Egyptian project creates décor pieces from waste
Cairo - Stepping into the small display area on a quiet street of Cairo’s Maadi neighbourhood leads to an amazing assortment of innovative décor pieces and artefacts.
Gezazy, an eco-friendly business, is the first of its kind in Egypt, creating home décor and furniture from recycled glass and wood. “Recycled products, handmade items, lots of artefacts at Gezazy. We are waiting for you,” reads a sign post made from recycled wood at the shop.
Arabic calligraphy and artistic shapes are drawn on lamps, chandeliers, planting pots and vases displayed on recycled shelves near chairs, boxes, bedroom sets and tables. All items artistically designed to appeal to Gezazy’s customers.
At Gezazy’s workshop, the project partners also produce custom-made furniture pieces or glass items.
“It’s a family business. My wife and brother work with me in addition to a few friends. We all work hand in hand to keep the project going,” says founder and co-owner Moustafa Abdel-Maged.
In some cases, customers bring bottles or jars to the shop and request specific modifications.
“This is a great project,” said one customer. “Why not make use of used glass to produce such pieces of art instead of throwing them in the garbage?”
“I also like the fact that furniture items are made at Gezazy in such a creative way, different from ordinary pieces that you find in the market.”
Abdel-Maged insists on using old wood because “the customer doesn’t need new wood to have a piece of furniture.”
“We buy whatever amount we need of old, massive wood from scrap dealers, create the furniture pieces and sell them at reasonable prices,” he said.
The shop was named Gezazy, which means “my glass” in the Upper Egyptian dialect, because of the founder’s origin. “I come from Aswan and this is how we pronounce it there. We chose this name because we started the project by producing recycled glass items and I meant it to be ‘my glass’ rather than just any glass,” Abdel-Maged said.
The inspiration for Gezazy came to him in 2008 when he owned a small décor office in the Red Sea resort city of Marsa Alam. He said he was shocked by the number of liquor bottles piled up and then buried in the mountains every day.
“I thought, ‘Why not create something artistic out of these bottles,’ especially that I’m very much interested in art and drawing,” he said.
Driven by his creative skills and determination to craft beautiful objects from waste, Abdel-Maged produced his first Gezazy piece in 2010. It was displayed and sold at a festival in Marsa Alam.
“It was our first experience with customers,” he said. Since then, every year, Gezazy founders organise the “Gezazy — Feast of Life” festival during the last three days of October, hosting artists who create products using recycled materials.
The Gezazy shop and workshop were inaugurated in March 2011. A few months later the project suffered a setback because of Egypt’s economic struggles following the January 2011 uprising. The partners had to shutter their workshop but kept the shop.
“We could not pay the rent of the workshop at the time, so we started working at home and used friends’ workshops until we managed to get back on our feet and reopen the workshop,” Abdel-Maged recalled.
Gezazy’s business is now doing well as people have become growingly appreciative of possessing decorations and home furniture made of glass waste and old wood.
“People value our products. Moreover, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar made the prices of similar products, whether local or imported, very high. People look at our products and see high quality and affordable prices,” he said.
Abdel-Maged said he frequently finds glass items in plastic cases at the doorstep of Gezazy when he opens the shop. Many young couples seek Gezazy’s artistic twist and knowledge to furnish their homes out of recycled materials.
“People started believing in us and our project to the extent that they support us with what they have without being asked,” Abdel-Maged said.
“Gezazy is a project whose value is in the people who believe in it,” he added, noting that the idea of recycling is becoming entrenched in people’s minds.