Athar Lina | Fus-ḥa is a seven-month project funded by UNHCR and coordinated by the Built Environment Collective | Megawra in collaboration with Terre des Hommes. Its aim is to promote peaceful coexistence among Syrian children refugees and their host community in Cairo through emphasising common historical links between Egypt and Syria. Close to 200 Syrian and Egyptian children participated in interactive visits to historical sites in the neighbourhood of al-Khalifa in Historic Cairo, discussed history within themes that centred on the meaning of family, the family home, the value of play and the benefits of travel, and expressed their understanding of these issues through storytelling and visual art.


Work on Fus-ḥa started in June 2015 with a two-month planning period in which the Fus-ḥa team worked with historians, art historians, educationalists, artists and community organisations working with Syrians and children to develop an interactive educational program suited to children aged 9-15 that builds on the rich history of the mosque of Ibn Tulun and the houses of al-Kritliyya and Amna bint Salim and the eclectic Gayer-Anderson collection on display at these houses. The idea was to extrapolate from these history stories and design activities that explore the historical links between Egypt and Syria, to between them and the rest of the region and between the region and the world. Through this, children understood that travel could be positive and that change could be good. They also learnt that through times of uncertainty, history - whether personal memories, family narratives or local, national, regional or world history- can be an anchor that grounds identity. It can also be a tool to understand how human achievement is created through exchange and communication that in many cases come out of adversity and trials.


Phase 1 was funded by UNHCR it started in June 2015 and ended in December 2015. We are currently planning phase 2 funded by UNESCO Cairo and coordinated by the Built Environment Collective - Megawra.


In progress


This theme addresses the concept of play and games that historically range from antiquity to the present. Through interactive activities, children participate in the design and assembly of toys and games inspired by the common history between Egypt and Syria. Children were introduced to the history of play and taught when and where traditional games like hopscotch, jump rope and kites were invented. In addition to these, children learnt about the history of board games, whether popular ones like Chess, Backgammon and Checkers or lesser known games such as Manqala and Pachisi, or obsolete games such as the Ancient Egyptian Senet and the Mesopotamian Royal Game of Ur. Children were encouraged to demonstrate the games that have been commonly played in their families through the years. After learning to play these games, children made their own chess pieces inspired by characters from the Kritliyya myths and checkers pieces with Islamic designs. They created kites and figurines inspired by toys from Ancient Egypt and Syria.
This theme addresses the concept of travel and immigration and the idea of displacement from one country to another. Through the children’s design and implementation of games that allow them to travel between eight cities of the Arab world and the Mediterranean Sea to gain points, they learn information about each city. During the workshops, children worked together to design collage playing cards and create quiz questions by gathering information about the history of cities in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Andalusia. Questions focused on the histories of these cities during the Islamic period and the relationships between these cities. For example, a question could be asked about a certain Islamic landmark in the city, such as the Alhambra Palace in Andalusia, or the relationship between Cairo and Istanbul when Cairo’s artisans were rounded up and taken to Istanbul during the Ottoman period, or players could be asked to perform a historical scene, or song.
This theme was explored through two sub themes; the first looking at family narratives through storytelling and the second thinking about the family home through art and building. The young storytellers learnt how to express themselves through songs and short stories they wrote themselves while exploring stories of travel and immigration in history and within their family narratives. On the other hand, the young builders reflected on the meaning of home in the past, present and future. They were first asked to discuss their homes now and in the past then compare them to the traditional home they visited (Bayt al-Kritliyya). Then they worked on a model of a traditional home to furnish it and introduce characters within a storyline that had a family living in the house hosting an immigrant family. Finally, they explored the future by producing models of their dream bedrooms.