On a gorgeous, sunny March 10th, the Maker Faire Cairo team held their fourth annual event in the Egyptian capital city. A representative from Make: has been able to attend each of their lead-up Faires (see our 2015/16 coverage here, and 2017 coverage here). This year I got to make the trip to see how the skilled Cairo team has continued to grow one of the standout events in our network.

Egypt stands in an important place both geographically and historically. Placed at the crux of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe (just across the Mediterranean), its ancient cultures and marvelous engineering have influenced societies for thousands of years. A fitting locale for a Maker Faire if there ever was one!

Our visit included a tour of Cairo’s significant cultural spots, a visit to Fab Lab Egypt, and meetings and discussions with local makers and those who had traveled in from nearby countries — Tunisia, Jordan, Saudia Arabia, Germany, Sweden, and beyond. Plus, of course, the Faire itself, held outdoors in a grassy business park at the western edge of Cairo’s growing sprawl. Very well attended, Maker Faire Cairo’s exhibitors and visitors alike tended to be young and diverse, strongly balanced in gender, and with a leaning toward engineering and robotics — a promising mix for the social and technological future of the country.

The one-day Faire ended long after dark with an energetic concert featuring a hugely popular Egyptian pop band that had regrouped just for that show. The spirit of the event, and of the entire city, was highly infectious and sets a great example of what a wonderful presence makers have on an international stage. I can’t wait for next year.

 

 

One of the greatest engineering marvels, the Great Pyramids are in the city of Giza, which, with sprawl, blends into Cairo and is about 30 minutes outside that city’s center. They’re staggeringly large in person and sit on a plateau that give them even more prominence and historic protection from the wide flood field of the Nile (now controlled with modern dams). The dusty town extends close by; behind, the Sahara desert starts its stretch across northern Africa.

Ancient Sphinx statue in excellent condition in the Egyptian Museum. The Sphinx at the Great Pyramids dwarfs this in size.

An unearthed solar ship dating back to ~2500 BC, displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Placed alongside the Pyramids, these are theorized to carry the Pharaohs into the heavens.

Heiroglyphics at the Egyptian Museum.

Closeup of a preserved ladder from ancient Egypt.

Ancient table-top game, of which the rules are long lost.

 

FAB LAB EGYPT

The entrance to Fab Lab Egypt new location.

Posters from past Cairo Maker Faires line the walls of Fab Lab Egypt.

Mrehan Elshehawy and Mahmoud Kotb welcome everyone to Fab Lab Egypt

Mrehan explains that Fab Lab Egypt’s workshop mural depicts “the Egyptian god of making and the Egyptian god of documentation.”

Tool organization inside Fab Lab Egypt.

Screw-head signage from Maker Faire Cairo

Omar Yasser and team hand our group laser-cut invitations to the Faire’s maker party.

 

PRE-FAIRE MAKER PARTY

 

Main stage organizer/Egyptian entrepreneur Mahmoud Gamal kicks off the Maker Faire Cairo maker party.

The Faire team put the finishing touches on the battlebots stage as the night turns dark.

Makers from around the region gathered to discuss various topics during the maker kickoff party, as the lights from the main stage illuminated the evening.

Maker Faire Cairo teammember Rana Karem listens in on the “making and community” breakout session during the maker kickoff party.

 

MAKER FAIRE CAIRO

Signage leading up to the Faire.

Makers passing through the main Faire gates to get to their booths.

Overhead of the Faire grounds — all outdoors on a gorgeous day.

Mrehan and Mahmoud show their LED-laden shirts as they arrive to the Faire.

Micro-minivan dropping off supplies before the Faire begins.

Attendees snap photos before the gates officially open.

 

ROBOT BATTLES AND DEMONSTRATIONS

A standout at the event, the Cairo Faire had various locations with participatory robotics demonstrations — from battlebots to minesweeping to underwater ROVs, and more.

A massive crowd surrounded the combat bots arena throughout the Faire, with all sorts of offensive machinery going head-to-head.

Two combat robots make first contact.

The favored contender, a vicious spinning cylinder robot, rips into the perimeter barricade as its opponent hammers its shell with its spiked weapon.

Local combat-bot builders test out their rigs and shoot flames while waiting for their bout to begin.

Attendees watch a Minesweeper team prep their robot for the demonstration.

The Minesweeper competition challenges students to build robots that can detect and clear landmines.

Attendees got to test their robot-driving skills with this pair of bots, launching tennis balls at each other in a game of agility.

Many ROV builders assembled their machines in the shade of the Faire’s tents.

Two large pools let the ROV teams demonstrate their underwater crafts’ capabilities.

 

COTTON CANDY ROBOT

One of the standout projects from last year, this adorable build from the youth group “Big Hero 6” (inspired by the movie) went on to win various accolades around the country, and was my favorite project at the event.

 

The Big Hero 6 Eyptian Robot team.

Team leader Nadeen Abdel Aziz and some of the many honors and awards the group has amassed over the past year.

 

TRADITIONAL ARTS

Local crafting group Anelé Egypt show off their paper-based goods.

Supersized simsimia, a traditional stringed instrument that is still popular in the region.

Simsimia builder (and constructor of the supersized one shown above).

Local students playing simsimia — I liked seeing the electric elements on the closest one.

 

COSPLAY

Without a Comic-Con of their own, Maker Faire Cairo has become the go-to event for Egyptian cosplayers to show off their hard work, complete with a judged contest at the end of the event that draws a massive crowd.

Belgian cosplayer Sakuraflorr poses with fans.

 

MODELS AND GAMING

Damian and Amira from Warpaint Studios show off their custom D&D figurine paintjobs.

Closeup of the Warpaint Studios figurines.

Animation-based models

Military models

A very popular game at the Faire — BOT (“Battle of Tribes”)

More live gaming at the Faire.

 

ELECTRONICS

Drones (somewhat contraband in Egypt) by the Karakeeb Maker Space crew.

Egyptian boy mesmerized by 3D printing.

The Enjad Student Organization aims to serve society through community development projects, like this mobility-enhancing electric wheelchair.

Another student project, this is designed to help youngsters gain confidence in looking at others in the eye, and can detect emotions in facial expressions.

Jean -Luc Marchina, a Swiss maker who now lives in Cairo, shows off his Raspberry Pi-powered electonics controller.

3D printer build-off competition.

Elkrem.io, an Arduino-based bitcoin vending machine created in part by Amr Saleh (developer of the OneSheeld).

A peek inside the Elkrem.io vending machine.

Laser-cut automata.

CNC carving designs at the Fab Lab Egypt booth.

Mrehan, Mahmoud and team at the Fab Lab Egypt booth.

Maker Faire Egypt’s iconic light silhouettes were a hit with attendees after the sun went down.