Fair trade


In recent years wearable heritage from West and Central Asia can increasingly be found on the markets in the African region. On the local market of Cairo, head covers, jewellery and other ornaments from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan are sold because the Egyptian antiquities source has almost completely dried up. These newcomers on the Egyptian market came with century old trade routes that seem to have been reopened since the war in Afghanistan.
Tourist from all around the world visiting Egypt, nowadays buy Afghan rings and necklaces as if they were Egyptian or local, under the more general term ‘vintage’ or ‘antique’. They are sold completely out of context and without the appreciation of their own cultural background. The objects satisfy a mere general yearn for authenticity of the European visitor. The true value of these items is often being underestimated. Prices vary considerably and items that hold great museum value are often sold for a mere souvenir price. In this manner the wearable heritage of the West and Central Asian people is dispersed in steady pace. Soon there will be nothing left in the area where it originated from.
This phenomenon is not new. In the 1960’s, when the Aswan dam was built in Nubia, entire villages were relocated by the Egyptian government because the old villages were soon to be submerged by the water of lake Nasser. With this incredible change in their lives, the Nubians sold much of their heritage on the local markets of Aswan and Cairo. Until the early 1990’s, much of the Nubian jewellery could still be bought in large quantities in the south of Egypt. Now it is almost all gone and local museums greatly value the small number of pieces they were able to keep. Some countries have tried to protect these objects under the antiquity laws, but it is very difficult to protect this heritage without proper evaluation and description.

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