Mona Azazy, like many children in her village, grew up watching her mother holding sticks of papyrus plant, cutting it into slices and preparing it for a series of industrial phases that finally result in printed papers called papyri.
“This is the only profession we know,” she explains. “We go to school and even university, but we are still convinced that our livelihoods revolve around papyrus.”
In ancient times, the planting of papyrus spread from Egypt to Palestine and Sicily, before being adopted all over the Mediterranean, and parts of Europe and southwest Asia.
Bringing back papyrus
El-Karamous village has been able to bring back papyrus farming, and use the plants to make paper for printing on, restoring the industry to the heart of its economy. The majority of residents are now employed in some aspect of the process.
Despite this, Metwally expresses her gratitude to the profession and says: “This is the best job women can do to add to the family income, other than governmental jobs”.
Sowing the seed
Ismail elaborates: “We’ve learned when the plant needs more water and the right space we should leave between one seedling and the other, to allow for better ventilation.”
This article was produced by SciDev.Net’s Middle East & North Africa desk and republished under a creative commons license.