Not far from the fragrant, gardened neighborhoods of Cairo
in the early 1960’s; not far from the private schools the
affluent would send their children, Mostafa El Ezapi was
born and raised in the farming village of Sharqeya, and by
age six was working next to his father in the fields. The
last of five children, he and his family lived in squalor
with a limited food supply, no electricity and water drawn
from holes dug deep in the village floor.
But it was in the cotton and rice fields between long hours
of work that Mostafa learned he had a gift for taking
formless lumps of clay and shaping them into whatever he
wanted – much to the delight of his village friends.
“I used to go with my lads to the vast fields around my
village, looking for the shelter of a tree from the sun, and
with clay I would create shapes like houses, animals or
“My parents could not read or write, but my father was
determined to give me a good education and a better life
than the one he had lived. When I was finally able to attend
school, I worked very hard at my studies. It was there that
I discovered I had a talent for drawing, and won many awards
and trophies at school art competitions.
By age seventeen, pushed by his father to continue his
studies, Mostafa was accepted at Fine Arts Academy at El
Minya University in 1985, but a clerical error delayed his
admission to school for three years. When the time came for
Mostafa to finally attend school, his father died suddenly
from liver disease, most likely brought on from years of
drinking from contaminated water supplies.
“My father was gone and what little money we had was gone.
El Minya University was over 400 km away and my family could
not afford to send me to school. To my surprise, all my
childhood lads decided to contribute to my tuition fees from
their own allowances – and added to what little my own
family could give.
As school progressed, Mostafa began raiding all the local
libraries reading all that he could on world art. He studied
Asian and African art and the European masters. From America
he was especially interested in the Art Deco movement that
swept that country in the earlier part of the last century.
The structure of Art Deco is based on mathematical geometric
shapes. It was elegant and stylish modernism and influenced
by a variety of sources – among them, ancient Egypt. He
looked again at his own country’s long history of art.
The monuments and colossi and decorative crafts produced
during the dynastic periods weren’t confined to museums or
private collections – they were everywhere he looked. To be
seen; touched; experienced. He saw his country’s ancient
gods and god-kings from a new perspective and fell in love
with Egyptian art.
“I became immersed in my study. I wanted to come as close to
those ancient artists as anyone could. I wanted to know
everything about them. What they thought. How they worked.
What their art meant to them.
Earning straight A's in school, Mostafa was hired as a
teacher’s assistant and worked day and night to produce
smaller art pieces independently in the hope of
supplementing his meager income.
“I was eating crumbs for two days and when my first figure,
a statue of Horus, sold for 30 Egyptian pounds ($10.). I was
so happy. I could eat. I could feed myself for a week with
that money and buy more art supplies to make more pieces.
In 1988, two years before he finished his first degree,
Mostafa was hired by Horus Graphique.
Established in the 1980s, Horus Graphique specialized in the
creation and mass production of papyrus art and small
sculptures for tourists.
But like many other companies throughout Egypt and out, the
replicating of Egyptian items was sloppy and bordered on
kitsch and the individual history and culture of the piece
was usually lost in the process.
“When I started working with Horus Graphique in 1988, the
company asked me to do some simple items from Tutankhamun’s
tomb and a bust of the sphinx. When released to the public,
the sales of these pieces were vigorous and the company
considered a new direction of Pharaonic designs and
competitively priced high quality reproductions. Their array
of art reproductions became varied in material – from
compound stone and plaster for indoor use to resin, crushed
stone and fiberglass for exterior use – and in size ranging
from 3 inches to over 6 feet high.
Some of these reproductions were sold in private
foundations, galleries, and museums around the world where
the original art pieces are exhibited such as the British
Museum, the Vatican, the New York Metropolitan Museum of
Art, and even the Louvre in Paris. Others are timeless
copies, which convey the same historical authenticity but
are adapted into useful, stylish, and functional home décor
such as bookends, table bases, display-stands, lamps, pens,
mouse pads, or jewelry boxes.
Horus Graphique was getting worldwide attention as Mostafa’s
pieces were being sold in Europe, the Americas and Asia.
