Egyptians are very proud of their history and the things they have invented. One of their great inventions is the papyrus, which was first manufactured back in the third millennium BC.
Believe it or not they have a museum about the plant and the process; and throughout Cairo, there are a lot of local shops which are selling nice painted handmade papyrus.
The museum I visited is a governmental one and is located 5 minutes away from the Tahrir Square. The entrance is free of charge and you even get a free cup of tea. Of course at the end you have to buy something; there are cool things there so you definitely won’t leave empty handed.
The coolest part of the visit is the “how the papyrus is made” show. The process is quite difficult and long
Part 1: Take the papyrus plant, peal it, take the core of the stalk and slice it into very thin strips. The strips contain water so the next phase is to slash it with the rolling pin till all the water vanishes.
The guide was quite funny and told us that the rolling pin is used for two main purposes here in Egypt: to prepare the papyrus and to beat the husbands.
Part 2: all the papyrus slices will be put in water for three to four days. The sugar content is removed and the fibers become flexible and transparent. After they are removed from the water they become very soft and spongy.
Then, these small slices, put one by one next to each other in a raw form. Then the final stage – the pressing machine. They are kept under it for 6 days. Finally, after drying, the surface of the papyrus sheet is polished to a smooth finish by rubbing it with, for example, a shell or a piece of smooth ivory.
How can one tell that the papyrus is not a fake? There are papyruses that are made of sugar cane as well, however these are not waterproof. The reality papyrus is waterproof and very resistant.
Part 3: Painting of the papyrus. All paintings are hand made. It seems to be quite hard and time consuming and is surely a lot of work. The prices? Depends on the sizes. Prices can vary between 85 Egyptian pounds and up to 1200 EP, each. But due to the internal problems in Egypt you can negotiate and get a 20-30% discount. Or even a 50% discount but for the big ones. I bought one for 55 Ep ( discounted from 85 Egyptian pounds).
Worth the visit? Yes, it was not waste of time and the whole process is quite interesting. Plus, it is a good place to buy souvenirs!