. Supplied

Mounaz and I are artists, and art is not limited to one form of design,” she said. “We both like to design and redesign a lot of things. It was very easy to merge in our opinion. The rugs were canvases and the threads were like paint.

Okhtein produced four rugs – two silk and two kilms – all of which are handmade and took three to six months to produce.

As the distinctions between art, design and fashion continue to blur, an exhibition like Outloud Collective demonstrates the power of such marriages – and in Arab capitals like Cairo where there is once again a creative scene in booming.

Kahhal 1871 showrooms are in Heliopolis and Khan Al Khalili, Cairo, Egypt.

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