Young Egyptian artist draws life, sites on metro tickets

Ahmed has created about 40 drawings on metro tickets, illustrating separated couples, children and Egyptian tourist sites.

Original talent. A drawing by Tarek Ahmed on a metro ticket. (Tarek Ahmed)

2017/12/24 Issue: 137 Page: 22

The Arab Weekly
Marwa al-A’sar

Cairo - For millions of commuters in Cairo, the underground metro is the most practi­cal and fastest means of transportation and its yel­low magnetic tickets end up in the garbage once used. However, Tarek Ahmed, a 21-year-old architecture student, said he was inspired by the tiny ticket to create works of art.

Not many people note the brown magnetic line separating the two parts of the yellow ticket familiar to Egyptians. Ahmed did and last February he created a drawing de­picting a man on one side of the magnetic line and a woman on the other side walking in opposition directions.

“The drawing represents the separation that exists between genders and shows that sometimes our roads don’t intersect,” Ahmed said.

“The separating line on the met­ro ticket was a real challenge for me to paint a whole drawing on the ticket but I used the line sometimes to show contrasts between two ele­ments such as day and night and life and death.”

Ahmed posted a scan of his first drawing on Facebook and wrote: “Just a usual ticket but I added to it some ink and colours. Take a tour so you may fall in love with it like I did. I wish everybody could see it.”

The posting attracted about 3,800 likes and more than 770 shares in addition to access to Fa­cebook pages that presented his artwork.

Ahmed later wrote a comment on his first drawing, saying: “I wish our ways would be the same and one pavement would gather us.”

“The number of likes and shares motivated me to go on with the idea of drawing on the metro tick­ets,” he said.

It takes a true artist to see beauty and adventure in a small yellow piece of paper but Ahmed, who collects used metro tickets, said he wanted to show his artistic talent in an original way.

“At first, I had no idea what I was going to do with the tickets. Then I challenged myself by drawing on one ticket every day for a whole month. This is how the idea of having sketches on metro tickets popped up,” he said.

Afterward, Ahmed drew famous buildings from around the world on the tickets. Tickets fitting next to each other like a puzzle depict­ed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Disn­eyland in California or landmark buildings in Dubai.

“I first did a drawing of the Col­osseum in Rome, which was met by a huge amount of likes on Face­book,” Ahmed said, noting that the idea of depicting tourist sites on travel tickets, though just a metro pass, was extremely appealing.

Ahmed said drawing places on metro tickets gave him the feeling that it’s easy to travel and get to the illustrated sites.

“As a future architect, I also try to incorporate buildings and high­light their architecture in my draw­ings. However, finding the idea for the drawing is much more difficult than the actual drawing,” he said. “It may take days for an idea to materialise in my mind, while the process of drawing may take a few hours or even less.”

Ahmed has not been met with support from the govern­ment. When asked about printing Ahmed’s drawings on Metro tick­ets, Ahmed Abdel-Hady, spokes­man of the Cairo Metro Company, said it would be better to sell ad space on the tickets to generate money instead.

“A person is drawing on metro tickets, so what?” he asked.

Ahmed’s ability to draw was ob­vious at an early age. “My parents noticed my talent and knack for drawing and started getting me sketches and colours to use. My ut­most interest started when I joined the architecture department at the faculty of engineering. In fact, I joined the architecture department especially because it would allow me to draw,” he said.

The biggest challenge facing Ahmed is funding. “The prices of the materials I need are constantly increasing but I have been manag­ing with the support of my family,” he said.

Ahmed has created about 40 drawings on metro tickets, illus­trating separated couples, children and Egyptian tourist sites such as the pyramids and Sphinx of Giza and other famous edifices. He said he intends to continue drawing but within the spectrum of his work as an architect.

His drawings can be seen on his Facebook page: https://www.face­, or his Instagram account: https://www.

Marwa al-A’sar is a Cairo-based journalist.

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