Shedding light on common handicrafts in the past and their influence today

Dozens of professions and handicrafts appeared in Damascus, which grew and flourished, then  declined with the development of life, but they left their mark on the rich heritage of this city and its society, even if their practice  has dwindled  or has become  almost extinct.

Through his  study “Extinct Handicrafts”,  heritage researcher Ahmed Pops sheds light on these crafts that had a presence in the past and  penetrated into the structure of society until many families were named after these professions .

According to Pob, " upholstery" was one of the most important handicrafts widespread in the past where its owners were scattered throughout the neighborhoods of Damascus, upholstering mattresses, quilts, and pillows. This type was called Arab upholstery in order to distinguish it from another type that specializes in sofas and chairs. Pops indicates that this profession was  passed down to successive generations, so that many families became entitled “al-Mnajjed” the upholsterer.

 

Among the craftsmanship that Syrians have known since the forties of the last century is the profession of "Al-Bawabiri", who used to fill and repair kerosene cookers which was the main tool for cooking food and heating water in homes. It worked with kerosene fuel, kerosene oil, and consisted of a semi-cylindrical fuel tank carried on iron legs. But this profession as Pops points out, started to die out due to the use of gas stoves.

One of the craftsmanship that is almost disappearing is "copper bleaching". The one who was working in this craftsmanship was  called the" bleacher".  This profession was popular until the sixties of the twentieth century because most of the tools in homes were made of copper, such as pots, plates, spoons,  and other things that need bleaching from time to time to remove what stuck on them. Then  people turned away from using copper utensils to modern heat-resistant tools.

 Pops draws attention to a  profession that relied on the craftsman’s wandering in the neighborhoods, which is "sharpening cutting tools" such as knives, scissors, and machetes that are used in harvesting wheat in the countryside. This craftsman used to carry his tools and call out “ knives, scissors and  machetes grinder” and as soon as people heard him they would come to him with what they wanted to sharpen due to the frequent use.

As for Al-Mukashatti- he is the maker of straw brooms.It is an ancient craft that dates back hundreds of years and many  Damascenes have worked at it , as Pops mentions.  Covering the chairs with straw was a common profession in the past, but this profession has also begun to decline due to the spread of plastic chairs.

Inas Abdulkareem

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