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Khatt:‫خـــط‬ َ

EGYPT’S CALLIGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE

Photography by Noha Zayed Edited by Basma Hamdy


F O R E W O R D ‫المــــ ُـــــ‬

‫ــــقــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــدمـــــــــــــــة‬ َ

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Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

O N T H E M O V E ‫عــــ‬ َ

‫ــــــالطريـــــــــــــــ ْـــــــــــــــــــقـــ‬

TRUCKS: A MOVING CANVAS Noha Zayed

THE BRONZE INVENTOR Interview with Eleiwa by Ahmed Hammoud

T E X T ‫َكـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــالمــ‬ S E L L S ‫إعالنـــــــــــــــــــاتـــ‬

SCRIPTING THE MODERN ON EVERYDAY OBJECTS Mohamed Elshahed LANGUAGE AND MESSAGE: THE ARABIC SCRIPT IN EGYPT Basma Hamdy

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13

37

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M A R K M Y‫حديــــــــــثــــ‬ ُ WA L L S ‫الـجـــــــــدرانـــــــــ‬

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89

93

PERCEPTION Interview with ElSeed by Basma Hamdy

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SEMIOTICS: THE OTHER DIMENSION OF LETTERS AND WORDS Muhammad El Mahdy

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M A N I F E S T E D ‫َتـمـــــ‬ G L O R Y ‫ـــجــيـــــــــــــــــــــد‬

125


F O R E W O R D ‫المــــ ُــــــ‬

‫ــــقــــــــــــــــــــــــــــدمـــــــــــــــة‬ َ by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

When we talk about Arabic lettering, khatt, the images that first come to mind are of beautiful Arabic calligraphy, expressive, ornate, sophisticated and well-crafted. During the Pharaonic times, writing was considered the language of the gods, and writing in the Middle East still retains this spiritual connection to the invisible and divine world beyond. Arabic calligraphy remains the Arab and Islamic world’s most venerated art form, one that is steeped in spirituality and magical powers. On the other hand, when we think of the Egyptian landscape, a very different image is evoked; an image of spontaneity, urban sprawls and vernacular graphics of all kinds. Combining these two contradictory images of controlled beauty versus the mishmash of vernacular lettering and signs creates an interesting representation of Egyptian popular culture. Rather than focus on the aesthetic beauty of the craft of Arabic calligraphy, this book attempts to examine and underline the social and symbolic power of Arabic lettering, and to bring to light its integral role in the construction of a contemporary Egyptian visual culture. Here we discover a written urban landscape—at times static and at other times ‘on the move’, but always expressive and powerful.

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Texts in public space are usually used to mark the name and function of certain places, from mosques to shop fronts and houses. They may be combined with symbols and iconic images (or turned into images). However, in Egypt (and in the Arab world at large), they also appear on moving objects: trucks, cars, buses, tuk-tuks (bicycle taxis), boats and carts of street vendors. The letters and texts act as protective talismans that safeguard prized belongings or people. They follow formulaic invocations that either express fears and superstitions, or are occasionally informative, poetic, amusing or thought-provoking. This colourful landscape in motion speaks in a multitude of voices; it displays a variety and diversity in styles and colours, from handwritten text to typeset fonts, from the most classical to the most playful contemporary lettering. In its static form, the lettering takes on scale and material as its means of experimentation, from traditionally hand-painted shop signs, hand-painted cinema posters and large advertising painted directly onto the (blank) walls of a building. The hands and skilled craftsmanship of the makers lends soul to the visuals, adding a dimension that can be experienced (or visually read)

