Levantine Products Stories

The Story of Brocade The Damascenes started manufacturing silk hundreds of years ago when Damascus had an important location on the Silk Road. They brought silk yarns from China and after that, used natural silk produced by the silkworm of Duraykish town on the Syrian coast. The threads were collected and sent to Aleppo city, which was already famous for its textile industry for a long time. In Aleppo, yarns were prepared and dyed and then sent to Damascus to be woven there.

The historical fame of Brocade echoed across the world and made it to the list of textiles that the queens choose from for their dresses. In the 18th century, Queen Marie Antoinette, the wife of the last king of France had 72 dresses made of Damascene Brocade in her closets. Moreover, in 1954, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom wore a dress made of Damascene Brocade, one that was specially woven for the occasion of natural silk and Knitted with gold and silver threads, at the time it was presented to her as a gift by the Syrian government when she was crowned queen.

Brocade Industry Producing one meter of brocade is a very hard and timely process that requires great effort and takes months. This traditional industry depends on two basic elements: Craftsmen, and the loom. This craft requires patience because the process of drawing on the brocade is a complex process built on precise details. The desired shape is drawn on paper no more than 5 cm wide, then the drawing is transferred to holes placed at the top of the loom called Jacquards. These holes allow the thread to enter through the loom into specific parts in order to form the shape within the Brocade threads. The skilled Craftsman needs a full hour to produce 10 cm of Brocade by 90 cm loom width.

Brocade Types There are several types of Brocade,some of them have traditional colors according to tastes and demands,and some of them have golden or silver strings.The role of these threads in weaving is limited to the drawings and decorative forms,which are mostly,inspired by the Damascene daily life like hazelnut,almond,oriental drawings and Islamic patterns.Brocade is classified either by the number of colors used : 3,5,or 7 colors,or according to weight,where in general,light is for fashion,medium for sweaters and heavy for furniture.

Crochet Crochet art is one of the traditional handicrafts that Syrian women practice in cities and the countryside.It is considered to be a continuation of traditions that reflect the spirit and nature of human interaction with this deeply ingrained art in history.

The Origin of Crochet Art The origin of crochet art goes back to 1500 BC when it was woven with fingers instead of the needle. Studies indicate that crochet art moved from the Arabian Peninsula and Mesopotamia to China and Tibet, to return by the Silk Road which connected the east to the west.

The Sigil of Noble Families During the Renaissance,nuns in the West used this craft to weave garments for the saints,then they taught it to the girls of noble and affluent families in Europe until The French Revolution took a part in transferring the crochet art to the public.

The Source of Income for Poor families Due to the great European famine (1845-1852),crochet art became a source of income for poor families.It also became a highly successful craft in Ireland and France,which aided in the development of this precise and delicate industry.

Manual Crochet /Automatic lacework In 1846,the first book about the art of crochet was published,explaning the stages of crochet art development and the transformation of its mechanisms in Venice leading up to “Dantel”,where its mechanisms evolved,which in turn shortened the piece weaving time.Despite the tremendous automatic development of  the crochet and lace manufacturing process,the handicraft skill remains without an adversary, carrying out the spirit of individual creativity and unique openness to a large variety of shapes,patterns and models.

Embroidery The art of embroidery is one of the most ancient Syrian arts that spread to neighboring countries through commercial communication and travel.This art spread through the Syrian regions,decorating traditional clothes with drawings and geometric shapes,and reflecting the culture of Syrian capitals and the surrounding natural environment.

The Origen Of Embroidery Studies indicate that the art of embroidery goes back to the 16th century BC,and it is certain that Syrian embroidery was very popular in the Greek and Roman eras in 64 BC.Then it was transferred to Europe in the 12th century and to many other countries in the world.During the 17th and 18th centuries wealthy Europeans,czaras,emperors,kings,and major merchants sent their clothes to China to have them embroidered.This craft was born in Syria and by the time,became a handicraft that spread throughout the entire world.

