Editor's note: This film is no longer available to view online.

A journalist named Hussein keeps 200 pens without ink in a cabinet drawer.

A lawyer named Laila keeps a broken television set, bought at the time of her daughter's birth, under a table.

A housewife named Afaf keeps old plastic containers for storing food in the kitchen.

Old cameras, forgotten travel bags, a broken mixer, a favourite phone - in Egypt, having "karakib", or clutter, is a national habit. It is found on rooftops and balconies, in family homes and on noisy streets.

"We as Egyptians are fond of clutter," says Laila. "I think it is a popular legacy. People like to keep old things along with new things. We've liked clutter since colonial rule."

In some homes, owners keep expensive mementos of days gone by or objects to remember a deceased relative. In others, clutter helps save money, as old furniture is reupholstered and broken machines are fixed.

Then there are those who refuse to follow the trend. "I've been cleaning houses for 15 years," says a resident named Amal. "I've entered a lot of houses. All people have clutter ... It can't be sold or used ... I have no clutter. I always throw away any clutter. Why should I keep it?"

Still, for many Egyptians, their clutter has sentimental value. As dust collects, colours fade, and the objects lose their function, the memories they hold are as strong as ever.

'A writer can't throw away his pen,' says Hussein, a journalist who has collected a drawerful of old pens without ink [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]


FILMMAKERS' VIEWS

The phenomenon of keeping clutter in Egypt

By Ahmed Nader

I grew up in Alexandria, where my house is full of different types of old and useless stuff that we call clutter, or in Arabic "karakib".

Some of it is toys that we used to play with when we were young, and some of it belongs to my father, my uncles and my grandmother.

We no longer need these things but, like all Egyptians, we never get rid of them.

Until I made the film Karakib, I didn't know the real reason for keeping old, useless stuff.

Clutter makes us tell stories about the occasion we bought something or about a situation associated with the use of this thing or that, which has always attracted me to record stories and memories that aren't erased by time.

I started with the director, Nehal Elkoussi, on a fascinating journey to understand the phenomenon of keeping clutter in Egypt. We were searching for interesting stories and amazing memories.

We were eager to observe models of different social classes in Egypt.

Every social class has its own type of clutter. To give you an idea, we interviewed Hussein Kadry, a journalist from the upper-middle class who lives between Cairo and London. He has dozens of old cameras, old phones and more than 20 suitcases. His clutter is expensive and valuable.

We also met Afaf, a housewife from the middle class, who has a different type of clutter. Our cameras caught old utensils, old cups and old bottles, and she is always trying to make this old and cheap clutter useful in her everyday life.

Our cameras picked up a wonderful bunch of stories, and we recorded rare moments as the characters of our film reviewed their collections with great joy and nostalgia for the distant past.

Karakib is an interesting journey into the most private places in Egyptian homes, which hold things that contain priceless memories.

'I bought it for my first child, then I used it with my second child and the one after that,' says Afaf, holding a 25-year-old cup [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

'They surprised us with the clutter they kept'

By Nehal Elkoussi

No Egyptian house is empty of clutter.

I live in Cairo and clutter is what I see in my house and in relatives and friends' houses. I see it everywhere, on the roofs of buildings and hiding in the corners of balconies.

In Egypt, keeping useless and old stuff has become a phenomenon, an Egyptian tradition that does not change over the years.

In the company of director Ahmed Nader, I set out to create a documentary which sought to answer a simple question: "Why do Egyptians keep clutter?"

Our most important goal was to make our documentary characters feel comfortable allowing us into their homes, especially to the corners they hide from visitors, so we can capture the details of their daily lives, and allow them to act openly in front of our cameras.

We made the characters go to those dust-covered corners, reveal to us their precious possessions, take them in front of our cameras and shake off the dust, and begin to tell us the stories and memories that belong to each piece.

Before shooting our documentary we made sure to select characters from different age groups, so we could monitor the diversity of "clutter" from different times.

They surprised us with the clutter they kept.

We interviewed a journalist who kept a camera that was more than 60 years old, and a lawyer who could not get rid of a damaged television that was over 21 years old. We also interviewed a housewife who had kept stuff for 25 years and still makes use of things.

Through our film, we watched the phenomenon of Egyptians retaining old things, and our cameras recorded amazing answers to the question: "Why do Egyptians keep their old stuff?"

Source: Al Jazeera