Inlaying with mother of pearl and seashell is a traditional handcraft located originally in Cairo where its workshops are concentrated in Historical Cairo, Egyptians used traditionally to decorate mosques, churches, palaces, and even some public buildings with inlaying, besides inlaying in furniture which lasts for a long time, nowadays, due to many factors such as lack of raw material and in the number of the skilled craftsmen, it turned to be in small products such as gifts and cigarettes boxes, jewelry boxes, stands for Quraan holy book, and other little gifts that the tourist could easily carry. Seashell material is provided either from the local market which is the Red Sea or imported from many countries such as Japan or Jourdan.

Inlaying workshops are concentrated in Historic Cairo, however, some are located in Monofia governorate in Nile Delta, where the wood workshops are located where the wooden products are made and then send unfinished to the inlaying craftsmen to inlay and send it back to the wood workshop to be finished and polished. Many risks threatened the inlaying craftsmanship such as the high expenses of the material and the decreased number of skilled craftsmen.

Most of the used motifs in this handcraft are geometric and sometimes botanic, there is more various decorative form that can be designed in seashell artifacts, such as stars, Arabic octagons, hexagons, squares, bound octagons, and “stashary” which adorns the twenty-pound note, indicating that the heritage culture of the Egyptian people must be revived.


The market of this handcraft now is targeting tourism and is found mainly in tourist attractions. Practitioners of inlaying craftsmanship are mainly men, however, some NGOs trying to introduce the craft to women and train them on a very narrow scale, still, women are bearers of the element as they are the first consumers of the inlaying products.

Emad Mohamed Fouad El Messlahy, Inlaying with mother of pearl- in Sakyet el Mankato, Monofia Governrate. Egyptian General entity for Books, Ministery of Culture, Cairo, 2023.