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How is the ancient art of Egyptian puppetry making a comeback?

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The art of puppetry in Egypt dates back to ancient times and the rule of the Pharaohs.

Puppet performances, and so-called shadow theatre productions, were also popular during the Ottoman Empire.

Determined to keep the entertainment form alive, is Egyptian Mohamed El-Sawy, who in 2004 established the El-Sakia Puppet Theatre.

The puppet enthusiast's passion even extends to carving the mannequins himself, and hand-stitches their costumes.

Puppeteers operate the puppets behind the scenes

On the first Thursday of every month, an audience of some 500 people gather for the El-Sawy Culturewheel Theatre in the Zamalek district of Cairo for his puppet shows.

Recently, the theatre staged a tribute concert for the legendary Egyptian singer, Umm Kulthum who died 45 years ago.

To keep young members engaged, and spread Egyptian heritage, the company also puts on educational plays that tour both North Africa and Europe.

Pulling strings

Mohamed El-Sawy speaks to Inspire Middle East

“We are very proud of this show, and we keep reminding ourselves that people love Umm Kulthum, [and] her sound,” Mohamed El-Sawy told Euronews. “What we do is only a small addition to her heritage, but again, it is Umm Kulthum that attracts people and we do our best to not disappoint.”

Inas Ramdan Farhan has been a puppetry fan and audience member at El Sawy’s theatre for ten years.

Recently she decided to enrol in a workshop to master the time old hand craft.

“I love it so much, and really it’s my dream,” says Farhan. “Suddenly you find your puppet between your hands, and [you're] on stage. [The] sound, the audience, it’s really amazing.”

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