Egyptian tapestries to be displayed in Encinitas again


Back by popular demand, the hand-woven, one-of-a-kind, garden-themed tapestries from the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Egypt will be on display at the San Diego Botanic Garden located in Encinitas once again this year.

The Egyptian artists who create these unique pieces, vividly celebrate the flowers of the desert, villages and Nile River in their work in this new exhibit from Jan. 8 to March 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Ecke Building at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. The cost is free with Garden admission or membership.

Last year, these amazing hand-woven tapestries – that can take up to a year or even two for weavers to create – almost completely sold out with most of the proceeds going to the artisans who created them. Visitors are invited to come early to add one of these original works of art to their collections. All 15 wool and 20 cotton weavings are on sale at the Garden.

These tapestries are the legacy of an “experiment in creativity” begun in 1952 by leading Egyptian architect Ramses Wissa Wassef. He was convinced that everyone is born with artistic gifts but that these develop only through practicing a craft from early childhood.

To test his theory, Wissa Wassef installed looms in a workshop in the village of Harrania, 6 miles from Cairo and invited village children to learn to weave. When they had grasped the basic technique he encouraged them to depict whatever they liked, laying down only three rules: No copying, No preliminary designs, No adult interference or criticism. His experiment rapidly demonstrated that any child is able to create works of staggering beauty and skill, confirming that innate creativity can grow with a child into adolescence and adulthood.

Since Ramses’ death in 1974, his widow Sophie and daughters Suzanne and Yoanna have expanded the experiment. Under their guidance several further generations of children have now mastered weaving. Currently, 30 adult wool and cotton weavers are actively work at the Art Centre in Egypt. This project has a strong impact on the community. It transformed the lives of the villagers, bringing prosperity, education, better health, self-respect and satisfaction to all and high status and equality to the women.

Fifteen wool tapestries and 20 cotton weavings will be on display in the Ecke Building at the San Diego Botanic Garden. Wall signs, books and a short documentary present the making of the tapestries and the aspirations of founder Ramses Wissa Wassef are also part of this educational and artistic display. All the tapestries are unique and woven by individual artists, whom work for up to 4 months on each tapestry. The Egyptian sheep wool is dyed with traditional vegetable dyes that are planted in the gardens of the art centre in Giza.

“The San Diego Botanic Garden has proven to be a perfect venue for the display of art,” said Julian Duval, President and CEO of San Diego Botanic Garden. “We are extremely pleased to be the first public garden to display these unique plant- and garden-themed tapestries and share them with our visitors from the San Diego region and beyond.”

All of the tapestries on display are for sale and go towards supporting both the artist, the Art Center in Egypt and the Garden. Visitors can purchase a tapestry at the Garden’s Administrative Office Monday - Friday from 9 am – 5 pm during the duration of the show.

To view some of the tapestries on display, please visit