Makram Ahmed Hussein began working in the pottery craft in Egypt’s Old Cairo district of Fustat at a young age. His family was poor; learning a trade as a child laborer was his only route to help support his family and earn a living. In 2000–2001, the potters’ kilns in Old Cairo were destroyed and the potters pushed out as the area was slated for touristic development. The pretext for the evictions was Egypt’s environmental protection law passed in 1994, which was disastrous to Makram and the potters’ community since the kilns used by potters generated thick black clouds of smoke. Many potters lost their means of livelihood. Now under construction are new potters’ workshops equipped with natural gas-burning ovens—a government-sponsored initiative to revive a traditional craft and make it safe for the environment.

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