Syrian Embroidery Damascus has been known as the city of crafts and the cradle of art in most of its eras.Working in this craft has been common for thousands of years,and crasftsmen worked on finding and creating new ways and methods of embroidery that have become a popular art in most parts of the world.This art is related to the patience of craftsmen and their desire to learn all the new patterns and drawings.In spite of the entry of mechanical embroidery machines to the textile industry in the world and in Syria at the beginning of the 20th century,manual embroidery still carries between its stitches  the spirit of the artist craftsman unrivalled by any machine.

Aghabani : The Icon of Authenticity and Heritage The craft of Aghabani emerged in Aleppo more than 500 years ago,and then moved to Damascus.In Al-Aghbani,the textile is knitted with linen,or cotton,after that it is decorated with silk according to specific drawings.Al-Aghbani craftsmen printed the drawings on the fabric using stone and sand. Moreover,by that time,the workers had used a kind of ink in printing,which can be removed from the cloth by washing,so that the craftsman can then embroider it with silk threads.

Glass Craftsmanship This industry emerged around 700 BC on Levantine coasts, where the Canaanite of the Syrian coasts -A.K.A “The Phoenicians”- developed a way to inflating glass.Later,In 600 BC,Mesopotamian craftsmen hollowed the glassware by pouring the molten glass paste around the moldings, whereas the technique of inflating the hollow utensils -which is still used today- was invented by the Syrians of the first  century AD in the cities of the Syrian coast such as Tartus,Amrit,Ras Shamra,Arwad,Tripoli,Beirut,Jbeil and Tyre. This craft spread from Syria across the Mediterranean to Europe and Africa, and was witnessed on a wide scale in the Islamic era of  development and prosperity,especially in the Levant and the Arab West,where Islamic patterns emerged on the surfaces of pots,colored bottles,gold plated bottles,inscriptions,and engineering lines and intersections.

]The development of Glass Product Glass industry is mostly arisen from coasts.Sand or silica is the main material in this industry.Throughout the ages,this craft has preserved its traditional ways,which were created by the Syrians of the first century AD. However,the glass products were constantly evolving and varied with the variety of materials and colors added to their composition. And one of the most famous coastal glass products is Murano glass,in reference to the Italian island of Murano,also known as Venetian glass,which was evolved by Syrian craftsmen who transferred the inflated Syrian glass industry from the Syrian coasts to Murano across the Mediterranean in 1200 AD, However Murano’s craftesmen added silver, gold and lead to the flaming paste, which provided the glass a variety of colors such as red and purple And emerald,and thus Murano became the center of the glass industry in the world during the middle ages, and later the products of Murano witnessed a distinctive progression at the first appearance of crystal, which surpassed the solidity and purity of Murano glass.

Glass Industry Method The glass melter is one of the most important tools that have ever been used in this industry.It consists of three main compartments : The first one is for the olive seeds,which are used to ignite the fire providing the metler with the necessary heat to melt the glass to its frit.The molten glass comes out after a temperature exposure of 1000-1200 degrees,although the first compartment has been dispensed since fuel fulfilled its previous purpose, this craft is still considered environmentally friendly because it depends on broken glass waste as raw material.

Mother of Pear This technique was known at a very early stage in human history,mainly in Egypt and the Levant.A wooden box crafted with ivory was discovered in Mesopotamia,and it goes back to 2600 BC.Damascus is famous throughout the world for manufacturing shelled wood products,it has produced the finest pieces of furniture and decoration for centuries.Of course the abundance of oak trees in the Damascus Ghouta and the of oysters in the Euphrates area have had the greatest impact on the prosperity of this craft.

Mother of Pearl Process The shell is animal’s crusts,sea snails or river snails,including mother of pearl,which is characterized by multi-colors that represent the colors of the spectrum and it is the most expensive type of shells.The shell goes through several procedures,the first process called “emery” where shells are  polished until they become smooth,and then cut into 2-3 mm thin “embossed” slides,then certain shapes according to the design that the decorator seeks.The cutting process is one of the most intricate stages.It is a delicate processes in this profession,and it requires a great deal of experience and effort to be performed at with the required precision.Each product needs a long time;up to 3 months if it’s a large piece of furniture for instance.

