Samir Gaber and his wife Heba Mahmoud, both visually impaired, sit in the living room of their Cairo home weaving bamboo shoots into bags and chairs to make a living.
The small business which they started together in 2013 was a way for them to earn an income enough to feed their two young children.
With little assistance, both Gaber and Mahmoud have taught themselves how to weave colourful bamboo shoots into designs of various shapes and sizes.
I taught myself how to weave bamboo. As soon as I bought bamboo two baskets, which is a hard material, I learned how to handle the sticks and to make shapes out of them, to weave them, where to pull from and where (the stick) should end up.
Gaber’s brother helps him differentiate between the colours when making the products, or accompanies Mahmoud to the market where they buy the shoots.
“I taught myself how to weave bamboo. As soon as I bought bamboo two baskets, which is a hard material, I learned how to handle the sticks and to make shapes out of them, to weave them, where to pull from and where (the stick) should end up. I had to learn all of these details from the very beginning, even before I learnt from my wife how to work with this material,” Samir Gaber said
But the business is suffering. Gaber says he is unable to sell his products and has for the past two years been borrowing money to pay his finances.
Today, in debt and with no potential customers, Gaber is unable to pay his children’s tuition.
Mahmoud, now 38, suffered from vision problems when she was only one year old because of a fever, while Gaber, 40, became visually impaired in an accident some 15 years ago. But the couple started a life together despite their family’s reservations.
“Our families wondered how we would get married, how we would raise children or how will you live with each other? They used to ask us how we would turn on a stove, or just deal with each other on a regular basis? I said to them that it should be fine, I had seen visually impaired couples before make marriages work just fine,” Mahmoud said.
Each product typically takes just a few hours to complete and is usually sold for less than 100 Egyptian pounds ($5.5).