independently from the meaning of the written text. The lettering is often wonderfully imperfect, versatile in composition and form. The lettering gives the impression of speed while being carefully and slowly drawn. The texts are eroded and affected by the natural elements and this lends them an aging grace and liveliness. The visual aspect of the letterforms is sometimes dictated by the material, built rather than drawn, and at other times, they simply follow organically and spontaneously the shapes of the surface on which they are written, filling every possible space. Hand-painted lettering and signs in Egypt (and the Arab world) are valued for their authenticity, inspire a sense of awe and command respect. They bring back a sense of nostalgia and a longing for idealised bygone times—namely, the pre-digital eras since the 1950s—when ‘modern’ mass media employed calligraphers to create newspaper headlines, lettering for shop signs, movie posters, advertising billboards, product ads, magazines and book covers. The diversity and availability of typefaces for typesetting then were limited (and still are relatively speaking), but the supply of skilled calligraphers was abundant and their creativity in devising innovative and freespirited styles was liberal. This lettering landscape constitutes a living record of Egypt’s popular visual culture. It is a visual heritage that is slowly disappearing from contemporary Arab culture, and with it the graphic lessons it embodies go undocumented and eventually become extinct. To document, analyse and pass on this knowledge to the generations that follow is crucial to the progress of future graphic culture in Egypt and the Arab world. The wealth of Egypt’s calligraphic landscape, as glimpsed through the images and texts in this book, testifies to the great significance of lettering to the lives, aspirations and beliefs of the people that inhabit this landscape. In this book, we are made to experience the power of written texts, their meaningful role in everyday life, and how they transform the public realm into a platform for cultural and personal expression. Khatt today presents the perfect challenge for balancing contemporary cultural identity with centuries of traditions and conventional beliefs, offering a means to build the present (and future) upon a solid past.


The house of the late Hajj Ali Ibrahim Abu Fazaa’ / Peace be upon Muhammad, Peace be upon him. Silwa Bahari, Aswan

DR HUDA SMITSHUIJZEN ABIFARÈS is the Founding Director of the Khatt Foundation and Khatt Books publishers. Based in Amsterdam, her professional, cultural, and educational activities extend from the US and Europe to the Arab world. She holds degrees from Leiden University (PhD, 2017), Yale University (MFA, 1990), and Rhode Island School of Design (BFA, 1987). She is a member of AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) since 2015. She specialises in multilingual typographic research and design. She has published several articles and books on this topic. She supervises PhD candidates at Leiden University’s Arts Program and works as design curator, writer, designer and publisher.

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‫َعـالـطـريـــــــــــــــــــــــــق‬

‫|‬

‫‪ON TH E M OVE‬‬

‫‪6‬‬


‫‪7‬‬

‫َعـالـطـريـــــــــــــــــــــــــق‬

‫|‬

‫‪ON TH E M OVE‬‬


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‫عــــــ‬ َ ‫ـــــــالطريــــــــــــــ ْــــــــــــــقـــــــــ‬

ON THE MOVE

Trucks, lorries ----------- tuk tuks, taxis ----------motorcyles, more trucks ----------- a horse and carriage ----------- fishing boats, canoes, yachts buses and mini-buses --------------------------------------------Vehicle after vehicle passes us on the road carrying passengers and cargo ----------------------traversing an endless multitude of paths and directions --------------- Their adornment weaves an ephemeral tapestry of portable words of wisdom --------------- talismans and prayers ----------- giving us a glimpse into the drivers’ beliefs, fears and desires.

And pledge/promise those who are patient. Minya PREVIOUS PAGES 6-7:

We wish you a pleasant journey. El-Qanater El-Khairiya

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‫‪4.‬‬

‫‪3.‬‬

‫َعـالـطـريـــــــــــــــــــــــــق‬

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‫‪ON TH E M OVE‬‬

‫‪18‬‬ ‫‪2.‬‬

‫‪1.‬‬


1. This is from God’s generosity / Thank you for blessing me with your prayers, mother. Pigeon (a metaphor for speed) / Don’t forget Allah / Don’t trust mankind. People’s eyes are envious, and God’s eye is protective. East Cairo 2. All with love. Sheikh Zayed City 3. But Allah is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of all merciful. [Qur’an:Surat Yusuf 12:64] / In the name of Allah / Praise to Allah / For sale / Thank Allah / Oh God, your protection. Sheikh Zayed City 4. But Allah is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of the merciful. [Qur’an:Surat Yusuf 12:64] / Remember Allah / The pampered one: ‘Malak’ (most likely the driver’s daughter) Thank Allah / There is no friend that should be befriended. Safe travels / The blue pampered butterfly of the road (referring to the truck). Giza 5. In the name of Allah, God willing / We have made from water every living thing. [Qur’an:Surat Al-Anbya 21:30] / The elegant one and thats it! (referring to the vehicle). Giza

5.

