Video: A traditional knife-sharpener in Cairo plies his trade

The video above is posted by the AP without any translator track of the Arabic, but there is a good write up in the video’s description if you watch the video on YouTube as opposed to our embed. I am mostly posting this video because I really got a kick out of this guy’s homemade mobile sharpening machine.

(From AP’s YouTube Channel):

Abo Hadid spends his day travelling around Cairo’s northern suburbs, setting up his tools on the street.
He says clients are few and far between these days and knows that his trade is slowly dying.
Abo Hadid says it’s becoming harder to make a living: “I’ve inherited this profession from my late father. We used to sharpen these knives a long time ago in the old good days. You find a lot of knives coming to you from all houses.”
“Nowadays you find nothing except a few knives to sharpen. Because new knives now are sold with their sharpener according to TV commercials…

…Abo Hadid says many other knife sharpeners have given up hawking their skills on the streets of Cairo.
But he continues to look for business with the mobile sharpening kit that he built for himself.
“I assemble this machine by myself. I design the rotating frame. It consists from a bevel that is designed in a warehouse. Also hones are designed in the warehouse. Then I buy a sieve in which I put the rotating frame in and leave it in water for a day. Then I glue it afterwards and hammer its nails and so it’s ready to use,” he says.

The invention of the horseless carriage was hard on buggy whip manufacturers. That being said, you can’t help root for a craftsman who is trying to carve out a living in a dying trade. I am quite certain that he does a considerably better job than a freebie Chinese carbide sharpener. Disposable culture is not just a Western phenomenon.

I know that there is nothing of earth-shaking importance here, but did anyone find this interesting? Please let me know in the comments.


  1. Spencer says:

    During the Great Depression, my mother (who is almost 90 years old) lived in Washington D.C. She still reminisces about the itinerant workers who daily passed by her house in horse-drawn wagons, and like the man in the video they would cry out their services. In my mother’s neighborhood there was the rag man, the iceman, the junk man, a fruit and vegetable seller …and the knife sharpener. The latter fellow had quite a clientele who often waited at the curb with their dull kitchen knives and scissors. But with his wagon-mounted pedal-powered grinding wheel the knife man quickly restored those edge tools to good working order, and for a reasonable fee.

  2. cmeat says:

    there is a man here in the suburbs who offers this service from a homemade tricycle. he peddles through with a grinding wheel mounted atop the wooden chest over the front wheels.
    his egyptian cousin seems to encounter some much larger goat sacrificing implements. may he always find dullness in the world to rectify.

  3. Eve says:

    I feel for him. It must be tough trying to earn some money in a dying market where folks can easily get their hands on a sharpening system and do it themselves. That being said, if his family has been doing it for generations, they probably by now know how to really get the most of a knife edge!

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Video: A traditional knife-sharpener in Cairo plies his trade

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