In El-Arish, the provincial capital of Egypt’s North Sinai, women from the Bedouin community happily embrace their culture. Daily, they weave beautiful masks of Bedouin designs to curb the novel disease.
However, they struggle to keep safe despite surging violence between security forces and Islam affiliates.
Egypt has recorded over 28600 COVID-19 cases and more than 1000 deaths. The situation in the country deteriorates every single day because of the propping insurgency. North Sinai has been a war zone ever since the Islam activists started rebelling.
“I learned how to embroider when I was a young girl watching my mother,” homemaker Naglaa Mohammed, 36, told AFP on a landline from El-Arish.
Mohammed, an all-round embroider has special skills in designing garments from beads, bracelets, and ring crafts.
She says business in the weaving industry has been great however because of coronavirus pandemic, she started sewing masks. This is a great opportunity for her to showcase her skill since she exports her masks out of the country.
The Bedouin community originally was a nomadic community that inhabited the arid and semi-arid areas of Egypt. However, with changing times, many of them have adopted the urban lifestyle.
Nurturing Bedouin heritage
Despite conflicts between government forces and the Islam groups, the Bedouin community have managed to nurture their weaving skill. They pass the skill from generation to generation i.e. they teach the skill at a young age.
In 2013 the Islam affiliates in Sinai started war after the military overthrew Mohamed Morsi, an Islam president. They engaged in an intensified coup which led to many losing their lives.
The conflict never seized as to date the two forces are still locked in battle, each struggling to conquer.
All superiors in North Sinai propelled an operation against the military in February 2018. As per the official figures, 970 militants and dozens of security forces lost their lives.
Following these events, the security forces heavily guard the area. They do not allow even the local or international media to go past the boundaries.
Amany Gharib, founder of El-Fayrouz Association has been empowering women during the tough times. She has ensured the Bedouin culture stays alive over the past centuries.
Amany has employed 550 people out of which most are casual workers in his textile shop.
“The masks are composed of two layers — one inner layer directly on the face which is disinfected, and the colorful, beaded one outside,” Gharib explained to AFP.
During working hours all her employees wear protective clothing i.e. they have both their masks and gloves on. For each mask, beading takes up to two days.
Once they finish embroidering, they wash, pack, and ship the final products to the desired destinations. Since they partnered with Jumia, they have the privilege of selling their masks online. Each mask goes for $2.50.
Surviving during tough times
Despite the Bedouins being vulnerable to attacks, people like Mohamed have been surviving on a meager income.
They are paid depending on their work.
At first, weaving a mask was quite a challenge for them but over time they managed to tackle it.
Since the novel epidemic, the economy of Egypt has deteriorated. Especially the Sinai women who are surviving from hand to mouth.
Although Sinai is prone to insecurity, the people have so much trust in their military. Their presence restores their confidence.
In the history of violence in Egypt, the most lethal was when 300 worshippers died in 2017 when the military conducted an operation to curb terror attack.
Bedouins consider those who die during wars martyrs.