Most of the pieces you can buy in Egypt are dirt cheap – it has to do with the economy, the cost of materials, the average salary being so low, etc. and everyone takes advantage of the low prices and buys a lot of things when they visit. But out in the Sinai desert, one woman is changing all that.
She is Salema Gabaly and she started off in a tent with four other women, creating beaded designs that are typical of the Bedouin people, the nomadic tribes that come from that area. The objective was to preserve the Bedouin art of handicrafted bead work. Salema’s work and that of her small group, grew and grew until now they have almost 500 Bedouin women from multiple local tribes, all creating exquisite beaded pillowcases, handbags, and jewelry. When you buy a scarf there, not only is it hand-beaded, but the same tribe wove the fine cotton or wool fabric themselves. The best part is it’s all fair trade pricing, which is more expensive, but nothing more than you would pay at a place like Pier One. This business, and the fact that the profits are all put back into the company, has allowed Salema to buy a house, a nice big one, and to create the store in what must have once been the living room of the house.
There’s also a big back porch where you can go to sit, relax, and drink mint tea, but since the prices are fixed, there’s no bargaining. Knowing the money is going directly to the women who made the goods, it’s easy to open your heart and your wallet wider, and this tiny pit stop has become a favorite of our groups, as the ladies suddenly remember friends back home who need an extra gift. Salema and her sales clerks bustle around, accepting (as most merchants do) Egyptian pounds, US dollars, and Euro, and no one minds standing in line a little bit longer to wait for their flood of purchases to be counted and rung up. For those of us who want to continue to use Fatsina as a unique shopping opportunity after returning to the States, more info can be found here: http://fansina.net/