Al-Qalam is based in a unique urban area which is full of heritage buildings in the heart of historic Cairo, at the top of a hill that is facing both Sultan Hassan and Al-Refa’i Mosques in Darb Al-Labana in the historic district Al-Khalifa.
Al-Qalam strives to make a significant and long-term impact on this area and to recover the beauty of Darb Al-Labana, which is known as “the Montmartre of citadel/ Montmartre Al-Qala’a”, to make it again the destination for amateur and professional artists. Moreover, Al-Qalam aims at providing Al-Khalifa residents with workshops in Islamic and traditional Arts to help them increase their incomes by earning money from selling their products.
Al-Qalam aspires at being integrated with the tourism sector by cooperating with travel agencies to highlight the huge production of the Artworks left by the Egyptian school in both fields of Arabic Calligraphy and Islamic Ornaments.
Field Trips and tours
Al-Qalam organizes many tours and field trips to explore the beauty of Arabic Calligraphy and the aesthetic values of Islamic Ornament through offering new perspectives on the historical buildings located in historic Cairo.
Al-Khattat Al-Munafiz was an intensive six-month program (from August 2019 to February 2020), sponsored by “Ebda3 men Masr” Alex bank and Tahrir lounge-Goethe. It was dedicated to the artists who wanted to learn the Angular inscriptions, in order to help them use this Art while designing their products. There were 21 artists and designers from different artistic backgrounds who took part in this course. Mr. Salah Abd Al-Khaleq, professional calligrapher, was the instructor who gave lessons in four types of Kufic scripts: Fatimid Kufi, Mushafi Kufi (Quran Kufi), Square Kufi and Mamluk Kufi. In addition, several workshops that covered the traditional handicrafts that mainly depend on Islamic Arts and Arabic Calligraphy were held. Many field trips and tours to museums and mosques were organized. Moreover, the participants had the opportunity to attend a series of mentoring sessions, titled ‘Meet your mentor’, conducted by veteran calligraphers such as Khodier Al-Bursaiedy and Munir Al-Sha’rawy, etc.
As Al-Qalam is always concern about building strong relationships with Al-Khalifa residents, the participants in Al-Khattat Al-Munafiz offered a series of sessions and workshops in Art and Handicrafts (18 sessions), as part of the activities of ‘Al-Qalam Winter Camp’ dedicated to youngsters between the ages of 8 and 21 and in cooperation with some cultural institutions such as the library of Islamic Civilization, the House of Egyptian Architecture and Bayt al-Sinnari. Al-Qalam hosted an exhibition for the alumni of this program in October 2020 to display their artworks in which they used Arabic Calligraphy on one of the traditional handicrafts.
It’s also a six-month program (from Nov 2019 to April 2020) in collaboration with Mamluk art house. That teaches Islamic patterns (geometrical and Flora) to 25 participants to be a professional designer able to combine Islamic patterns in their projects. They also make tours to museums and mosques to analyze the pattern in Its original environment.
Al-Muzakhrif Al-Moua’sir provided a valuable experience for artists who are passionate about learning Islamic Art especially the geometric patterns and floral ornaments and exploring practically its various uses. All sessions and workshops were delivered by the experts in the Department of Teaching and Educating at Al-Qalam School and at Mamluk Art House who followed and developed many effective teaching methods and strategies.
It was presented by Eng. Mostafa Sedky, founder of Mamluk, who designed the curriculum of this course that was considered the first of its kind which covered and discussed, in greater detail, all the aspects and secrets of this Art, including, for example, but not limited, an introduction to Islamic Geometric Patterns, the main features of the Geometric Patterns, the most traditional methods and techniques used in Geometric Design, basic principles and concepts such as symmetry, repetition, the angles used in Islamic Geometric Design; in addition to the types of the star rosettes, the proportions that must be taken into account, how those star rosette patterns are constructed and how they are combined with the correct proportions.
It was presented by Ahmed Salah Mahrous, Abd Allah Aboulfadl and Abdelrahman Aboulfadl. They discussed the basics and the types of floral ornaments, the shapes of leaves, the forms of the floral units and how to construct them. Furthermore, they analysed the constructive elements of the ornamental units, the dimensions and proportions of the floral ornaments, how to repeat and distribute the units, the types and shapes of floral and geometric borders, the principles and concepts of drawing floral ornaments, etc.
This program included many field trips for a purpose of research and observation. The students were accompanied by artists and academics. The places they visited were Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan (Mosque and school), Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun Mosque and School, Al-Rifa’i Mosque, The Mosque of ibn Tulun, the Museum of Islamic Art, The Egyptian National Library and Archives in Bab Al Khalq.
Many academics delivered lectures on Ornaments. They discussed the history and the evolution of the Ornaments, Mamluk approaches in Ornaments, the aesthetic values of Islamic Ornaments, the main ornamental elements in Islamic architecture and the decorative designs following the concepts of Visual Arts.
The workshops covered: Islamic illumination, gold preparation, how to use Illustrator in floral ornaments, how to use AutoCAD in geometric patterns and how to use Laser Cutter/CNC.
A-Qalam offered a three-month intensive online program dedicated to all artists who are interested in Arabic Calligraphy and typography in Egypt and from all around the world. It started in mid-August 2020 and it covered all the technical aspects that enable the participants to design a typeface, starting from how to translate a design into a digital form, ending with designing a ready-to-use typeface (a digital font). Ten participants from different backgrounds who are passionate, committed and dedicated, enrolled in this course, from calligraphers, typographers, graphic designers, Fine Arts faculties alumni, software development companies, IT companies, who are working or looking forward to diving deeper into the world of typeface design and typography to be able to enhance their career in this field.
Dr. Khaled Honsy, the instructor of this course, has designed and has participated in designing many open-source typefaces that are accessible and available to the public. For instance, ‘Amiri’ font, ‘Rana Kufi’ font inspired by Fatimid Kufi and ‘Cairo Kufi’ font inspired by Mushafi Kufi (Quran Kufi).
This course comprised academic sessions, and every participant was committed to working on a final project of their choice (individually or in groups) to design and develop an Arabic typeface.
Al-Qalam School for Arabic Calligraphy has cooperated for a year with Tarek Atrissi Design to host the second phase of Asil, in conjunction with the selection of Cairo as the capital of Islamic culture 2020. This project focuses on reconnecting the Arabic Calligraphy with its roots, yet moving it towards the age of digitization. This is achieved through several main areas: Research, Education, Design, and production.
Workshops in Egypt (beginner):
Several workshops were given by international experts with the goal of developing the skills of Egyptian typographers and exposing them to experimental approaches with the guidance of professional experts. These workshops covered the basic educational and practical framework that would enable the designers to work on the design phase. Those workshops focused on Arabic typeface design, and the shift from the traditional calligraphic practice to the digital design and developments of Arabic fonts the incorporation of calligraphic styles within the contemporary graphic experimental design. This phase was mainly based on exchanging culture and knowledge between both the Egyptian and international experts.
Workshops in Holland (advanced):
The basic workshops in Cairo allowed to identify the talents, with less access to the exclusive and often unaffordable high education that provides the elite design education in Egypt, to be selected to participate in the workshops in Holland. These workshops provided the Egyptian designers with the opportunity to work on typeface design projects with the support of professionals and academics who is working successfully with Arabic and Latin typography in Holland. Specific projects in digital typography have been developed based on briefs resulting from the previous phases and with the support of international experts.