They say that when there’s smoke there’s fire, yet people are quick to come to the conclusion that when’s there no wood that means there’s no design. Egypt as a country has been a big exception to such a rule. Though having almost no wood raw materials or forests, local producers have been putting wood to its maximum use.
Anyone who has studied the history of crafts in Egypt from its ancient past would even find it ironic that the Egyptians were the inventors of designs first wooden chairs.
Yet besides what is really known about Egypt’s past, the tradition of wood use has been kept alive, especially by the country’s local furniture producers who import wood from abroad, design and manufacture the raw material, and export the final product. One such producer is NADIM, not only a pioneer in everything that has to do with wood from wood furniture to wooden doors and ceilings, but also a new revivalist who is bringing back the country’s rich traditional designs as well as new innovations in the production process.
Our journey takes us out to the remote industrial zone of Abu Rawash, just a five minute drive from the gates of the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road where we met with Mr. Adham Nadim and his sister Hend Nadim, at their factory, an oasis of freshly designed wood works from traditional Egyptian pieces reminiscent of the country’s rich past to modern spectacles finely designed furniture.
Being a family business from the very beginning, NADIM started as a workshop of only four workers to becoming a world class brand, renowned among prestigious international clients who have an eye for class and quality. “It started in 1978 by my father and mother with just four workers. We came to Abou Rawash about 14 years ago,” said Adham Nadim. “We have catered to the hospitality projects for the Middle East and beyond. We have exported our works to more than forty countries. We have dealt with the leading hotel chains in the region and beyond. We have worked on public buildings in Egypt, the Middle, and Europe as well.” For years, the factory has been working with specific types of natural wood for quality control including beech wood, oak wood, cherry, maple, and teak wood. MDF and HDF were proven to be useful with specific furniture pieces which required certain functions.
Receiving global recognition for its accomplishments, NADIM’s portfolio became increasingly popular abroad, attracting many who have a demand for quality wood furniture designs using the latest methods. At one time, NADIM’s exported work accounted for up 95% of its production, but now the company has chosen to split it 50/50 to send a new message to the Egyptian market: it’s time to buy Egyptian.
This shall now be done through offering a new retail concept to the Egyptian furniture market. “The market is in need of ready-made furniture available for purchase in any outlet,” said Adham Nadim. Stores will also be offering regular art exhibitions by young Egyptian artists to promote the country’s local creative scene, along with the potential of many creative professionals. Yet offering an Egyptian product for Egyptians is a job easier said than done, especially when it comes to an economy which is flooded with imported products from a variety of different multinational furniture manufacturers. Consumers want things ready at the store for immediate delivery, an issue which NADIM hopes will be alleviated given its new battle on the retail front. Like other local producers, NADIM is using this recent initiative to push forward Egyptian brands for the pleasure of a demanding Egyptian public.
NADIM’s innovative production practices in essence is a major breakthrough on the wood front. In dealing with European companies and clients, wood has to be certified as coming from renewable forests and the manufacturing process itself was environmentally friendly. Conservation and preservation of rare natural wood has become a new standard practice among Western consumers, and NADIM along several producers in Egypt adapt such practices. NADIM has also explored and participated in extensive research and prototyping to use locally grown palm reads in the furniture industry at one point NADIM proposed a project to produce MDF boards by de-fibering palm reads. This along with the MDF boards produced from bagasse the byproduct of the sugarcane factory in Naga Hamadi would be the most significant raw material this industry has seen in Egypt for thousands of years literally since the forests got petrified. Such mega projects need huge investments of tens of millions of dollars. Though the move to retail is a long term investment, NADIM has demonstrated confidence that through gradual market and education, consumers will begin to recognize what it really means when a label says “MADE IN EGYPT”
Images courtesy of NADIM