ON TH E M OVE

6. But Allah is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of all merciful. [Qur’an:Surat Yusuf 12:64] Giza Corniche

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‫َعـالـطـريـــــــــــــــــــــــــق‬ 19

6.


‫َعـالـطـريـــــــــــــــــــــــــق‬ | ON TH E M OVE

20 While Islamic and Qur’anic references are a dominant theme, it is not uncommon to find Christian symbols and iconography in the Egyptian landscape. This truck is adorned with an illustration of the Virgin Mary, and peace doves. Cairo-Aswan, Western Desert Road


ON TH E M OVE |

‫َعـالـطـريـــــــــــــــــــــــــق‬ 21 The king of all kings; once he gifts, do not question the reason. Alexandria


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T E X T ‫كـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــالمــ‬ S E L L S ‫إعالنـــــــــــــــــــاتـــ‬ For sale ------------ get it here ------------- shops services, street carts ------------ a new dress a kilo of fruit ------------ hot food, cold drinks fast service ------------ we have it all -------------Doctors, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, cinemas, coffee, hotels and ice-cream, ------------------------- this is what the street sells and how the city speaks.

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Tangerine, best quality / Hamo’s fruits / Hey man, say Oh Lord! (ask for God’s assistance) / Pasha's fruits 2.50 pounds. El-Darb El-Ahmar


2.

TEX T S EL L S

| ‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات‬

1.

48 3.

1. Ashraaf Youth Coffee-shop / (Food cart): Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you / And in the heaven is your provision and whatever you are promised. (Qur’an), Sohag 2. Sinacola (soda brand) / Aswan 3. There is no God but Allah / We are the originals / Praise to Allah, Warraq Island 4. Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you. / I seek refuge with the Lord of the daybreak / Say: He is Allah, the One and Only / I seek refuge with the Lord of Mankind. (Qur’an) Sheikh Zayed City

PREVIOUS PAGES 46-47:

Ice-cream, juice, nuts / seeds and peanuts / best fruit ice-cream. Burj El-Burrullus


‫‪49‬‬ ‫‪4.‬‬

‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات‬

‫|‬

‫‪TEX T S EL L S‬‬


‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات |‬

‫‪TEX T S EL L S‬‬

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TEX T S EL L S |

‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات‬

Al-Kayal for Horses / In the name of Allah / managed by the sons of the late Ahmed Abdel-Qader Al-Serogy / As Allah wills / Mohamed Al-Serogy (name with telephone number) / The Mayor Farid, like the wind. Daraw FACING PAGE:

Al-Rahma (mercy) Bakery / pastry pies / buns / cookies and biscuits For newly weds: all kinds of baked goods. Fayoum

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‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات |‬

‫‪TEX T S EL L S‬‬

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TEX T S EL L S

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‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات‬

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Abo Ayman Café & Restaurant. Siwa Oasis


1.

82

2.

