We stopped by the Art Café, the popular art center in Maadi, for a chat with managing partner, Hoda Kamal.
The back garden of a small villa in Maadi is filled with calm, happy activity. People of all ages are painting, doing arts and crafts, and simply getting away from their everyday lives for a while. This is the Art Café, the creation of Hoda Kamal and her partners.
You can pop in and make your own art projects here: the Art Café provides items like wooden boxes, candles and canvas that you can decorate with paint, decoupage or mosaics.
Or try one of the many classes: drawing and painting, jewellery making, Arabic calligraphy and cake decoration are just a few. The children’s arts and crafts classes and “holiday camps” are popular as well.
Arts and crafts have been Hoda’s life-long passion. She says, “This is actually my grandfather’s house, and one of the small rooms here in the garden was where I used to come and do my crafts when I was young.”
Hoda started giving children’s arts and crafts classes from her home in the 1990s when her own daughters were small. She expanded to the Art Café location in 2003, building walls around the garden and a slatted, wooden roof that lets in the sunlight.
“Too bad there wasn’t a place like this when I was young! I just wanted to offer a place that has all the arts and crafts supplies available so people can come and get inspired and make whatever they want,” says Hoda.
For families who want some unstructured fun, Hoda has set up the “Activity Table” with every imaginable material for clients to make their own creations. “We have recycled items, cloth, paper, foam, feathers, buttons. People can invent whatever they want. I made the Activity Table so that parents could come with their kids and spend quality time doing collage and painting and crafts together,” says Hoda.
She says arts and crafts give kids self-confidence and help them de-stress. “You can’t imagine how pressured children are, with the amount of activities and studying and things they have to do. What really makes me very, very happy is when children come here and take off their shoes and walk around barefoot as if it’s their place.”
The Art Café holds events too, like children’s birthday parties. Kids make the birthday cake themselves and create art projects while it bakes, then end the party by decorating the cake and eating it. “I always advise parents to let birthday activities be messy because at home children can’t do these things,” says Hoda.
There’s also corporate team building, and Hoda says they’ll provide any activity as long as it’s related to art. One company made a huge canvas decorated with employees’ footprints and names. Other companies have built towers out of recycled materials or held their own dinner banquet, with different teams doing the cooking, flower arranging and table settings.
And once a week, the Art Café goes on the move, to the Manshayat Torah neighborhood, where they provide children’s arts and crafts free of charge at a community center there. “It’s really very popular. We start to park the cars and the kids come running to help us bring in our supplies,” says Hoda. One of her dreams is to eventually have a big truck full of art supplies, which visits a different neighborhood each day of the week to do this charity work.
The Art Café truly is for everyone. The youngest clients are the babies in the “moms and toddlers class,” and Hoda’s eldest client is an 86-year-old who comes here to draw and paint.
Hoda says, “I have a variety of clients and that shows that anyone can do art. They don’t have to be talented, as long as they enjoy it. People tell me that the time they spend here is when they recharge for the whole week. That’s why I selected the slogan ‘Create and Meditate’ for the Art Cafe. I want people to be stress-free and relaxed, and to forget the outside world with its problems.”
62 Road 13
next to the Maadi police station, between road 81 and 82
Telephone: 012 27050 753 / 011 13536 266 / 02 2380 3331.