Last year when we were packing our bags to take off for the UK we had been warned of torrential rain, possible floods and the need for what Brits call Wellingtons and us Aussies call Gum Boots. However this year as the time came to again pack our bags we were warned of extreme heat, sunburn and I really wish they had of told us about the disappointment us Aussies would feel over the cricket; a sport played by those lucky enough to have been or in our case still be a part of the Commonwealth. Considered too boring by most others.
And so it is that Hosam, Tarek and myself headed off to Art in Action in Oxford, UK, a small art festival that attracts more than 40,000 people over the course of its four days. Whilst last year we had been keeping everything elevated and away from the sides of the tent we had been put in. This year we tore down the sides of the tent and displayed the work of the Tentmakers of Cairo on the sides of the tent. It looked fantastic and from a distance spectacular. Drawing people from all over the festival to come and have a look at the intricate and detailed applique work of the men.
Over the four days many people passed through the International Tent which was home to jewelers and leather workers from Mali, sculptures from India, Turkish textiles, Russian carvings, Italian jewelry, Uzbeki carpets and, of course, the Tentmakers of Cairo. The exhibit was crowded most days for most of the time and much of the work that had been brought to the exhibition was not to return. Birds, ducks and animals were the big sellers with many a disappointed return, as potential customers would leave for a tea so as to think only to return to find the piece they had thought about gone.
Both Hosam and Tarek brought large 2 meter by 2 meter masterpieces and both were taken home to English homes. The only thing that did not sell well were the smaller cushion covers which last year had been the sold like the pancakes in one of the other tents close by.
Interest was high and many people who have been following the Tentmakers of Cairo through our website and our Facebook page turned up to say hello as well as return visits by people who had seen the exhibit last year. It is always great to hear so much enthusiasm in the questions as well as to see it on the faces of those who watch as both Hosam and Tarek stitched like machines. There is always the odd comment thrown in about how they are doing it all wrong, these comments are always my favourite. Of course people want to know what is happening in Cairo these days with all the attention focused on Tahrir and the new Egyptian politic and the guys just smiled, nodded and said, "Egypt is good, no problem. Morsi is gone".
Once it was all over we had a bit of time to spare before heading back to the crazy streets of Cairo and so headed into London to see Big Ben. Joan Fisher was a great guide and got us through a days worth of site seeing in a couple of hours including a short stay out the front of Buckingham Palace waiting for the birth of Prince George, it happened whilst we were boarding some hours later. Hosam and Tarek jostled for position in front of most of the sites and between Joan and myself we managed to click off a few photos of each of them in front of the appropriate monuments.
Then it was back on the plane and four hours later we had arrived in Cairo just in time for another massive rally and the streets full of fireworks and confusion.
It was quick, it was hot, I wore shorts and both Joan and John Fisher were great hosts, managers, guides, parents and more. Thanks guys.