The Methods of Inlaying Wood with Shells

There are two methods of inlaying Wood with shells

1-The old Arabian method : and it is the original method used in inlaying,this method needs a skillful labor force where the carpenter makes the whole piece and then the role of the painter is to add the desired inscription,afterwhich the piece moves on into the tin-tapper’s hands,where he carves a place for the tin threads and fixes them in place. finally the role of shellers/shell workers comes into play to fixate the pieces according to the drawing.Copper and iron can also be used for inlaying,as well as silver threads which can be inserted into precious pieces.

2-The Egyptian method : depends on the pavement of shells next to each other as intended,then the space between the shells is filled with a special paste to shape its figure.

Loom Industry The invention of the loom was the turning point in the early man’s clothing from leather to woven garments.Historical and archaeological data did not specify the time and place of the first appearance of the first textile loom, However,some evidence was found indicating that the first loom existed in Damascus.Although there are some indications of its existence in the Nile Valley, where an artifact has been discovered.In the kingdoms of Mary and Ebla, the textile industry was famous for its linen and wool, and the Canaanites/Phoenicians,were famous for their creation of purple fabric in the first millennium B.C.

Loom products development The development of the fabric was related to the raw material of the threads and the way they intersected with one another.The manual loom started to use solid fibers such as hemp,linen,fibers and bark of mulberry and rice trees.Later, more soft materials such as wool,cotton and silk came out to produce more soft and smooth products.

Loom Working methods The weaving craft on loom is purely a handicraft,as the hands of its craftsmen patiently spawn a natural texture on the wooden tool.One square meter of the colored carpet needs at least a full day’s work.This period may drag on for up to a week depending on the shape of the inscription and decoration,and the kinds of threads used to inlay the product with.

Towels The city of Damascus has been famous for its cotton industry since ancient times,and then this industry moved to the remaining Syrian governate,where a number of its craftsmen excelled in this field,producing some of the finest types of cotton fabrics ever.The manual towels industry is one of the oldest flourishing Syrian professions.Many Damascene families did their best to prevent it from deterioration,as they passed it down to their children for generations,constituting a distinctive cultural symbol of the traditional Syrian industries.

The popularity of handmade towels increased after the appearance of Damascene Baths.These baths still have much of their oriental rituals until this day,which cannot be completed without the presence of hand towels and napkins turning them into part of the Syrian heritage.

The development of towels craft The towels industry evolved through time.It started with the normal “towel” and then the velvet towel spread out,the surface of which was cut to make it softer,and the embroidery was added to bridal towels to give them a special touch.The Syrian towels industry continued to develop even after the spread of automatic and semi-automatic machines, but the hand-made towels remained full of Syrian heritage,and closer to the hearts of many.

Working on Towel Looms Getting one square meter of woven towels on a manual loom takes a full day. This craft is one of the most difficult handicrafts and it requires great patience because the threads used are very delicate.Getting a towel ready to use requires several processing stages,such as preparing yarn threads, dyeing,drying,then warping,and finally the role of the craftsman comes, who weaves the piece on the manual loom in the most artistic and creative of manners.

Saop The ancient Babylonian manuscript mentioned that Babylonians made,and used saop-adjacent materials around 2800 BC,and this is the earliest documentation of the beginnings of this industry.

Pharaonic manuscripts that go back to 1550 BC also mention that the pharaohs used to shower with saop-adjacent materials made mainly of vegetable and animal oils.In Rome,one historian in the first century mentioned the use of a saop-adjacent substance used for hair called sapo, which is a Latin word that means ”Animal fat”,hence,the origin of the word soap.It is believed that the soap industry in its current form was launched from the Mediterranean region,where it spread to Europe concurrently with the Crusades.The traditional hand-made method of soap production was passed down througout the generations,and remained unchanged until the early third century AD,when the soap industry transformed from individual domestic work to a large-scale industry.