1. Nobles Factory for Alabaster / And your Lord says, Call upon Me; I will respond to you. / But the bounty of the Lord - rehearse and proclaim! / [All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds (Qur’an). Luxor 2. Abo-Al-Qomsan Market / 01093429295 Bahaa (name and phone number) / Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. (Qur’an) / Allah is great / Two full Qur’anic Suras are displayed: Surat al-Falaq & Surat al-Ikhlas . Luxor

FACING PAGE:

Al-Masry for automotive spare parts and accessories. Dahab


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‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات‬

‫|‬

‫‪TEX T S EL L S‬‬


| ‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات‬ TEX T S EL L S

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Agiba (wondrous) Beach / Available land for sale. in the most beautiful beaches in Matrooh for inquiry: 01224878777 / Units overlooking the sea / Al-Meraj for Reconstruction and Development / Tel.: 01115502060 / Entrance to the public original Agiba Beach leading to the Agiba plateau and chalets. / Beach services: Cafeteria, bathrooms, umbrellas, full services. Agiba Chalets and lands in 500 metres. Marsa Matrouh

FACING PAGE:

1. Casino (denotes a bistro) / Marine Ras El-Bar Hotel. Ras El-Bar 2. Welcome to Al-A’aem / Pastries and Pizza Al-A’aem, Fresh and Natural Juices, All kinds of fruits. Ras El-Bar


1.

85

2.


‫كـــــــــــــالم إعالنــــــــات |‬

‫‪TEX T S EL L S‬‬

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SIGN ADVERTISING OFFICE OF MOSTAFA YOUSEF; A LAWYER

AS GOD WILLS

MOLOKHIYA PEANUTS KIDNEY BEANS FLORALS COAL HOSES

BELOVED OF THE LOVED

IN THE NAME OF GOD

The ‘loved’ refers to the Prophet Muhammad

FAVA BEANS GREENS BEANS RICE LENTILS HUMMUS HENNA

FENUGREEK ANISE HIBISCUS DOUM PALM SEEDS

CINNAMON

LEMONGRASS GINGER

TELEPHONE: 0119521450 ALL CAFE SUPPLIES AVAILABLE

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SHISHAS

West Bank, Luxor


‫حديـــــــــث الــــــــجدران‬

‫|‬

‫‪M AR K M Y WAL L S‬‬

‫‪96‬‬


M AR K M Y WAL L S |

‫حديـــــــــث الــــــــجدران‬

Two women converse in front of a shop named ‘Nile Center.’ Black graffiti reads: ‘The island is not for sale’ referring to the Warraq Island residents’ rumoured unconstitutional eviction as part of the of government’s takeover of the Island. Warraq Island

FACING PAGE:

A man smokes a shisha, scrawled in the background is the phrase: ‘Manlihood is not easy’. El-Imam El-Shafei

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Oh Lord. Sixth of October City

110 M AR K M Y WAL L S

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‫حديـــــــــث الــــــــجدران‬


M AR K M Y WAL L S

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‫حديـــــــــث الــــــــجدران‬

Remember Allah. Eastern Desert Highway

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‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

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‫‪M ANI F ES TED GL ORY‬‬

‫‪132‬‬


M ANI F ES TED GL ORY |

‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

Allah is the light of the heavens and earth. Al-Mousski

FACING PAGE:

Allah is greater. Siwa Oasis

Whatever Allah wills. Al-Mousski

133


M ANI F ES TED GL ORY

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‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

This is the shrine of Sultan AlFarghal, may Allah be pleased with him. Made by Ahmed Al-Laithy Al-Sabbak in Egypt 1343 AH. Abu Tig, Asiyut

This is the shrine of Sidi Abdel-Latif, God bless him, Year 1344 AH. Al Hussein

FACING PAGE:

136

1. The Burhameyya-DessoukeyyaShazeleyya order. Sons of the Sheikh Mohamed Othman Abdo El-Burhami, Onaiba. Aswan 2. The Gazoleyya, Husseineyya, Shazeleyya order. Established by Master Gaber Hussein Ahmed El-Gazoli, the knower of Allah, the master and supporter for its Sheikh, the kinsman, the well-born, Sheikh Salem Gaber Hussein Ahmed El-Gazoli. Aswan 3. The Refa’i Masters. Aswan


‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

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‫‪M ANI F ES TED GL ORY‬‬ ‫‪2.‬‬

