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Glassblowing is another skill of Syrian artisans. From before the birth of Christ, Syria has been noted for its glass industry. In Roman times, the country’s creators of delicate glass articles took their trade to all parts of the empire. In the Middle Ages, the glassmakers of Venice developed a reputation for the quality of their art, which they learned from the skilled workers of Syria. Through the centuries, the Syrian glass producers refined their creations and, with the passing years, the number of their workshops increased. In the early 1900s, Aleppo alone had 1,200 glassmaking establishments. Today, Syrian glass of all colors, shapes, and designs is perfected by hands whose skills have developed since antiquity.

Vying with the glass and inlaid articles as Syria’s most important artisan products are the hand-produced textile goods, especially Damascene brocade. A silky fabric interwoven manually with silver and gold threads in elaborate designs, it has been much sought after through the ages. Its appeal has not diminished even in our modern world.

Equally a specialty of the artificers in Damascus is the fabric damask, whose Arabic name is found in most European languages. In English alone, over thirty words are derived from the word, which is the Arabic name of Damascus. With its intricate floral and geometric patterns, the fabric is in demand in many parts of the world. In the past, it was woven exclusively of silk. Today, however, it is made from all types of fibres.

In addition to the renowned Damascene brocade and damask, there are numerous other handwoven fabrics produced in the urban centers of Syria. Among them are Aghabani, a cotton fabric embroidered with silk, and dima, a narrow cotton cloth.

Attractive village kaftans and chic western dresses are made from a number of these handmade fabrics. Throughout the old streets of Damascus and the eight miles of stone-roofed Aleppo souks, countless types of dresses for both men and women reveal the beauty and versatility of these colorful fabrics. In the labyrinth of avenues winding in intricate patterns in both cities, the different hand-embroidered village clothing testifies to skills from every part of Syria. Within the jumble of ancient souks, ladies’ deep crimson, bluefish, and yellowish kaftans are encrusted with rhinestones and decorated with gold and silver threads, presenting a kaleidoscope of colors.

In tiny, always crowded stalls lining the goldsmith and silversmith souks, men and women bargain for handmade jewelry. A showplace of wealth, these shops with tasteful gold and silver ornaments have been the landmark of the Middle East for centuries. A few yards away from the world of precious metals, richly colored carpets and tapestries are displayed near leather craftsmen busy fashioning florid slippers. In nearby shops young men hawk their showy handmade pottery while others sit on stools offering their ornate straw products for sale – scenes of activities and colors that have existed here for centuries.

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Tags: Syria Cultural Identity Village life Art