The Pharaonic Village
In 1974, Dr. Hassan Ragab began converting Jacob Island
(within the confines of a Cairo suburb) into a detailed
replica of ancient Egyptian life. His first step was the
planting of five thousand trees to block the view of modern
Cairo that surrounded the island. Plants, flowers and
wildlife long extinct in Egypt were brought in from Sudan
and Ethiopia and no and expense was spared bringing a period
in Egyptian history back to life. In 1984, Dr. Ragab's
Pharaonic Village formally opened to the public to great
In 1995, adding to the Pharaonic Village’s success was the
completion of a life-size replica of Tutankhamun's tomb,
just as it appeared in 1922 when Howard Carter opened it.
Since the real tomb in the Valley of the Kings had been
closed to the public for many years, this replica became the
only place to view the tomb.
Mostafa, newly appointed as Director at Horus Graphique, and
a team of archaeologists, engineers, and architects along
with specially selected Egyptian craftsmen, used Howard
Carter's notes to faithfully reproduce the entire tomb, down
to the tiniest treasure that had been placed with the boy
king. The problem however with the creation of the
Tutankhamun pieces was that at no time was the Cairo museum
ever going to allow casts to be made from the originals.
Most of the reproduced artifacts created for the replica
tomb were made entirely by hand using the same techniques
that had made the originals thousands of years earlier, as
Dr. Ragab insisted that the replicas be made as
indistinguishable from the originals as possible. Mostafa
visited the Cairo Museum over one thousand times to check
accuracy, and many of the replicas took years to create at
With the completion of the tomb for The Pharaonic Village,
Horus Graphique became known for Pharaonic exhibitions, and
Mostafa was ready for the next phase of his artistic
In 2003, happy with his contribution to the success of Horus
Graphique, but still not satisfied with the quality of work
they produced, Mostafa left to found Golden Tut.
“I had a decision to make. I knew the level of work I was
capable of and, more importantly – the level of work I
wanted to commit to. I also knew there is an audience for
it. I borrowed 100,000 Egyptian Pounds from friends and
relatives and called this phase of my life "sculpture versus
food." I needed work; and I needed food. Nothing else
mattered. Before long I had seven hand-picked workers
creating replicas on a new level with me.
“Working to achieve a thus far unseen result, we only used
materials and techniques that could achieve the best quality
in reproducing original works of art. Sculptures are cast in
a variety of mediums – bonded stone, polyresins, bronze and
brass, etc. The finish of each reproduction, always
hand-made and showing craftsmanship as well as historical
sense, is the work of a true artisan. It was the task of
Golden Tut to present to the people of today the legacy of
my country with all the beauty and mystery of our ancestors.
Our goal has always been to first please and then to
educate. Our customers came from many different venues –
from universities, museums, and corporations, to the retail
sector of decorators, designers, landscapers, and
“In the second year of Golden Tut, I settled all my debts
and by the third year I was making a profit. Each employee
understood our core values and was committed to producing
art. Today I employ between 20-25 people. Half are artists
and gifted students from the university, the others are the
best craftsmen in Egypt.
Tutankhamun – His Tomb and Its Treasures
The Tutankhamun – His Tomb and Its Treasures exhibition took
visitors back in time to explore the gilded age of the young
pharaoh, and over one thousand of the items found inside the
tomb were painstakingly replicated by Mostafa and his team
to give visitors a chance to see and feel the wonder of how
it was left all those centuries ago. Reconstructed on more
than 4000-square-metres, the exhibit is intended to reveal a
new perspective for visitors to relive the fascinating story
of the excavation in 3 dimensions, unfolding like a novel.
The exhibition was first held in Zurich, attracting over
250,000 visitors. After moving to Brno in the Czech Republic
in October, Tutankhamun - His Tomb and Its Treasures headed
to Munich for a star-filled opening night reception. The
exhibit will have traveled the world on a grand tour lasting
several years, from London to the Czech Republic before
returning to Egypt in 2010.
“Burial artifacts and treasures were replicated in museum
quality and layered in 24K gold. The exhibition was a dream
Today Dr. El Ezapy lives in a fragrant, gardened
neighborhood in Cairo with his wife and two children.
Upstairs in his private atelier, with a view of the pyramids
from the balcony he continues to create art.