‫‪137‬‬

‫‪3.‬‬

‫‪1.‬‬


‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

‫|‬

‫‪M ANI F ES TED GL ORY‬‬

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‫‪147‬‬

‫‪F ES‬‬ ‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد |‬ ‫‪M ANI FMESANI‬‬ ‫‪TED‬‬ ‫‪GLTED‬‬ ‫‪ORYGL ORY‬‬ ‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد |‬


‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬ | M ANI F ES TED GL ORY

Pilgrimage to Mecca is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, for those who are able. [Qur’an: Surat Al’Imran 3:97]. Hajj Ragab Sayyed Hassan has completed his Hajj duty and visited the grave of the Prophet (PBUH) in the year 2004 (1424 AH). And his brother the Hajj Alaa Sayyed Hassan in 2009 (1429 AH). The Holy Kaaba. Luxor

HAJJ PAINTINGS 150

The ‘Hajj’ or pilgrimage to Mecca is an important goal for Muslims around the world. In villages along the Nile bank in Egypt pilgrims commission local artists to paint the walls of their houses celebrating their sacred journey. These naïve and vibrant murals normally feature scenes of transportation to Mecca and wishes for a successful return. They mark the pilgrim’s house to distinguish it from others, which elevates his social status among the people of his village. Often, these paintings show religious scenes, including figures of prophets or mythical creatures such as the Buraq (the Buraq is said to have been the creature that transported the prophet on the sacred night of the Isra’a and Meraj). Other scenes show the pilgrim’s journey, depicting various forms of transportation such as camels, buses, planes and boats. There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Al-Kobaniya


M ANI F ES TED GL ORY |

‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬ 151 And complete Hajj and Umrah for Allah [Qur’an:Surat Al-Baqara 2:196] / They have completed Umrah and visited the grave of the Prophet (PBUH): The Hajj Khalaf Ahmed Abdullah and his wife, and Hajj Wael Khalaf on 2008 and 2011 (1429 and 1432 AH). Thank Allah, Lord of the worlds [Qur’an:Surat Al-Fatiha 1:2] / May Allah accept your Hajj (pilgrimage) and forgive your sins. Sohag TOP IMAGE:

The House of El-Sayyed Ragab Saleh Mahmoud Abu Dneibah / Welcome Visitors As Allah wills, Allah Bless (expressions of astonishment and admiration). Silwa Bahari, Aswan


‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

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‫‪M ANI F ES TED GL ORY‬‬

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‫تمجيـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــد‬

‫|‬

‫‪M ANI F ES TED GL ORY‬‬


Egyptian cities and villages abound with an enormous wealth of khatt, or calligraphic script, ranging from casual scrawls and scribbles to elaborately-painted colourful murals. These historical and contemporary versions of urban lettering, varying in surface, medium and technique, adorn mosques, shop-fronts, houses, trucks, boats, schools, tuk-tuks and walls. They are records of human existence, documenting expressions of hope, fears, dreams and anxieties.

BASMA HAMDY is Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. Hamdy has exhibited and appeared at international art and design festivals and conferences, including Duke University’s Arts of the Revolution and Spielart Festival Munich. Her publications include Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution. www.basmahamdy.com

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EGYPT’S CALLIGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE

Featuring beautiful and unique examples of these written expressions, Khatt is an extensive visual documentation of the found typography and calligraphy in Egypt, a calligraphy hub that possesses a rich tradition of education and production in the field. This timely volume records the traditional craftsmanship of hand-painted calligraphy, which is fast disappearing because of the digitisation of the Arabic script. Spanning cities across Egypt, and highlighting the history of Arabic script in the country, Khatt is a rich visual source-book, vital for designers, artists and enthusiasts.

NOHA ZAYED is a photographer and creative entrepreneur based in Cairo, Egypt. She co-curates the highly popular Instagram account ‘Arabic Typography’. Zayed has exhibited in festivals across the Middle East such as Dubai Design Week and the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial.

Profile for basmahamdy

KHATT: EGYPT'S CALLIGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE  

KHATT: EGYPT'S CALLIGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE  

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